Tres leches is an authentic Latin American cake. Tres leches literally mean “three milks”. This is a deliciously rich and moist cake soaked in sweet milk goodness, it just melts in your mouth!!!
This is a perfect make-ahead cake for parties especially in summer since it is served cold. It is a great crowd-pleaser for its simplicity and refreshingly light floral taste.
- 1 cup All-purpose flour
- 1-1/2 teaspoons Baking powder
- 1/4 teaspoon Salt
- 5 large Eggs, separated
- 1 cup Sugar (divided into 3/4 cup and 1/4 cup)
- 1 teaspoon Vanilla extract
- 1/3 cup Milk
- 1/4 teaspoon Cream of Tartar
- 1 (14oz) can Sweetened Condensed Milk
- 1 (12oz) can Evaporated Milk
- 1/2 cup Whole milk (optionally can also use heavy cream)
- Cacao powder
- Strawberries/ raspberries for topping
- Lavender for topping (optional)
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly coat a 9 x 13 pan with butter and sprinkle it generously with flour. Keep it aside.
- In a bowl combine flour, baking powder, and salt. Sieve them together twice and keep aside.
- Separate the egg whites and yolks in two separate bowls. Make sure the bowls are dry especially the one with egg whites.
- Add 3/4 cup sugar to the egg yolk bowl. Whip it on medium speed with a hand mixer or stand mixer until it is pale yellow in color and thick ribbony in texture, about 5 to 6 minutes.
- Add 1/3 cup milk and vanilla to egg yolks once they are pale yellow and gently stir on low to combine.
- Add the flour mixture to this egg yolk mixture and stir gently on low to combine, do not overmix the batter.
- Now in a clean dry bowl beat the egg whites on high speed with an electric beater or a stand mixer. After a minute or so add cream of tartar to it, while continuously beating the egg whites. Beat the mix for a minute more, then gradually add 1/4 cup sugar. Continue beating until stiff peaks are formed but not too dry.
- Using a spatula gently fold the egg whites into the batter just until combined, do not overmix.
- Pour this batter into prepared pan and smoothen it. Bake it for 25 to 30 minutes, or until the knife inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean. Remove from the oven and keep it aside to cool.
- Meanwhile, in a small bowl combine evaporated milk, condensed milk, and whole milk, stir it together to combine.
- Once the cake cools off completely take a skewer or toothpick and poke holes all over the top of the cake.
- Reserve about 1/2 cup of the milk mixture for later use. Slowly pour the remaining milk mixture over the top of the cake making sure you pour all around, including the edges of the cake. I usually use a big spoon to pour the milk evenly on the cake.
- Cover the cake with a cling wrap or foil and refrigerate it overnight, this will allow all the milk to be soaked up.
- Remove from the refrigerator 1-2 hours before serving to check on the milk. Add the reserved milk if needed, cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.
- Sprinkle cacao/cocoa powder over the cake using a sieve.
- Cut into squares, decorate with freshly cut strawberries or raspberries, add a sprig of mint and serve.
- Optionally you can drizzle some reserved milk mixture over the cake before you serve.
- Optionally you can sprinkle some lavender over the cake. This gives it a very floral and light taste.
- Sieving the dry ingredients together incorporates air into the mixture making the cake more airy and fluffy.
- Use cold eggs as they are easier to separate.
- Cream of Tartar – I recommend using it but is not necessary you can very well skip it. I like to use it as it results in nice stiff peaks that hold and results in a better texture.
- Baking tray – Do not use a pan that will result in a taller cake as the milk will not get soaked into the cake properly. This will result in a moist cake on outsides but the core will be completely dry. If you need a taller cake I would suggest making 2 batches of this cake and layering it up with whipped cream in between. 9×13 tray works best for this cake.
- Whipped cream topping– I usually like the cake without the whip cream topping, however here is the recipe in case you choose to make it. Whip 1-pint heavy whipping cream, 3 tablespoon sugar, 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract together until stiff peaks are formed. Spread this evenly over the cake, sprinkle cacao powder over it and decorate with strawberries.
- Use a skewer or toothpick to poke holes into the cake. Make sure they are deep for the milk to soak in properly. You can also use a fork to poke holes.
- Baking time – Depending on the oven the cake might cook faster, so I suggest keeping an eye on it after about 20 minutes.
- Soaking time– Do not skip on overnight soaking time. That is what gives the best texture to this cake, skipping it will result in a dry cake. If you are in a rush then refrigerate the cake with milk added for at least 5-6 hours before serving it.
- Shelf life– You can make this cake a day or 2 ahead. If refrigerated properly it will stay good for about 4-5 days. Add berries just before serving so it increases the shelf life.