Classic tres leches is a simple but decadent dessert everyone will love!
Tres leches cake… ah, the original poke cake! This traditional Latin American dessert has 3 parts— a rich butter sheet cake, a filling made from 3 kinds of milk (hence the name!) that the cake soaks up, and a sweetened whipped cream topping.
It’s a great dessert to make ahead and keep in the fridge until you’re ready to slice and serve, so it’s perfect for potlucks, parties, and barbecues. Serve this tres leches cake as is and it will be amazing! Or, top it with fresh berries or other fruit, a drizzle of caramel or chocolate sauce, or add some chopped nuts or coconut and take this classic to a whole new level.
How to make tres leches cake
- The cake is a basic yellow sheet cake that is baked in a 9×13-inch pan. Once cool, poke it all over with a fork or skewer, which will allow the cake to better soak up the milk.
- Combine whole milk, evaporated milk, and sweetened condensed milk and pour over the cake. It will seem like way too much liquid, but don’t worry, it will all be soaked up!
- Cover with plastic wrap and chill in the fridge for a few hours while the cake soaks up the milk. At least 3-4 hours is best, but the cake will stay fresh for at least 24 hours if you want to make it in advance.
- Frost the cake with sweetened whipped cream, or whipped topping if that’s more your style (though I prefer the real stuff!). I like to wait to frost until most or all of the milks have soaked in, then frost and chill until ready to serve.
- Serve as is or have a little fun with toppings such as fruit, chocolate, caramel, nuts, and coconut.
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Classic Tres Leches Cake
- 1/2 cup (1 stick, 113 grams) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
- 1 cup (200 grams) granulated sugar
- 5 large eggs
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 1/2 cup (180 grams) all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 cup (250 ml) whole milk
- 1 12-oz can (340 grams) evaporated milk
- 1 14-oz can (396 grams) sweetened condensed milk
Whipped cream topping:
- 1 cup (250 ml) heavy whipping cream
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
To make the cake:
- Preheat oven to 350°F and grease a 9x13-inch baking pan.
- With an electric mixer, beat the butter and sugar on high speed until pale and creamy, about 3-4 minutes. Scrape down the bowl as needed.
- Add the eggs one at a time, mixing and scraping the bowl down after each addition. Add vanilla.
- Add the flour, baking powder and salt and mix until just combined. Batter will be very thick.
- Spread batter into prepared pan and bake until edges turn golden and pull away from the pan and the center bounces back when gently pressed.
- Let cool completely, 30-60 minutes, then poke holes all over with a fork or skewer.
To make the milk filling:
- In a large bowl, whisk together the whole milk, evaporated milk and sweetened condensed milk.
- Pour over the cooled cake. Mixture will completely cover cake.
- Chill in the fridge until almost all of the milk filling has absorbed into the cake, about 3-4 hours.
To frost the cake:
- With an electric mixer, beat the heavy whipping cream, vanilla and sugar until thickened to medium peaks.
- Spread over cake and chill until ready to serve. The cake will keep in the fridge for several days.