Tres Leches Cake

by Kelly on July 27, 2009

P1012610Tomorrow my trip home is officially over and Oliver and I will be headed back to Boston.  It’s a little bit bittersweet since I miss my boyfriend and my kitchen, but at the same time it’s always hard to say goodbye to family and relaxation.  Before I went though my sister requested one of her favorite desserts: Tres Leches Cake.  She and my mother routinely order it from a favorite restaurant, Cafe Latte, but have never made it before.  Having made Tres Leches Cupcakes before for a dinner party I knew that this cake can be MUCH less intimidating than it seems.  Basically what makes Tres Leches Cake unique is that you take a sponge cake and pour a mixture of three milks (in this case evaporated, sweetened condensed, and heavy cream) over the hot cake.  The cake absorbs the liquid and becomes extra rich and moist.  It’s a perfect cake for anyone who finds typical cakes to be too dry.  The history of the cake seems to be debatable.  Some sources claim it originated on the back of a can of evaporated or condensed milk in Latin America in order to encourage more usage of these products though others say it was developed more organically by home cooks in Nicaragua.  Whatever the history it is one really rich and delicious cake.

Many of the recipes I found online call for a meringue frosting but I did a whipped cream frosting instead to make it closer to what they order at the restaurant.  The only word of caution is that whipped cream will deflate over time so if you won’t be serving it right away or anticipate having leftovers I recommend waiting until the last minute to frost it and including whipping cream stabilizer in the frosting.  If you wanted to save time and make this recipe a little easier you could also use sponge cake mix (I found two brand available online: Manischewitz and Greens) in place of the homemade cake.

Tres Leches Cake
Adapted from Emeril Lagasse

-6 large eggs, separated
-2 cups granulated sugar
-2 cups all-purpose flour
-2 teaspoons baking powder
-1/2 cup whole milk
-1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Milk Mixture for Soaking:
-3 5-ounces cans evaporated milk
-1 14-ounce can sweetened condensed milk
-1 cup heavy cream

Whip Cream Icing:
-2 cups heavy whipping cream
-1/4 cup sugar
-1 teaspoon vanilla extract

-1/2 cup raspberries
-1/2 cup blueberries

To make the cake: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly grease and flour a 9 by 13-inch baking dish and set aside.

In the bowl of a mixer, beat the egg whites on low speed until soft peaks form. Add the sugar gradually with the mixer running and peak to stiff peaks. Add the egg yolks 1 at a time, beating well after the addition of each.

Sift together the flour and baking powder and add to the egg mixture, alternating with the milk. (Do this quickly so the batter does not lose volume.) Add the vanilla. Bake until golden, 25 minutes.

To make the milk soaking mixture: In a bowl, combine the evaporated milk, condensed milk, and heavy cream and beat until well combined.

Remove the cake from the oven and while still warm, pour the cream mixture over it. Let sit and cool to room temperature. Cover and refrigerate until well chilled, at least 4 hours or overnight.

To make the icing: While the cake is chilling pour your whip cream, sugar, and vanilla in the bowl you will use to beat the cream. Refrigerate along with wire whisk/beaters for at least 30 minutes. Once the bowl and beaters have had time to chill and are thoroughly cold beat cream until cream forms stiff peaks.

To assemble: Remove the cake from the refrigerator and spread the icing evenly across the top. Arrange the blueberries and raspberries over the top and serve.

Anyway, guess tomorrow it is back to reality. Thankfully I at least got to spend some considerable time pursuing cookbooks from my parents’ library. I had the good fortune of looking through The Bacon Cookbook and Vegan Soups and Hearty Stews for All Seasons. Both had fantastic sounding recipes that I cannot wait to try out when I get home. On the dog front Oliver also got a haircut while he was here. His hair was starting to get matted and he picked up quite a few ticks so I had to have him shaved. My mother and sister preferred the fluffy Oliver but I like him in his short coat. I find him a bit more manly.
P1012555I also got to go on a mini road trip today with my mother that I’ll be saving for this Friday’s Fromage Friday.  It was lots of fun and I hope my recap will do it justice.  In the meantime I’m trying to figure out the best way to ease myself back into the work week.

Any tips?  What do you do when you return from vacation to get back into your regular routine?

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{ 23 comments… read them below or add one }

Mo July 27, 2009 at 8:22 pm

I’m glad you had a great trip. I heart tres leche cake. It’s popular in AZ because we have a large Hispanic population.


shannon July 27, 2009 at 8:47 pm

omg i LOVE oliver 🙂 and tres leches cake, actually!!!


Reeni July 27, 2009 at 9:40 pm

Oliver looks incredibly sweet with his haircut! So puppy-ish! Tres leche is the most heavenly cake! I just love it. This one looks perfect. Hope your trip home goes well!


Carolyn Jung July 28, 2009 at 12:31 am

Wow, that’s a fancy tres leches cake. Did Oliver get to try a piece? 🙂
I like his new short ‘do. It’s perfect for the summer.


Sophia July 28, 2009 at 2:10 am

Wow that is quite an impressive cake! I don’t know which one is sweeter, Oliver or the cake!


Zoé July 28, 2009 at 2:42 am

This seems so awesome!


Elina July 28, 2009 at 12:06 pm

This cake sounds and looks amazing. I’m such a newbie – I’ve never even heard of whipped cream stabilizer. Makes sense 🙂 Oh and I really like that baking pan too. Looks very professional!
I thought it was cute that you got a book on bacon and a vegan book. Quite the difference 😉
As far as getting back to work after a long vacation, I like to come in a little early on my first day back on catch up on missed emails. It always seems like it takes ages to do that and I like taking my time with it as to not feel crazy overwhelmed with the amount of work that accumulated while I was gone. That’s it 🙂


Lisa July 29, 2009 at 12:09 pm

Just found your blog. This is a beautiful cake!


Kelly July 29, 2009 at 1:57 pm

Lisa – Thank you.


Guava July 29, 2009 at 1:59 pm

ooh.. I had a semi-successful vegan tres leches bout… but it was just uber-heavy… I may have to take another crack at it as its MR. Guava’s fave. As for the work week… I indulge myself in larger/stronger coffees than usual! 🙂


Kelly July 29, 2009 at 1:59 pm

Elina – You’re not a newbie. 🙂 I picked up the stabilizer trick from my grandmother. Yes, that is the typical juxtaposition of my cookbooks. When I was traveling home for Christmas I happened to get selected for the random search. The TSA guy commented about my vegan cookbook and then I mentioned that I also had one on charcuterie in my bag, which he found quite funny. Your tip was great. I should have come in early today but alas, I wanted my beauty sleep. 🙂


Kelly July 29, 2009 at 2:00 pm

Guava – I was actually thinking this weekend about trying to come up with a vegan version of the cake. I would have the first time but my parents wanted a version that tasted just like the restaurant so classic it was. I still need some practice on making vegan cakes though. The one and only cake I made was way too heavy.


Kelly July 29, 2009 at 2:01 pm

Zoe – Thank you. It’s definitely a favorite in my family.


Kelly July 29, 2009 at 2:02 pm

Mo – I can definitely see that. 🙂 Hope things are going well with the new addition.

Shannon – Thank you. 🙂

Reeni – I agree. And thanks for the compliments on Oliver. I think his new haircut suits him.

Carolyn – No pieces for Oliver, although I make him his own treats and dishes so he’s not too deprived.

Sophia – Much as I love the cake I would have to say Oliver, but I’m a biased dog mommy.


Jackie at July 30, 2009 at 5:15 am

Your puppy looks adorable and so happy!

And your cake just looks scrumptious


Hannah July 30, 2009 at 9:57 pm

I love how you decorated this cake… So simple and elegant, and those fresh berries look delicious as well. 🙂


Kelly July 31, 2009 at 12:06 am

Jackie – Awww thank you.

Hannah – Thank you. Given how amazing and inventive your desserts are that means a lot.


Andee (Runtolive) August 1, 2009 at 10:08 am

That cake looks divine! Wow, I am so not a baker. Cute dog, what kind of dog is he?


Hayley May 12, 2011 at 3:41 pm

Just to let you know, I tried your tres leche cake recipe and it didn’t turn out so great. First of all, while it was in the oven baking, it was almost pouring over the sides of my 13 x 9 pan! Then, I took it out of the oven when it was golden and after it had been in there for more than 35 minutes, and I think that the center is still mushy. I just poured only about half of the soaking mixture over the warm cake and no more of it will soak in. I love cafe latte and as of right now, this cake is nothing close to their tres leche cake. I’m hoping a miracle will happen and it will be delicious but it seems to me that this recipe has some flaws. I wouldn’t recommend it 🙁


Kelly May 12, 2011 at 3:56 pm

Hayley – I am so sorry to hear this; I know I get frustrated when something doesn’t turn out! I’m sorry to hear it overflowed, I’ve made this a few times in a standard 13×9 pan, but maybe a slightly oversized pan would be better just in case. As far as the baking goes, is it possible that your oven might be running a bit hot? Just curious since I know some ovens are poorly calibrated. In other words, they can be running hotter or colder than what the temperature says they really are. My parents’ oven is pretty spot on, but I’ve seen some as many as 50 degrees off so I always use an oven thermometer and go by that vs. what my oven says. As another trick, I’ve covered the pan with tinfoil if I find the edges are browning while the inside isn’t done to give the middle a chance to catch up.

I went back to the original recipe ( and scanned through the comments and it does look like a couple others had problems with pan size so I’ll note that above, but can’t seem to find anything on the ‘setting up’ problem. Sorry I couldn’t be of more help and again, I’m disapointed this didn’t turn out for you.


Faye Lynn May 15, 2012 at 5:27 pm

This recipe is great! However, the time is off. It takes way more than 25 minutes. But besides that, everything turned out!


Kelly May 15, 2012 at 5:56 pm

Hi Faye Lynn – Thanks for the feedback. If you have a moment, would you mind letting me know how long it took in your oven? I try to be as precise as I possibly can (I have an oven timer and stop watch. 🙂 ) but I also know that every oven is different and would love to update the recipe based on what you found. Thanks again for the comment.


patty May 18, 2015 at 9:54 pm

hello kelly , is it possible to double the recipe for a bigger cake pan size?


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