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This tres leches cake is SO much easier than making from scratch and tastes equally as delicious! It’s perfectly light and refreshing with the best sweet flavor.

This recipe tastes amazing and would be perfect to serve at a Cinco De Mayo party. It’s light, refreshing and has the perfect hint of Mexican flavor. You could also try making these homemade churros or churro cupcakes. Yum!

slice of tres leches cake on a white plate

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This tres leches cake is SO much easier than making one from scratch and tastes just as delicious! It has the best sweet flavor and is super light and moist. Plus the homemade whipped topping is amazing and really makes the dessert!

Ground cinnamon is the typical topping for a tres leches cake, but I also love to serve mine with fresh berries or toasted coconut on top. It’s so light and fresh and makes the perfect treat for Spring or Summer. This dessert turns out beautiful and tastes so delicious. Definitely give it a try!

tres leches cake in clear pan

Why is it called tres leches cake?

Tres leches means “three milks,” which is how the dessert got it’s name. It soaks in a mixture of 3 different milks: evaporated milk, condensed milk and heavy cream. It has a light, spongey texture and is typically topped with a whipped cream topping. You may also hear it referred to as a “milk cake” or even a “Mexican cake.”

spreading whipped cream over cake

3 delicious layers

This recipe is made with 3 layers: the base of the cake, a filling made with 3 different milks (that the cake soaks up) and whipped cream topping.

    1. Cake: I like to use a box of french vanilla or yellow cake mix. It’s so much easier than making it from scratch and it tastes equally as delicious. If you know me, you know I love to doctor up a box of cake mix.
    2. Milk: The 3 different types of milk/cream is how this dessert got it’s name (tres leches means three milks). You’ll need sweetened condensed milk, evaporated milk and heavy cream. You’ll poke holes throughout the cooled cake and pour the milk mixture over top. Then chill in the fridge to let the milk mixture really soak in.
    3. Whipped topping: The final layer of homemade whipped cream really makes this dessert! It’s so light, fluffy and absolutely delicious. Trust me, making this layer from scratch makes all the difference and takes hardly any time.

tres leches cake on plate

Helpful tips

  • Let cool. It’s important to let the cake cool for about 10 to 20 minutes before adding the milk mixture. You don’t want to pour it over while it’s still super hot.
  • Soak. Similar to a jello poke cake, you’ll poke holes throughout the cake and then pour the milk on top so that it soaks in through the holes. It should then soak in the refrigerator for at least an hour, but preferably overnight. The longer it soaks, the more moist and flavorful it will be.
  • Freeze beaters. Before making the whipped topping, place your bowl and beaters in the freezer for about 15 minutes to help the peak form faster.
  • Sturdier whipped topping. You can make a stabilized whipped cream with the simple addition of gelatin. The stabilized version will hold it’s shape a bit longer.
  • Homemade version. If you’re looking to make a tres leches cake from scratch, check out this recipe from The Pioneer Women. I’ve made it and it’s very yummy – it just takes more time.
  • Making in advance. This recipe is ideal for making in advance, as it needs to soak in the fridge for awhile. If making the day beforehand, wait to add the whipped topping until right before serving. It can deflate if you add the topping too far in advance. This way it will taste super fresh and delicious!

slice of tres leches cake with toasted coconut on top

Should it be served cold?

Yes, this recipe should be served cold. It’s usually refrigerated over night to allow the milk mixture to soak in. When ready to serve, you’ll just top it with the whipped cream and add on any desired toppings. The chilled dessert is perfect for Spring and Summer!

Favorite toppings

Although this dessert tastes delicious as is, adding a few extra toppings really takes it to the next level. Any of the below ideas would taste amazing!

slice of tres leches cake with bite taken out

More chilled desserts:

tres leche cake

Tres Leches Cake

5 from 7 votes
This tres leches cake is SO much easier than making from scratch and tastes equally as delicious! It's perfectly light and refreshing with the best sweet flavor.
Prep Time: 30 mins
Cook Time: 25 mins
Chill Time: 1 hr
Total Time: 55 mins
Servings: 18

Ingredients 

For the cake:

  • 15 ounce box french vanilla cake or yellow mix , I used Betty Crocker Super Moist
  • 4 large eggs
  • 3 Tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 1/4 cups water
  • 14 ounce can sweetened condensed milk
  • 14 ounce can evaporated milk
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream

For the topping:

  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 3-4 Tablespoons confectioners or granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Optional toppings: ground cinnamon, fresh strawberries, maraschino cherries or toasted coconut

    Instructions

    • Preheat oven to 350°F. Spray a 9x13" pan with non-stick cooking spray and set aside.
    • Combine the cake mix, eggs, oil and water in a mixing bowl. Beat with an electric mixer for 2-3 minutes. Then pour into the prepared baking dish. Bake for 25-30 minutes, or until a toothpick comes clean. Let cool for 10-20 minutes after it comes out of the oven. 
      tres leches cake batter in clear pan
    • Whisk together the sweetened condensed milk, evaporated milk and 1/2 cup heavy cream. Once then cake has slightly cooled, poke the top with a fork, about every inch or so. The pour the milk mixture evenly over the top. 
      tres leches cake in clear pan
    • Refrigerate for at least one hour, or preferably overnight to allow the milk to soak into the cake.
    • To make the whipped topping, place the beaters and bowl in the freezer for a few minutes to help the peak form faster. Then beat together the cream, sugar and vanilla on high speed, until a stiff peak forms. Once the topping has thickened, spread over the cooled cake. 
      how to make tres leche cake
    • Sprinkle ground cinnamon on top if desired and serve with fresh strawberries, maraschino cherries or toasted coconut. 
      tres leche cake recipe

    Serving: 1slice | Calories: 296kcal | Carbohydrates: 35g | Protein: 5g | Fat: 15g | Saturated Fat: 9g | Cholesterol: 77mg | Sodium: 237mg | Potassium: 191mg | Sugar: 25g | Vitamin A: 455IU | Vitamin C: 1.1mg | Calcium: 190mg | Iron: 0.7mg
    Course: Dessert
    Cuisine: Mexican
    Author: Jamielyn Nye

     

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