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Tres Leches Cake Recipe

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

Slice of tres leches cake on a plate.
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The Best Tres Leches Cake

This tres leches cake recipe 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 tres leches cake recipe turns out beautiful and tastes so delicious. Definitely give it a try!

What is Tres Leches Cake?

Tres leches means “three milks,” which is how the dessert got its name. It soaks in a mixture of 3 different milks: evaporated milk, condensed milk and heavy cream. It has a light, spongy 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.”

Recipe Ingredients

This tres leches cake recipe is made from mostly pantry staples, including a cake mix, a filling made with 3 different milks (that the cake soaks up) and whipped topping.

Tres leches ingredients on counter.

Find the full printable recipe with specific measurements below.

  • Cake: I love to make this tres leches cake recipe with a French vanilla cake mix (I used Betty Crocker Super Moist) and then mixing it with eggs, vegetable oil, water and sour cream. A yellow cake mix can be used as well.
  • Three milks: The cake gets its name from three different types of milk (tres leches) being soaked into the crumb of the cake. This recipe uses sweetened condensed milk, evaporated milk and heavy cream.
  • Topping: The rich and creamy topping is made from whipping heavy cream, powdered sugar and vanilla extract for the best homemade whipped cream that really makes this dessert!

Favorite Toppings

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

How to Make Tres Leches Cake

Thanks to a cake mix, this easy tres leches cake recipe is a snap to make and only requires a little bit of patience while it chills.

Showing how to make tres leches in a 6 step collage.
  • Bake the cake. Mix together the cake mix, eggs, oil and water 2 to 3 minutes on medium speed. Fold in the sour cream. Pour into the baking dish. Bake the batter until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Let cool 10 to 20 minutes. 
  • Poke the cake. Whisk together the sweetened condensed milk, evaporated milk, and heavy cream. Poke the top of the cake with a fork, about every inch or so. Pour the milk mixture slowly and evenly over the top. Chill at least 1 hour, or preferably overnight to allow the milk to soak into the cake.
  • Make the topping. 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. 
  • Serve. Sprinkle ground cinnamon on top, if using. Serve with fresh strawberries, maraschino cherries, or toasted coconut, if desired. 
Slice of tres leches cake from pan.

Helpful Tips

This tres leches 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!

  • 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 this cake from scratch, check out The Pioneer Woman Tres Leches Cake. I’ve made it and it’s very yummy – it just takes more time.
Slice of tres leches with strawberries on a plate.

Recipe FAQs

Is tres leches cake Spanish or Mexican?

Traditionally, tres leche cake is a Latin American dessert just like arroz con leche. You might see it on the menu at a Mexican bakery or restaurant.

What does tres leches cake taste like?

This cake is an extremely moist cake that is sweet, but not overly sweet, with a hint of cinnamon.

Should tres leches recipe be served cold?

Yes, this cake should be served cold. It’s usually refrigerated overnight 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!

Make Ahead

This cake 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 strawberries on a white plate.

Love easy cake recipes? Try this gooey butter cake recipe or chocolate poke cake recipe next!

More Chilled Desserts

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Slice of tres leches cake with strawberries on a white plate.

Tres Leches Cake Recipe

5 from 28 votes
↑ Click stars to rate now!
Author: Jamielyn Nye
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 minutes
Cook Time: 25 minutes
Chill Time: 1 hour
Total Time: 55 minutes
Servings: 18

Video

Ingredients 

Cake

  • 1 (15-ounce) box French vanilla cake or yellow mix (I used Betty Crocker Super Moist)
  • 4 large eggs
  • 3 Tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 ¼ cups water
  • ½ cup sour cream

Milk Mixture

  • 1 (14-ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
  • 1 (12-ounce) can evaporated milk
  • ¾ cup heavy cream
  • dash of vanilla

Topping

  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 3 Tablespoons powdered or granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Ground cinnamon , optional

Optional for serving: Fresh strawberries, Maraschino cherries, or Toasted coconut

    Instructions

    • Preheat the oven to 350°F. Spray a 9×13-inch baking dish with nonstick cooking spray.

    Cake

    • In a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, mix together the cake mix, eggs, oil and water 2 to 3 minutes on medium speed. Fold in the sour cream. Pour into the baking dish. Bake 25 to 30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Let cool 15 to 20 minutes. 

    Milk Mixture

    • In a medium bowl, whisk together the sweetened condensed milk, evaporated milk, and heavy cream. Add a dash of vanilla. Poke the top of the cake with a fork, about every inch or so. Pour about half the milk mixture slowly and evenly over the top. Allow it to soak in and then slowly pour the rest over the top of the cake.
    • Refrigerate at least 1-2 hours, or preferably overnight to allow the milk to soak into the cake.

    Topping

    • Place the beaters and bowl from a stand mixer in the freezer for a few minutes to help the whipped cream form peaks faster. 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. 
    • Sprinkle ground cinnamon on top, if using. Serve with fresh strawberries, maraschino cherries, or toasted coconut, if desired. 

    Notes

    Coconut version: Another delicious version is to swap the sweetened condensed milk with a can of cream of coconut milk. Then right before serving add thinly sliced bananas under the whipped cream and top with toasted coconut
    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.
    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. 

    Nutrition

    Serving: 1slice | Calories: 317kcal | Carbohydrates: 36g | Protein: 6g | Fat: 17g | Saturated Fat: 9g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 2g | Monounsaturated Fat: 5g | Trans Fat: 0.1g | Cholesterol: 84mg | Sodium: 237mg | Potassium: 199mg | Fiber: 0.3g | Sugar: 26g | Vitamin A: 544IU | Vitamin C: 1mg | Calcium: 192mg | Iron: 1mg

    Nutrition provided is an estimate. It will vary based on specific ingredients used.

    Course: Dessert
    Cuisine: Mexican

    Did you make this recipe? Don’t forget to give it a star rating below!

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