Tres Leches Cake

Tres Leches cake is a light, airy Mexican sponge cake soaked with a sweet syrupy mixture. The cake gets it’s name (which translates to three milk cake) because it incorporates three different types of milk: evaporated, condensed and whole milk. It’s essentially the best "poke cake" ever – you poke holes into the cooked cake and then pour the milk mixture over it so that the cake is extremely moist. While it becomes moist it also becomes heavy so be careful if you’re carrying this cake to a secondary location!

While it’s typically prepared as a sheet cake I frost it with a light icing so that it is a three-layered “naked” cake. The gelatin is important in the frosting – it acts as a stabilizing agent -- thickening the whipped cream and making it last longer. A light and airy whipped cream frosting offsets this rich, dense cake. I love adding flowers to cakes for decoration, especially naked cakes like this one where they can add a nice ornamental touch without looking over the top.



For the cake:

1 tablespoon cold unsalted butter, for cake pans  

2¼ cups all-purpose flour, plus additional for pans

1½ tablespoons baking powder

½ teaspoon ground cinnamon

9 egg whites

2¼ cups sugar

5 egg yolks

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

¾ cup whole milk


For the sauce:

1½ teaspoons vanilla extract

1½ cups evaporated skim milk

1½ cups heavy cream

1½ cups sweetened condensed milk


For the whipped cream frosting:

1 teaspoon unflavored gelatin powder

3 cups heavy whipping cream

3 tablespoons granulated sugar


Ground cinnamon, for dusting

Flowers of choice (optional), for decorating (I used peony’s here)


3 (6-inch) circle cake pans



For the cake:

Preheat oven to 350ºF. Prepare the cake pans with butter and flour. Cut 3 (6-inch) circles out of parchment paper and place in the bottom of the 3 cake pans.

In a large mixing bowl, whisk the flour, baking powder and cinnamon together. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whisk the egg whites until they form stiff peaks, about 7 minutes. Gradually beat in the sugar then add the egg yolks, one at a time, beating well after each addition.

Beat in the vanilla then alternate adding the flour and the milk, starting and ending with the flour mixture.

Evenly divide the batter among the prepared cake pans. Bake until the cakes are golden brown and a knife inserted into the middle comes out clean, about 25 minutes.

Let the cakes cool in the pan for 15 minutes, then use a knife to cut the top off the cake so that it is even, inverting the cakes onto wire racks to cool completely.


For the sauce:

In a medium mixing bowl whisk together the vanilla, evaporated milk, heavy cream and sweetened condensed milk together until combined. Poke holes all over the top of the cakes with a skewer or fork. Slowly and evenly drizzle half of the sauce over the cakes, allowing the liquid to soak in. Let the cakes sit for at least 10 minutes. Spoon any liquid that has pooled under the cakes back on top pour the remaining liquid over the cakes allowing it to sink in completely.


For the whipped cream frosting:

Chill a medium mixing bowl and beaters for stand mixer for at least 15 minutes. In a small saucepan over medium-low heat, add ¼ cup of water and the gelatin and stir until the gelatin dissolves. Remove from heat and let cool (but do not allow the gelatin to set). Add the cream and sugar to the chilled bowl and whisk at medium speed until slightly thick, about 2 minutes. Add the gelatin to the whipped cream then whip at a high speed until thick and stiff peaks form.


To assemble:

Add some of the frosting to a piping bag filled with a medium round tip. Pipe a ring around the top of the bottom layer. Try to pipe the ring as evenly as possible. Pipe the frosting slightly away from the edge of the cake so that when the layers are stacked the frosting has some space to squeeze out a bit.

Fill the middle of the dam with additional frosting and use a spatula to even out the frosting so that the cakes will sit evenly. Carefully stack the next layer on top and repeat with the remaining layers.

Frost the top of the cake and use a spatula to add some frosting to the sides of the cake. Sprinkle with the cinnamon. Arrange flowers on the top if you are using them.

Refrigerate cake until ready to serve. Remove flowers before cutting into equal pieces.


Serves 8.



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