Tres Leches Cake

Tres Leches Cake

Tres Leches isn’t just a sumptuous and cake featuring three different types of milk. No…it’s also my professional wrestling name.

About the only thing you could do to improve cake and milk this scenario is to actually put the milk directly into the cake. Such a cake does exist, mostly in Latin America, and it goes by the name tres leches, which of course means “three milks.”

Tres Leches Cake
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  1. Vegetable oil, for the pan
  2. 6 3/4 ounces cake flour, plus extra for the pan
  3. 1 teaspoon baking powder
  4. 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  5. 4 ounces unsalted butter, at room temperature
  6. 8 ounces sugar
  7. 5 large eggs
  8. 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  1. 1 12-ounce can evaporated milk
  2. 1 14-ounce can sweetened condensed milk
  3. 1 cup half-and-half
  1. 2 cups heavy cream
  2. 8 ounces sugar
  3. 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  1. Heat the oven to 350°F. Lightly oil and flour a 9-by-13-inch metal baking pan and set aside.
  2. Whisk together the cake flour, baking powder, and salt in a medium mixing bowl and set aside.
  3. Put the butter in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and cream on medium speed until fluffy, approximately 1 minute. Decrease the speed to low and, with the mixer still running, gradually add the sugar over 1 minute. Stop to scrape down the sides of the bowl if necessary.
  4. Add the eggs one at a time and mix to thoroughly combine. Add the vanilla and mix to combine. Add the flour mixture to the batter in 3 batches and mix just until combined.
  5. Spread the batter evenly in the prepared pan. (This will appear to be a very small amount of batter.) Bake on the middle rack of the oven for 20 to 25 minutes, until the cake is lightly golden and reaches an internal temperature of 200°F.
  6. Remove the pan to a cooling rack and cool for 30 minutes. Poke the top of the cake all over with a skewer or fork.
  1. Whisk together the evaporated milk, sweetened condensed milk, and half-and-half in a 1-quart measuring cup (or other large pour-friendly vessel). Pour the glaze over the cake. Refrigerate the cake overnight.
  1. Put the cream, sugar, and vanilla in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment and whisk on low speed until it forms soft peaks. Increase the speed to medium and whip until thick. Spread the topping over the cake and chill until ready to serve.
  1. Yields: 1 (9-by-13-inch) cake
Alton Brown Tres Leches Cake Recipe


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  1. 1

    With this recipe you CANNOT use AP flour. It MUST be cake flour for the cake to come out fluffy and to ne able to absorb the ‘tres leches.’ Gluten formation (overmixing) is the bane of this cake’s existence.

    Past that it comes out perfect every time I’ve done it.

  2. 2

    Beware, this cake comes out dense nearly like an omelette, which I suppose to those who are experienced this would be expected from looking at the ingredients with only 6+ oz of flour and 5 eggs. I was making this for someone who’s mother had made Tres Leches for her growing up on her birthdays. Unfortunately she was expecting a more fluffy and wet cake. This recipe here makes a dense closed-cell cake which is difficult to soak. Very little of the “glaze” soaked in even overnight and I was left with 90% of it unused. Perhaps this version is traditional and my expectations were wrong, but I will try next time to use a more fluffy cake recipe. Verdict: Good flavor, but dense and dry.

    • 3

      I agree! I have made this four times now and it turns out like you say every time. Good flavor but not a lot of cake. This is good but I too will look for a more fluffier recipe.

  3. 5
    Adair Gilbert

    Having lived in West Texas a lot of my life I’ve eaten and made this cake many times. Altons recipe is my failsafe recipe. Maybe a little sweeter than my Mexican sisters but they don’t criticize. Really Good Eats!

  4. 6

    I followed this recipe to the letter and the results were incredible!!! It came out delicious. I brought it to a dinner where there were two Nicaraguan families (I believe the dessert is originally from Nicaragua) and they all said they had never had a better tres leches.

  5. 7

    Made this today for my husbands birthday cake.
    He always gets this at our local Mexican restaurant.
    Easy to make hope it tastes as good.

  6. 9
    Nicole B.

    Just finished making it! Delicious and very sweet. I recommend making this for a party where you won’t have any leftover because the whipped cream topping won’t keep very long. Needless to say the cake will be going to someone’s work tomorrow as the 3 of us cannot eat it all!!

    The cake doesn’t fall apart either.

  7. 10
    Nicole B.

    Just finished making it! Delicious and very sweet. I recommend making this for a party where you won’t have any leftover because the whipped cream topping won’t keep very long. Needless to say the cake will be going to someone’s work tomorrow as the 3 of us cannot eat it all!!

  8. 11

    I have a recipe for this that uses pancake mix but this looks incredible just a question to the master of this domain Mr. Brown do you think this would work with the special edition chocolate and caramel sweetened condensed milk?

  9. 13

    Mmmmmm I make a wonderful tres leches cake that’s a bit different than this. Got it from food network but don’t remember who’s recipe it is. It’s divine and a lot higher than this one. I love you Alton Brown but mine looks better LOL

  10. 14

    It’s a Tres Leches CAKE. Three in the cake….the topping isn’t in the name. Every one I’ve had had whipped topping, but I’ll be on the lookout for one with meringue

  11. 15

    Authentic or no, I never liked tres leches came until I tried this version. I had it with berries on top, highly recommended! That said, thank you so so much to the person who suggested dulce de leche, I will definitely be adding that next time! Love you Alton!!

  12. 16

    When combining the liquid ingredients for the glaze, as there are 34 liquid ounces I suggest a vessel larger than the initially recommend quart (32 oz.).

  13. 19

    Every tres leches cake I’ve ever had, the cake has been a sponge cake. It retains the glaze the best and when you cut into it, it won’t fall apart as easily after it sets and you cut into it.

    • 23

      I’ve seen and had several different tres leches cakes, and almost all of them had whipped cream for the topping. So I’m thinking there no “official” or “right” recipe for it 🙂

  14. 24

    You dare question the mighty Alton?
    There’s three milks in the cake, the topping is the topping. You don’t call it white chocolate cake if it’s a white cake with chocolate frosting.

    • 25

      Yes it does make a difference because it completely changes the taste of what real Tres Leches cake is like, especially the topping. It’s what sets it apart from other frostings. But i will say this an easy and delicious version as well.

  15. 26

    Adding the heavy cream topping – doesn’t that make it quarto leches?- evaporated, sweetened, half & half and finally heavy cream. Sounds yummy. (Too bad I can have all that lactose. Sad face.)

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