Saturday, April 19, 2014

Tres Leches Cake

I was surprised about how many people didn't know what tres leches cake was when I shared some or mentioned I made it recently. It's a Mexican dessert, but it seems like more people are familiar with what flan is in comparison.  I'll admit that although I knew what it was, I had never tasted tres leches cake until a week before I first made it.

James and I tried tres leches cake from a Mexican restaurant that newly opened near we live. The cake was very sweet and moist and still had milk oozing out from it. We enjoyed it so much that we were inspired to make our own soon after and good old Alton Brown has a recipe for it.

Tres leches cake is basically cake soaked in what its name means in Spanish, three milks. Most recipes use a butter cake and you can even make it with yellow cake mix from a box if you're feeling lazy, but of course I'd recommend making the entire thing from scratch.

Below is Alton Brown's Good Eats recipe.

Tres Leches Cake



Vegetable oil (For oiling the pan)
6 3/4 ounce flour (Cake flour is recommended, but we substituted this with all purpose flour and cornstarch. Per cup of flour, replace 2 tablespoons with cornstarch. Because the recipe is in ounces, you'll have to approximate)
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 ounces unsalted butter, room temperature
8 ounces white sugar
5 whole eggs
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract


1 12-ounce can evaporated milk
1 14-ounce can sweetened condensed milk
1 cup half and half


2 cups heavy cream
8 ounces sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly oil and flour a 13 by 9-inch metal pan and set aside.

Whisk together the cake flour, baking powder and salt in a medium mixing bowl and set aside.

Place the butter into the bowl of a stand mixer. Using the paddle attachment, beat 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.

Add the eggs, 1 at a time, and mix to thoroughly combine.

Add the vanilla extract and mix to combine.

Add the flour mixture to the batter in 3 batches and mix just until combined.

Transfer the batter to the prepared pan and spread evenly. This will appear to be a very small amount of batter.

Bake on the middle rack of the oven for 20 to 25 minutes or until the cake is lightly golden and reaches an internal temperature of 200 degrees F.

Remove the cake pan to a cooling rack and allow to cool for 30 minutes. Poke the top of the cake all over with a skewer or fork.

Allow the cake to cool completely and then prepare the glaze.

Whisk together the evaporated milk, sweetened condensed milk and the half-and-half.

Once combined, pour the glaze over the cake. Refrigerate the cake overnight.

Before: Glaze poured on cake                                                          After: Cake soaked in glaze


Place the heavy cream, sugar and vanilla into the bowl of a stand mixer. Using the whisk attachment, whisk together on low until stiff peaks are formed. Change to medium speed and whisk until thick. Spread the topping over the cake and allow to chill in the refrigerator until ready to serve.


The topping isn't necessary especially if you decide to serve the tres leches cake with fruit, but it does hide all the holes that you perforated into your cake. The cake itself is already very sweet so adding the topping would definitely make it sweeter.

It's a good idea to tap the pan to get rid of any air bubbles before you bake the cake.

Once you pour the glaze on top of the cake, you'll notice that the cake slowly absorbs all of the moisture, so it's important to thoroughly poke holes all around the cake. Refrigeration also helps the glaze soak into the cake more.

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