Tres Leches Cake

Almost every Tex-Mex restaurant has Tres Leches Cake on the dessert menu.  I believe Texans are so enamored of it because it contains sweetened condensed milk.  The Pioneer Woman likes to call it the nectar of the South.  I couldn’t agree more.  Tres Leches is a sponge cake drenched in a sweet, creamy sauce made of three milks.  It’s heavenly.  It’s a very strange cake in that it contains no oil or butter.  And I’ve even seen flour-less versions of it that use ground almonds instead. 

Now, there are many variations of this cake to be had.  I’ve had delicious versions of this cake that contained Mexican vanilla.  While tasty, I feel that it competes with the milk flavor.  But if vanilla is your thing, by all means, stir some in!  I’ve also had versions that contained cinnamon in the batter.  I left it out of this recipe to stay true to the original, but I wouldn’t mind a bit if you added ¼ teaspoon of cinnamon.  Most folks prefer this cake frosted with whipped cream, but I’m not a big fan of whipped cream in general so I serve it on the side.  And finally, to many people, it’s not Tres Leches unless there’s a neon red Maraschino cherry on top.  Feel free to garnish. 

Tres Leches Cake
Makes 1 small 6" cake.
For the cake:
  • ½ cup unbleached flour
  • ¾ teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 large egg, separated
  • pinch of cream of tartar
  • ½ cup sugar
  • ¼ cup half and half
For the milk sauce:
  • ½ cup half and half
  • ⅔ cup sweetened, condensed milk
  1. First, preheat your oven to 350°. Grease a 6” cake pan with butter.
  2. In a small bowl, sift together the flour and baking powder. Set aside.
  3. In a medium glass bowl with scrupulously clean beaters, beat the egg white with a pinch of cream of tartar until soft peaks form. Tilt the bowl to help get it going if necessary. Once soft peaks form, slowly stream in the sugar while beating continuously.
  4. Next, beat in the egg yolk.
  5. Now, turn off the beaters and switch to a rubber spatula. Fold in one-third of the flour mixture, followed by half of the half-and-half. Repeat, finishing with the flour mixture.
  6. Scrape this mixture into the cake pan and level it with the spatula. Bake for 22 minutes. The cake is done when it pulls away from the edges of the pan and has a golden brown crust. Cool the cake on a wire rack for at least 30 minutes.
  7. Next, invert the cake onto a serving plate that has a lip to catch the milk sauce. In a measuring cup, stir together the half-and-half and the sweetened condensed milk. Using a toothpick, make holes all over the cake. Pour the condensed milk mixture on the cake slowly.
  8. Cover and refrigerate at least 1 hour before serving. Serve with whipped cream and Maraschino cherries, if desired.


  1. says

    YUM! I’m from Texas, and they don’t mess around with the desserts. When I think of quintessentially Texan or Southern desserts I think of pecan pie, peach cobbler and banana pudding. This looks delicious…I like your blog!

  2. says

    Oh wow, happened upon this and it looks awful for my diet and I think Im in love anyway! wow, Im so bookmarking this!

    wow, I might have to make this very very soon

    I dont know if I should thank you but I want to anyway :)


  3. says

    This looks amazing! So rich and fantastic. Perfect for a special occasion!. Although that cherry on top thing is funny, I never knew that… but I hate hate hate maraschino cherries so I might skip that!

  4. says

    Cozydelicious: Yeah, there’s somethin’ ’bout those things that ain’t right. Nothing in nature is that color. I used to have a friend in grad school that would eat the cherries AND the stems. Weird, huh?

  5. says

    You know I always thought the white on the top was somewhat like merengue. I’m from Miami so it may be different. The consistency is much thicker than whipped cream. Either way I will try it out. Thanks

  6. patty says

    With lots of respect…tres leches is not Tex Mex….i am a true tex mex native, my ancestors found Texas and we are from South Texas. Tres leches cake was very foreign to me. I seen it in California where it is popular. California has a lot of Mexicans ( meaning born in Mexico). Just like to keep it real. :)

  7. Julie says

    I wonder how much a can of condensed milk holds? In other words, how much can I spoon into my mouth and still have enough for this cake? Also, my sister-in-law (so no blood relation here) eats ONLY the stems of the cherries. Yep, let’s my brother have the fruit and she eats the stem. I have no words for that. I bought a 6″ cake pan today (found one at Michael’s while looking for frames for my little art quilts), so I’m hot to make us cakes to eat. If this winter doesn’t get over soon, I’m going to be waddling out to weed my yard, because I stay in and cook (and then eat. As in a lot). #wintergoaway

  8. says

    Tres Leche is my favorite cake. I make it at least once a year for family gatherings, so I was pleased to come across your recipe. I made it tonight for me and my husband. It was a hit! I’m wondering why you only used two milks instead of three. I always add coconut milk for my third. :)

    • says

      haha, you noticed! When scaling down recipes, it’s hard to include absolutely everything. The cake is served with whipped cream, so I guess that’s milk #3? Do you know Rebecca Rather? She’s a pastry chef in Texas, and she makes Muchas Leches cake. I want some of that!! :)

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