If you’re looking for a simple but delicious Tres Leches cake, one filled with rich, luscious texture and flavor, this is the post for you!
Three Milks. . .and Then Some!
The name Tres Leches means “three milks cake.”
Honestly? This one could be called Quatros Leches because there are actually four milks involved: whole milk, evaporated milk, sweetened condensed milk, and heavy whipping cream.
That’s a lotta milk, y’all! A lotta-lotta milk.
Tres Leches cake is a Latin American speciality that we see quite a bit here in Texas. There is some debate about the history of this rich cake, but it most assuredly dates back to Europe where other similar cakes originated—cakes like Tiramisu and the English trifle.
These cakes all have a rich milk or custard-like base.
Doctored Cake Mixes are Simple and Delicious
Like so many of the recipes here on Out of the Box Baking, this cake starts with a box of cake mix. We’re known for our doctored cake mixes, and this is a simple but effective one.
If you have a box of yellow cake, some eggs. . .and a lotta-lotta milk, you could whip up one of these cakes today.
But, (fun disclosure), you don’t want to serve it until tomorrow. Those rich milks have to soak into the cake overnight. You don’t want to skip this step. It’s what makes Tres Leches, well, Tres Leches!
After soaking, the cake gets a thick layer of whipped cream, along with a sprinkling of cinnamon and some fresh fruit. If you’re stomach is starting to growl, I don’t blame you! This is a rich, indulgent dessert, one you’ll be proud to serve.
Where I Found this Recipe
I went on a search across the web for a great recipe. This isn’t a cake recipe my mom left behind in her hand-written recipe book. I seriously doubt she ever made a Tres Leches cake.
It didn’t take long to find a recipe that seemed simple enough. (And trust me, I was interest in “simple” for this one because I’ve been in a baking frenzy over the past couple days, trying to come up with a Buttermilk Pie recipe that worked! (It took four tries, y’all. People think I’m over here whipping up masterpieces but I’m on such a learning curve!)
Anyway, Back to the Tres Leches Cake. . .
I found the recipe at Easy Budget Recipes and I loved the idea that it started with a box of yellow cake mix. I always keep those on hand!
Now, as I mentioned, I had no business baking one more thing after the pie fiasco, but I was on a roll and when I’m on a roll, I can’t be stopped. So, I decided to whip up the cake tonight, soak it overnight, and add the whipping cream and fruit tomorrow.
(Can you tell I’m writing this post over two days?)
Enough rambling about the whys and wherefores. Let’s get busy making that cake!
Tres Leches Cake Ingredients
FOR THE CAKE:
- yellow cake mix
- room temperature eggs
- whole milk
- melted butter
- vanilla extract
FOR THE LECHES POUR:
- sweetened condensed milk
- evaporated milk
- whole milk
FOR THE WHIPPING CREAM:
- heavy whipping cream
- powdered sugar
- vanilla extract
- ground cinnamon
- fresh berries or cherries
Note: Any type of light sponge cake will do.
How to make this Delicious Tres Leches cake
This simple Mexican dessert was such an easy process! I honestly can’t believe it’s taken me this long to make a Tres Leches cake. (This certainly won’t be the last time.)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
Prepare a 9×13-inch casserole dish by spraying with baking spray.
In a large mixing bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer with paddle attachment, combine cake mix, one cup milk, eggs, and vanilla. (Note: use the whole egg: egg yolks and egg whites)
Mix until fully incorporated.
Pour the cake batter into the prepared pan and pop it into the oven.
You’ll want to bake it for 35 – 40 minutes or until golden brown.
When you take it out of the oven, place it on a wire rack to cool for a full hour. Mine didn’t settle evenly but we’ll talk more about that in a moment.
Once the cake has cooled, make your leches pour. In a large bowl, whisk together the three milks: sweetened condensed, evaporated, and whole milk. Set aside.
Using the tines of a fork poke holes in the cooled cake as you see in the photo below. Tape them all the way to the bottom of the dish so that liquid can be fully absorbed.
Pour the milk mixture over the cake slowly, making sure you cover the whole surface.
I kept spooning the milk mixture over the hump in the middle of my cake to make sure it absorbed as much liquid as the rest of the cake.
Cover with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator overnight. The liquid will be fully absorbed.
The following morning, make your whipped cream.
Mix together the whipping cream, powdered sugar, and vanilla and beat until stiff peaks form.
Now it’s time bring it all together! Spread the whipped cream over the cake with an offset spatula.
You can smooth it out or leave it textured. . .your choice.
Dust with cinnamon and add some fresh strawberries or cherries. I happened to have maraschino cherries on hand so that’s what I chose.
Cut into squares and serve!
You’ll need to store this moist cake in the refrigerator covered in plastic wrap or in an airtight container. I do not recommend freezing this cake.
What to Expect from this Milk Cake
I’m not sure how many times I can get away with using the words “rich, indulgent, and moist” in one post, but this cake is all of those things. . .and more.
Let’s start with the fact that the cake itself is make with milk, not water. (This is a doctored cake mix hack I’ve suggested in other posts.) And the cake also has an extra egg, another cake box hack. Oh, and the butter? That’s a hack, too.
So, the cake itself is delicious, even without that amazing milk mixture poured over it. But once it’s poured over that cake and soaks down into the cake, something remarkable happens.
It’s almost as if the cake becomes custard-like. (It reminded me a bit of my lemon custard bars, loaded with moist flavor and texture.)
I think the overnight soaking is so important, but if you’re in a huge hurry, you can refrigerate for a couple of hours and then add the whipping cream. You’ll love it, either way.
Variations on this Recipe
I’ve been thinking of ways to change this up and the most obvious suggestion came to mind right away!
Coconut milk: I think it would be amazing to use coconut milk in place of the evaporated milk. It would add that coconut flavor, and would be delicious! If I went this route I might also add toasted coconut on top of the cake (in place of fruit and cinnamon) and perhaps a teaspoon of coconut extract to the cake, itself.
Lemon: I’m not sure if anyone has tried this or not but why not start with a box of lemon cake mix? You could follow the recipe exactly or even add the coconut suggestions mentioned above.
Strawberry: Start with a box of strawberry cake and make a strawberry tres leches cake!
Sopapilla: Start with a white cake mix but add a couple teaspoons of cinnamon to the cake.
Really, the possibilities are endless!
Other Doctored Cake Mix Recipes from Out of the Box Baking
- Mock Angel Food Cake
- Strawberry Lemonade Icebox Cake
- Caramel Butterscotch Pound Cake
- Traditional Mandarin Orange Cake
Learn more about doctored cake mixes, the theme of this blog.
For the master list of all doctored cake mix recipes on this site, visit Doctored Cake Mix Recipes, Master List.
Questions People are Asking
Can I use different types of milk?
Absolutely! You can use different kinds of milk–like almond milk, coconut milk, or any other milk you like. You could even use flavored coffee creamer as one of your milks, if you like. (I’m a fan of Italian Sweet Cream creamer.) As long as you form a sweet milk mixture, that’s all that matters.
Can I use store bought whipped topping (like Cool Whip) instead of homemade?
Yes, but it has a tendency to break down easier, especially when placed over something moist. Don’t be surprised if you come back the second day and find that it’s soggy. When you make your own with heavy cream it holds up better.
Is this recipe like those poke cakes I’ve seen online?
What sets this apart is the sheer quantity of liquid you pour over the cake. The holes in this one are smaller than those in a poke cake (which often has a thicker topping, like a pudding mixture). This whole cake is meant to absorb the three milks.
That’s it for this Post, Friends!
I hope you enjoyed this delicious and easy tres leches cake recipe!
If you make this recipe and love it, don’t forget to leave a review and a comment below. And while you’re at it, go ahead and pin some photos to your Pinterest boards!
See this recipe at
About the Author
Janice Thompson is an author, baker, and all-around mischief maker! She has overcome a host of baking catastrophes, including a toppled wedding cake, to learn more about the baking process. Janice has published over 150 books for the Christian market but particularly enjoys writing recipes and baking devotions. To learn more about Janice or to drop her a note, visit her About the Author page.
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- Tres Leches Cake Ingredients
- FOR THE CAKE:
- 1 box yellow cake mix
- 4 room temperature eggs
- 1 cup whole milk
- 1/2 cup melted butter
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- FOR THE LECHES POUR:
- 14-ounce can sweetened condensed milk
- 12-ounce can evaporated milk
- 1/3 cup whole milk
- FOR THE WHIPPING CREAM:
- 2 cups heavy whipping cream
- 1/4 cup powdered sugar
- 2 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- Fresh berries or cherries
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Prepare a 9x13-inch casserole dish by spraying with baking spray.
- In a large mixing bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer with paddle attachment, combine cake mix, one cup milk, eggs, and vanilla. Mix until fully incorporated.
- Pour the batter into the pan and pop it into the oven. You’ll want to bake it for 35 - 40 minutes or until golden brown.
- When you take it out of the oven, place it on a wire rack to cool for a full hour.
- Once the cake has cooled, make your leches pour. In a large bowl, whisk together the three milks: sweetened condensed, evaporated, and whole milk. Set aside.
- Using the tines of a fork poke holes in the cake as you see in the photo below. Tape them all the way to the bottom of the dish so that liquid can be fully absorbed.
- Pour the milk mixture over the cake slowly, making sure you cover the whole surface.
- Cover with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator overnight.
- The following morning, make your whipped cream.
- Mix together the whipping cream, powdered sugar, and vanilla and beat until stiff peaks form.
- Now it’s time bring it all together! Spread the whipped cream over the cake with an offset spatula. You can smooth it out or leave it textured. . .your choice.
- Dust with cinnamon and add some fresh berries or cherries.
- Cut into squares and serve!
- You’ll need to store this moist cake in the refrigerator covered in plastic wrap or in an airtight container. I do not recommend freezing this
Nutrition Information:Yield: 16 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 479Total Fat: 25gSaturated Fat: 15gTrans Fat: 1gUnsaturated Fat: 8gCholesterol: 121mgSodium: 393mgCarbohydrates: 55gFiber: 1gSugar: 41gProtein: 9g
The nutrition information is a product of online calculators. I try to provide true and accurate information, but these numbers are estimates.