Soft, airy and decadent, this Easy Tres Leches Cake with a sweet whipped cream and cinnamon topping is sure to please everyone at the table!
An Easy Tres Leches Cake Recipe
I love cake, but I don’t always have time to get in the kitchen and mix one up from scratch, especially a light and airy sponge cake. That’s why this recipe is one of my faves!
Using a cake mix eliminates almost all of the measuring, sifting, separating eggs, whipping, folding… it’s practically mix and go! And since I’m also using real butter and a creamy tres leches mixture, the cake tastes truly scrumptious and homemade!
What is Tres Leches?
“Tres Leches” means “Three Milks.” It’s a traditional Mexican dessert of soft, airy cake chilled and soaked in a sweet, sumptuous blend of sweetened condensed milk, evaporated milk and cream. Topped with whipped cream and a sprinkle of cinnamon, this dessert is cold, sweet, moist and light all at once!
For the Cake:
- Cake Mix: You’ll need one standard package of yellow cake mix, any brand.
- Eggs: Three large eggs, preferably at room temperature.
- Milk: You can use any milk for this part.
- Butter: You’ll need a whole stick of butter, softened, to beat into the cake mix.
- Vanilla: Use pure vanilla extract for the best flavor. You can also omit the vanilla, if you prefer, since the cake mix already contains vanilla flavoring.
For the Tres Leches:
- Milk: Whole milk is best, but you can also substitute your preferred non-dairy milk here.
- Heavy Cream: You’ll need half a cup of heavy cream. Whipping cream is fine, but do not substitute half and half.
- Sweetened Condensed Milk: Sweetened condensed milk is available in 14 oz cans, and some stores carry organic options!
- Evaporated Milk: Like condensed milk, evaporated milk is usually available in cans, but you may also find evaporated milk in shelf-stable cartons. This recipe uses 12 oz, or 1 ½ cups.
For the Whipped Cream Topping:
- Heavy Cream: Don’t substitute half and half here, because it will not whip!
- Sugar: Granulated sugar is what I use, but you can substitute raw sugar, powdered sugar, or other sweeteners!
- Vanilla Extract: This really gives the whipped cream a great flavor, but you can also omit it if you wish. Whipped cream is delicious either way!
- Ground Cinnamon: For garnish.
How to Make Tres Leches Cake
- Mix and Bake the Cake. Beat together the cake mix, eggs, softened butter and vanilla extract until well combined. Transfer the cake batter to a greased 9×13 pan and bake at 350°F for 30-35 minutes, or until done.
- Cool the Cake and Make the Tres Leches Blend. Cool the cake in the baking pan on a wire rack for about 20 minutes. Meanwhile, in a large mixing bowl, combine the milk, cream, evaporated milk and sweetened condensed milk.
- Soak and Chill the Cake in the Tres Leches Blend. When the cake has cooled, generously poke holes into the cake and pour the milk mixture over it. Cover and refrigerate for at least 4 hours, or overnight.
- Whip the Cream and Top the Cake. In a mixing bowl, whip the cream, sugar and vanilla extract together until soft peaks form. Spread the whipped cream over the cake, and sprinkle with cinnamon before serving.
Tips for Success
- Pour Tres Leches on Warm Cake: It’s best to pour the tres leches mixture on the cake when it is still warm, but not hot to the touch. This will ensure an evenly moist cake.
- Don’t Unmold the Cake. This cake is very moist and pudding-like when served. While it is possible to unmold the cake before pouring the tres leches mixture over it, the liquid will most likely leak out of the base of the cake. So it’s best to leave the cake in the pan and serve it from there.
- Add Toppings: Make this pretty cake even more special by topping it with garnishes like chocolate shavings, cocoa powder, maraschino cherries, a drizzle of caramel syrup, or flaky coconut!
How to Store Tres Leches Milk Cake
- This cake should be kept in the refrigerator, not on the counter, to keep the milk mixture and whipped cream fresh.
- Use it or freeze it within 4 days.
Can I Freeze this Cake?
- Definitely! If you would like to freeze your Tres Leches Cake, make the cake but not the whipped cream topping. Wrap the cake tightly and freeze it for up to 2 months.
- To serve, first thaw it in the refrigerator. Then make the whipped cream, and top the cake.
Easy Tres Leches Cake
For the Cake:
For the Tres Leches Milk Mixture:
For the Whipped Cream Topping:
- 2 cups heavy cream
- 1/4 cup granulated sugar
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- Ground cinnamon, for garnish, optional
- Preheat oven to 350°F and grease a 13 x 9 inch baking dish with butter or cooking spray; set aside.
For the Cake
- In a large mixing bowl, beat together the cake mix, eggs, softened butter, and vanilla extract until well combined.
- Transfer the cake batter to the prepared pan and bake for 30 to 35 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean.
- Cool the cake in the baking pan set on a wire rack for 20 minutes.
For the Tres Leche Mixture
- In a large mixing bowl, combine the milk, 1/2 cup heavy cream, evaporated milk, and sweetened condensed milk.
- Generously poke holes into the cake and pour over the milk mixture.
- Cover and refrigerate for at least 4 hours or overnight.
For the Whipped Cream Topping
- In a mixing bowl, whip the heavy cream, sugar, and vanilla extract together until soft peaks form.
- Spread the cream mixture over the cake and sprinkle with cinnamon before serving.