American,  Cakes,  Desserts,  Recipes,  Spanish

Tres Leches Cake

Baking at the Sells household is always a fun family affair. Whether brownies, cookies, or cakes it doesn’t matter. Kodi and I love it, the kids love it and, of course, neither of us can hardly wait to lick the spoon! This tres leches (three milks) cake is no exception.

Baking as a family

For us, baking dessert is a sign that we are relaxed and happy. Out come the kid’s stepping stools shortly followed by the young ones slightly arguing about who will be the closest to the mixing bowl action. We get so much happiness from our family coming together. I really do believe baking is therapeutic and brings a sense of hope that something good is just on the horizon. I know that might sound slightly dramatic but it does bring tons of joy in our house! We’ve always had a sweet tooth – who doesn’t – so we want to share a tres leches cake recipe that is sure to cure sweet tooth cravings. Besides satisfying your own sweet tooth the recipe is fantastic for a potluck, party or family gathering.

History of Tres Leches

Historically, canned evaporated milk used in tres leches started being made in the 1850’s and became more popular in the early to mid-twentieth century during both world wars. At that time it was popular to soak sponge cake in evaporated milk to preserve or sustain the cake’s life. In trying to keep up with demand for canned evaporated milks, companies expanded operations to Central and South America. Some say Nicaragua was responsible for using canned evaporated milk to create the delicious tres leches treat while others trace its origin to England in the Middle Ages. Miami even tries to stake claim to the origin of the popular dessert. Either way, regardless of who’s responsible, we can all agree that tres leches is truly a heavenly and magical dessert!

The back story

Our recipe started as a cure for Kodi’s sweet tooth back in his college days. It was originally a budget branch-off recipe of a coconut cake that he learned to make while living in Boston, which always hit the spot. After moving back to Florida, he discovered and grew a love for Spanish flavored foods. Tres leches cake has been a favorite of his since. In the beginning, he started with box cake, a few milky toppings, and then covered in sweet whipped topping. The cake was quick, easy, delicious and required very little effort.

Now that we are well beyond college days, the cake has been reinvented into an upgraded version made from scratch. The result gives bragging rights to any baker! The tres leches recipe can be adapted for any holiday by decorating the top with colored sprinkles, berries or any other seasonal fruit. By doubling the recipe you can make a very large sheet cake that will really impress at your next gathering. Have fun and let us know what you think!

Feel free and be creative!  

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Tres Leches Cake

  • Author: Sandra Sells
  • Prep Time: 30 minutes
  • Resting & Refrigeration: 3 hours
  • Cook Time: 25-30 minutes
  • Total Time: 4 hours

Ingredients

Units Scale

For the Cake:

  • 1 1/4 cups all purpose flour (King Arthur Flour)
  • 1 cup granulated sugar (split 3/4 cup and 1/4 cup)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 5 large eggs (separated, at room temperature)
  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter (at room temperature)
  • 1/4 cup whole milk
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

For the Three Milks Filling:

For the Whipped Topping:

  • 2 cups heavy whipping cream
  • 23 tablespoons powdered sugar
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Instructions

For the Cake Base:

  1. Position the rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 350ºF.
  2. Prepare a 13×9 pan with butter or nonstick cooking spray. Set aside and have ready 3 mixing bowls.
  3. In a large bowl sift together the all purpose flour, baking powder, and salt.
  4. In two separate bowls separate the egg yolks and egg whites.
  5. In the bowl with egg yolks add 3/4 cup of the sugar and beat mixture until it becomes light, fluffy, and pale yellow in color (about 1-2 minutes). Add in the milk, softened butter, and pure vanilla extract. Mix until combined.
  6. In the bowl with egg whites add 1/4 cup of the sugar and beat on high until medium stiff peaks form (1-2 minutes). The mixture should be still slightly wet and not be dry.
  7. Add 1/3 of the flour mixture into the egg yolk mixture and combine gently with a spatula. Add 1/3 of the egg white mixture to the flour/egg yolk bowl and fold in gently. Repeat this step until all ingredients are combined into one bowl.
  8. Pour the batter into the prepared baking pan. Spread mixture out evenly.
  9. Bake at 350ºF for 25-30 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean from the center of the cake.

For the Three Milks Filling:

  1. In a large mixing bowl or measuring cup add the heavy cream, evaporated milk, and sweetened condensed milk. Mix until combined.
  2. When the cake is fully cool pierce (stab) the cake surface all over with a fork. Slowly drizzle the milk mixture over the top of the cake.
  3. Set cake in the refrigerator for at least two hours to allow milk mixture to absorb entirely.

For the Whipped Topping:

  1. In a large mixing bowl pour in the heavy cream and sugar. Beat on high and add in pure vanilla extract. Keep beating on high until cream looks whipped, thick, and ready to spread (about 2 minutes).
  2. Spread the cream on top of the refrigerated cake. Decorate with fresh berries or tropical fruit if desired.
  3. Slice and enjoy! 

Tip: Do not over beat cream as it can quickly turn to butter. If you start to see a yellowish color and clumping of cream you’ve gone too far!

Nutrition

  • Serving Size: 1 medium slice
  • Calories: 370
  • Sugar: 35 grams
  • Sodium: 96 miligrams
  • Fat: 17 grams
  • Saturated Fat: 9.7 grams
  • Carbohydrates: 47 grams
  • Fiber: 0 grams
  • Protein: 5.8 grams
  • Cholesterol: 38 grams
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