Tres Leches Cake is not a dessert I grew up with. In fact I’d never even heard of it until three years ago when it suddenly seemed to be everywhere, including the freezer case at the grocery store and the local vegan restaurant. Yes, vegan tres leches cake. This was the trigger. If vegans were taking the time to make milk-free versions of “three milks cake” then it must be a pretty good cake.
Cake Mix Version
My first Tres Leches was from Food.com (formerly Recipezaar). That was and still is a solid recipe if you want to make a cake mix version. I still make that one sometimes, though I like to halve it and make it as a 9 inch pan springform Tres Leches.
Houston Chronicle Tres Leches
I also make a scratch version adapted from one in The Houston Chronicle. This one can be made in a 9×13 inch cake pan or glass dish. To make it a little thicker, you can bake it in a 9×12 inch dish. It’s a hard cake to mess up, really.
Gluten-free flour does not work well in this cake — or at least not for me. I tested with Thomas Keller’s Cup4Cup and the cake came out mealy. I’m sure there are ways to make gluten-free Tres Leches, but for this recipe all-purpose flour works best.
Tres Leches Cake
- 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (200 grams)
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 4 eggs separated
- 1 1/2 cup granulated sugar (300 grams)
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1/2 cup milk
- 1 cup evaporated milk
- 14 ounce sweetened condensed milk
- 3/4 cup milk
- 1 cup sour cream room temp or slightly warm
Whipped Cream Topping:
- 1 cup cream
- ¼ cup powdered sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees. If using a glass pan, use 325 degrees F. Grease a 9×13 inch pan. For a thicker cake, you can use a 9×12 inch pan.
- Sift flour with baking powder and set aside. In a large bowl with clean beaters, beat egg whites until foamy. Gradually add sugar and continue beating until thick and white. Beat in yolks, one at a time.
- Add vanilla to the milk.
- With a heavy duty scraper, fold in flour mixture and milk; mix well but don’t beat. Pour batter into prepared pan and bake until edges are golden brown, about 30 to 35 minutes. Remove from oven; let cool on a rack.
- Prepare Milk Topping by combining all 4 ingredients (I guess this sort of makes it Four Milks Cake!). Using a skewer, poke holes all over the cake. Gradually pour milk mixture over cake and let sit until all mixture is absorbed, 20 to 30 minutes. After it has sat for 30 or so minutes at room temperature, go ahead and refrigerate it.
- Prepare Whipped Cream Topping Chill cream, bowl and beaters thoroughly. Beat cream with electric mixer until it begins to thicken. Gradually add sugar and vanilla and beat until stiff peaks form. Cover cake with whipped cream with a spatula or knife. Chill until ready to eat (tastes best the next day).
- Topping, cut cake into squares and serve, or spread Whipped Cream Topping over squares of cake.
- Cut cake and serve. Or cut the cake in squares and top with whipped cream when it is served.
- About 12 servings
This is what the cake looks like before being soaked. It’s very dry and doesn’t have any added fat.
And here’s the cake soaking up some of the liquid. I used cold sour cream and it formed unattractive lumps. To remedy the situation, I warmed the soaking liquid a bit and stirred it up until smooth. The hot cake eventually melted the lumps you see here, but in the future I will use warm sour cream.