Tres leches is a notoriously delicious cake. And though very famous, it’s still unknown exactly where it came from.

While there are several stories that float around, most agree that the mass production of canned milk and sugar by Nestlé in Mexico leading up to the World Wars played an important role in the creation and popularization of tres leches cake.

Especially during the wars and Great Depression when food options were limited, soaking cake in milk was a creative and inexpensive way to repurpose it as a special treat in difficult times.

What is Tres Leches?

It’s simply a sponge cake soaked in three different kinds of milk, and topped with whipped cream and fresh fruit. And given the name, it’s no surprise that this is a very popular cake in Latin cultures. It literally translates to “three milks” in Spanish.

Trilece is a also another way of saying the name of this sweet dessert in Spanish.

What are the three milks?

The three milks are condensed milk, evaporated milk, and whole milk. They make the cake sweat, moist, and light. Each bite is like a delicate, spongey cloud. And no I’m not exaggerating.

Before I ever had tres leches, I kinda thought it was over-hyped. But i remember the first time I ever tried it, and I was stunned. It gave me tiramisu vibes with the soaked cake, but it carried it’s own uniqueness.

It doesn’t have any bitter contrast in flavors like tiramisu has, but it does have a lightness to it, that doesn’t make you want to stop eating it. Like, it’s not overly sweet or rich to the point where it’d be painful to finish one slice. This is the type of cake that makes you want more.

The frosting

A big factor in the lightness of this cake is the frosting. It’s a light, mildly sweet whipped cream frosting that works excellent with soaked cake. Top it with fresh fruit and you’ve got yourself an A+ cake right there.

Will all that milk fit into my cake?

It may not seem like it will, but the cake will soak up every last drop of milk. Just pour slowly and evenly along the entire cake, and don’t forget the edges! And click here to see a recipe for an alcohol soaked tres leches!

tres leches cake

Strawberry Tres Leches Cake Recipe

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Tres leches is a notoriously delicious cake. It's simply a sponge cake soaked in three different kinds of milk, and topped with whipped cream and fresh fruit.
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 25 minutes
Chill Time 1 hour
Total Time 1 hour 45 minutes
Course Dessert
Cuisine Mexican
Servings 8 people


  • Baking dish
  • 4 bowls
  • Whisk
  • Electric hand mixer
  • Spoon
  • Spatula
  • Pouring cup
  • Knife


  • 2/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 3 eggs (separated)
  • 1 cup sugar
  • ¼ cup milk or water
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 can evaporated milk
  • 1 can condensed milk
  • ¼ cup whole milk
  • 1 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 1 tbsp sugar
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • 1 cup strawberries


  • Combine flour, baking powder, and salt in a bowl. Set aside.
  • Combine egg whites with 3/4 cup of sugar and mix with electric mixture until stiff peaks are formed. Add vanilla extract, mix, and set aside.
  • Combine egg yolks and 1/4 cup of sugar and mix with a whisk until it turns light brown.
  • Add egg yolk mixture to dry mixture and mix until well combined.
  • Fold egg white mixture into the bowl.
  • Add milk or water and mix until fully combined. Set aside for baking.
  • Butter the baking dish.
  • Pour mixture into baking dish and bake for 25 minutes at 350°.
  • Remove from oven and allow to cool.
  • Using a knife, cut along the edges to remove cake from dish.
  • Clean dish and return cake to dish.
  • Poke several holes all around the cake using a fork.
  • Combine condensed milk, evaporated milk, and whole in a pouring cup.
  • Slowly pour entire mixture onto the cake. Set aside.
  • In a bowl, combine heavy whipping cream and sugar and mix with an electric hand mixture until thick peaks form.
  • Top the cake with whipped cream and enjoy!



  • Fold the egg white mixture into the rest of the ingredients to avoid removing all the air whipped into the egg white mixture.
  • Pour the milk into the cake slowly and evenly, and don’t forget the edges!
  • Once baked and cooled, be sure to remove the cake from the baking dish to make it easier to remove later during serving.
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