Best Cake Recipes Cinco de Mayo Desserts Easter Poke Cakes

Last updated on May 3rd, 2024 at 04:09 pm

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Classic Tres Leches Cake [video]

Tres Leches Cake is a light, fluffy, creamy poke cake soaked in a mixture of three kinds of milk, topped with whipped cream and fresh berries. Tres leches cake, Spanish for three-milk cake, is indeed a cake made with three different kinds of milk, making this dessert rich and creamy as well as light and delicious.

Made from sponge cake soaked in sweetened condensed milk, evaporated milk, and whole milk, it absorbs so much flavor. Topped with whipped topping, this is an incredibly luscious dessert. This cake is so good; it is the national pastry of Nicaragua, which is where it originated in the 1800s.

Classic Tres Leches Cake Recipe

I first tried this Latin dessert when I was visiting Mexico. We chose a lovely restaurant by the Gulf, and after we finished, I decided to try the cake for dessert. It was so light and airy with its whipped cream topping but rich with so much milky flavor. Once I tasted it, I knew I had to make it myself.

I love trying to come up with a recipe from scratch. The challenge of figuring out each flavor and how much of each ingredient to use intrigues me. And even if it takes quite a few tries, I get to taste that many cakes! Sure, some were a bit strange tasting until I got it right, but they were all pretty good. The most challenging part of making it was figuring out how they got it so creamy. I had never used three milks in one cake before.

After looking it up online and realizing it was called a three-milk cake, I realized what I was missing. Once I fixed that issue, my tres leches cake tasted better than the one I got in Mexico, even if I do say so myself. I prefer my cake to theirs; though it takes a few steps to complete, it always tastes better fresh.

Tres Leches Cake is the perfect sweet treat to make at home, as it requires simple ingredients and easy steps to complete. Chilling it in the refrigerator for six hours or overnight is crucial to achieving the right texture and consistency , which is the most important part.

I am actually hooked on poke cakes, they seem to be the easiest dessert to make, while still looking stunning and tasting like something from a high end bakery. My strawberry poke cake is one of the most popular recipes on the blog, and this Baileys poke cake is always a hit.

With Cinco de Mayo coming up this will be the perfect excuse and reason to make it for the holiday. The difference between making a good and excellent cake is in using quality ingredients, topping it with a homemade whipped topping and fresh fruit of the side.

Why you will love my tres leches cake.

  • Light and airy—The air bubbles in the cake make it airy and keep the milk from making it mushy. You get a light cake flavored with rich, sweet creaminess and topped with whipped cream.
  • You can make it easier – Instead of making your own cake, use a box recipe. And instead of making your own whipped cream, get some Cool Whip. All you will have to do is bake, poke, and pour!
  • Perfect for Cinco de Mayo – This Mexican favorite is a staple in many Spanish countries and is often served worldwide during this holiday. Serve it at your next Cinco de Mayo party.
  • Common ingredients – For this delicious Spanish dessert, you only need common ingredients like the three milks, whipped topping, and basic baking ingredients.
  • Fast to make—This luscious dessert only takes about 30 minutes to make, so you can have it after dinner tonight.

What you’ll need to make tres leches cake recipe:

Special items:

  • 9×13-inch cake pan – A glass or metal pan are both acceptable.
  • Mixing bowls – Several different sizes.
  • Electric mixer – To whip the egg whites and the whipped topping.
  • Wooden spoon – For stirring and for making holes in the cake.   

Cake ingredients:

  • Flour – I prefer all-purpose flour for this cake, but you could also use cake flour. Cake flour has less gluten and protein for a softer crumb.
  • Baking soda works with the acids in the batter, creating carbon dioxide bubbles that help the cake rise.
  • Baking powder – To lighten the texture and increase the volume. It already has both the acid and the leavening, so it can do its lifting. It also creates more air pockets for soaking up the milk.
  • Cinnamon and nutmeg – For a warm blend of sweetness.
  • Sea salt – Balances the flavors and brings out more sweetness.
  • Large eggs – You must separate the eggs with the yolks in one bowl and the whites in another. Make sure they are warmed to room temperature for easier incorporation. Cold eggs tend to make the sugar grainier.
  • Sugar – I always use white granulated sugar in my cakes for the best flavor and texture. However, it can be replaced with sugar substitutes like Splenda or Stevia.
  • Milk—Whole milk is the best choice for this cake. It has the right consistency and flavor for a perfect balance of tastes. Make sure it is at room temperature when used.
  • Vanilla – For the most incredible vanilla flavor, use 100% pure vanilla extract. The imitation stuff can have a bitter aftertaste. Some say it is more expensive, but you can use less because it is more flavorful, which saves you money.

Milk mixture ingredients:

  • Sweetened condensed milk – There is no comparison. Nothing has the sweet, rich creaminess of sweetened condensed milk. It is thick like caramel and super sweet. However, you can make it from evaporated milk and sugar if you have none.
  • Evaporated milk is another way to add creamy richness without adding extra liquid, which would make the cake runny or soggy.
  • Whole milk – Do not use lite or skim milk for this. It would not make much difference in the fat, but it would be noticeable if it’s not included.

Whipped topping ingredients:

  • Heavy whipping cream – The main ingredient in homemade whipped topping, heavy whipping cream has at least 36% milk fat, which is essential for thick and creamy whipped topping.
  • Powdered sugar—Another main ingredient, powdered sugar is also known as confectioners’ sugar and icing sugar. The powdery, sweet substance gives your topping a smooth and light texture and sweet taste.
  • Vanilla – Only use 100% pure vanilla extract for a rich and delicious flavor with no bitterness.
  • Whipped cream stabilizer – You can use store-bought packets of whipped cream stabilizer or try using cornstarch or milk powder to help the whipped topping keep its shape.

Why is it called Tres Leches cake?

Tres leches, which directly translates into “three milks,” is a traditional Mexican poke cake served with some berries on the side or top.

This cake is filled with three different kinds of milk and is condensed into one spongey and delicious slice. The three types of milk are evaporated milk, condensed milk, and whole milk. Cinnamon, nutmeg, eggs, salt, vanilla extract, and multiple different kinds of ingredients go into making it.

What is a poke cake?

This means you take a baked cake and poke several holes in it after baking. The holes are filled with liquid and filling such as different types of milk or cream. In this particular case, it is filled with a milk mixture.

How do you make Thes Leches cake from scratch?

  1. Bake the Cake
    First, you make a classic sponge cake based on the recipe. Or you can use a White Cake Mix or Yellow Cake mix to make the base.
  2. Make the Milk Mixture
    While the cake is baking, make the “three kinds of milk mixture” by combining sweetened condensed milk, evaporated milk, and whole milk.
  3. Poke
    Once the cake comes out of the oven, immediately use the end of a wooded spoon to poke holes all over the surface. Next, pour the milk mixture uniformly over the cake.
  4. Cool and refrigerate
    Let the cake cool and transfer to the fridge for a few hours or best overnight.
  5. Whipped Cream
    Make the whipped cream, top the cooled cake with it, sprinkle with cinnamon, and chill for one hour before serving.
  6. Serve
    Garnish with fresh strawberries and serve.

Expert tip

Making your own vs. using store-bought

When making any recipe, it is always best to use made-from-scratch ingredients when possible. However, there will be times when this just is not possible, either because you do not have the time or the things you need. For this recipe, you can make it all from scratch or barely do anything at all.

First of all, instead of making your own cake, you could use a boxed mix like a white or yellow cake mix. It may be less fresh, but it will still be delicious. You could also use sponge cake made at your bakery to save even more time, or if you do not have a box mix. This is fine if you trust the bakery enough to use it.

Another way to save time is to buy already-made whipped cream. Cool Whip or the stuff in the can are fine if you do not have the time or ingredients. So, if you get a bakery cake and Cool Whip, all you have to do is poke the holes in the cake, mix the milk, pour it on, and then cover it with whipped cream. That would take about 10 minutes! You don’t need to worry about baking.

Of course, making it all from scratch is the best idea for the most flavorful and freshest results, but if you are really in a hurry, you can take shortcuts occasionally. I won’t tell anyone!

Recipe variations and add-ins:

  • Chocolate cake: This tres leches cake would be a chocolate lovers’ dream if you added cocoa powder to the cake mix. You could even add chocolate chips.
  • Different topping: You can top your cake with whatever you like as long as you do the three milks. For instance, you can use cream cheese frosting or buttercream. But it won’t be as light and airy.
  • Another layer: For an extra delicious cake, after you add the milk mixture, spread a layer of strawberry pie filling, apple pie filling, or blueberry pie filling on top of the cake. After that, add the whipped cream layer.
  • Add nuts: Sprinkle chopped pecans, walnuts, or almonds on top for a crunchy dessert with a nutty flavor.
  • Add fruit: Top with chopped bananas, strawberries, mangoes, and peaches.
  • Make it boozy: For a boozy cake, add some Baileys Irish cream, coconut rum, or tequila to the milk mixture.

Serving suggestions:

Since you are serving a Spanish dessert, you can serve many great Mexican dishes with it.

Frequently asked questions

What is tres leches cake?

Since the name is Spanish for three kinds of milk cake, you probably already know there are three different kinds of milk in the mix. What makes it even more remarkable is the light sponge cake with air bubbles that soak up the sweet milkiness. It is also a poke cake. You poke holes in it so the milk concoction can seep into the cake for an incredible flavor. But that’s not all! It is also topped with fresh whipped cream and cinnamon.

What makes this cake so light and airy?

There are several reasons why Tres Leches cake is so light and airy. First, it is made with baking powder and baking soda to double the leavening and create air pockets. Also, it is made without any fats weighing it down. Leaving out butter or oil gives it a pleasant lightness you cannot get from a butter cake.

Why is my tres leches cake soggy?

It is possible that your cake was not completely relaxed when you poured the milk mixture on top of it. For the best results, it has to cool for at least 30 minutes or an hour or two. Otherwise, the cake will just fall and never set like it should. Try chilling it for an hour before pouring on the milk. Adding too much milk or not letting it chill long enough after are two other culprits.

Can I skip the condensed milk?

I would only recommend making this delicious cake with the three milks! The sweetened condensed milk is essential, so you can make your own with evaporated milk and sugar if you have none. Boil one can of evaporated milk with one and a half cups of sugar until the sugar is dissolved. Let it cool, and you can use it to replace condensed milk.

Does tres leches dessert have alcohol?

It is up to you. You can infuse it with booze. By adding rum to the recipe, it will taste more like a tiramisu. I recommend doing this if you are having a party with more adults rather than children.

What kind of milk do you use to soak tres leches cake?

Three different kinds of milk are used to soak this: evaporated, sweetened, condensed, and whole milk. If you would like to try a dairy-free option, try replacing all of these with coconut or almond milk. The almond milk will be the most neutral in flavor.

How to store:

  • Refrigerate: Wrap the tres leches cake in plastic or foil and seal it in a container. You can keep it refrigerated for several days. 
  • Freezing: Let it cool and wrap it in plastic. Then, you can freeze it in a freezer-safe container or freezer bag for three months. 
  • Defrost: Thaw overnight in your refrigerator for the best flavor.

More Mexican desserts:

Recipe tips:

  • Make sure your ingredients are warmed to room temperature before you make it.
  • You can make this dairy-free by substituting coconut or almond milk for all three of the milk. The taste may be a little different, or it may not be as thick, but it will still be delicious.
  • Be sure you make the holes big enough for soaking up the milk. Use the bottom of your wooden spoon handle.
  • Also, the holes must be at least one and a half inches apart, or they will all run together and be a soggy mess.
  • Chill the cake before pouring on the milk so it does not absorb too much and become runny.
  • To save time, use a boxed cake and Cool Whip.
  • Clean the knife after each cut to ensure clean and beautiful slices when serving.
  • To reduce some of the time it takes to make this cake, you can use a cake mix, like White Cake mix, that you can spice with cinnamon and nutmeg.

Classic Tres Leches Cake

Tres Leches Cake is a light, fluffy, creamy poke cake soaked in a mixture of three kinds of milk, topped with whipped cream and fresh berries.

Image of mexican tres leches cake slice.
  • Prep Time30 MIN
  • Cook Time30 MIN
  • Servings 12 servings



  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 5 large eggs separate whites from yolks in different bowls
  • 1 cup granulated sugar divided into 3/4 and 1/4 cup
  • 1/2 cup whole milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Milk Mixture:

  • 12 ounces can evaporated milk
  • 14 ounces can sweetened condensed milk
  • 1/3 cup whole milk

Whipped Topping:

  • 4 cups heavy whipping cream cold
  • 2 envelopes whipped cream stabilizer optional
  • 1/3 cup powdered sugar more if you want it sweeter
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract


  • Ground cinnamon
  • Sliced strawberries


  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  • Lightly spray a 9x13'' pan with non-stick baking spray or grease with some butter and set aside.
  • Mix flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt in a medium bowl.
  • Add ¾ cups of sugar to the bowl with egg yolks and mix on high speed until pale yellow. Stir in the vanilla extract and whisk the 1/2 cup of milk until thoroughly combined.
  • Add the egg yolk mixture to the dry ingredients and stir gently until combined, careful not to over-mix.
  • Using an electric mixer, beat the egg whites on high speed until fluffy. Gradually add the remaining ¼ cups of sugar and continue beating until stiff peaks form.
  • Fold the egg whites gently into the cake batter just until combined. Transfer the cake batter to the prepared pan and smooth the top with a spatula.
  • Bake for 25 to 35 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean.
  • Remove from the oven and allow it to cool completely.
  • Use a fork or straw to poke holes all over the top of the cake.

Milk Mixture:

  • Combine the evaporated milk, sweetened condensed milk, and whole milk in a large measuring cup.
  • Slowly pour the milk mixture over the top of the cake, trying to distribute it evenly. Don't forget the cake edges.


  • Refrigerate the cake for at least 6 hours or overnight to allow it to soak up the milk mixture.

Whipped Topping:

  • Add the heavy cream, stabilizer, sugar, and vanilla to a large bowl and beat until stiff peaks. Distribute on top of the cake, smoothing it with a spatula.
  • Sprinkle some cinnamon on top and garnish with fresh sliced strawberries.

Nutrition Facts


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Lisa Joy Thompson

Lisa Joy Thompson

This looks so delicious! I've never heard of whipped cream stabilizer before, but I'll look for it the next time I head to the grocery store.

Kita Bryant

Kita Bryant

This is a really delicious recipe. I would love to bake this one night.

Celebrate Woman Today

Celebrate Woman Today

This wonder, I have never made. Time has come to test it out!



I haven't tried this kind of cake before but it sure does look yummy. I have a weakness for any dessert topped with whipped cream.

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