Tres Leches Cake with Dulce de Leche Glaze
This post may contain affiliate links. Read my full disclosure policy.
A stunning tres leches cake with a rum-spiked dulce de leche glaze.
Popular in Latin America, tres leches cake or pastel de tres leches is a light and fluffy cake soaked with a mixture of three milks: sweetened condensed milk, evaporated milk, and heavy cream (leche means milk in Spanish). It’s a homey cake served right from the baking pan and it has a consistency similar to bread pudding or custard.
In this version, rum is added to the soaking liquid and, instead of the traditional whipped cream topping, a simple rum-spiked dulce de leche glaze covers the cake (which, I guess, technically makes it a quatro leches cake). My husband calls it “heaven on earth.”
What You’ll Need to Make Tres Leches Cake
Before we get to the recipe, can I just tell you how many tres leches cakes I baked before arriving at this version? Eight! Finally, I found a recipe by pastry chef Nick Malgieri that was a spot-on. The key to his recipe? Using a chiffon batter for the base and cooling the cake upside-down. I jazzed up the recipe by adding rum and dulce de leche.
How To Make Tres Leches Cake
Begin by combining the egg yolks, oil, water and vanilla in a mixing bowl. Whisk to blend.
In another bowl, whisk together the flour, part of the sugar, and the baking powder.
Add the egg mixture to the flour mixture.
Using an electric mixer, beat for one minute to aerate. Set aside.
Next, combine the egg whites and salt in a clean, dry bowl and beat until foamy and soft peaks form (when you lift the beaters or whisk out of the bowl, the peaks will hold for a second and then melt back into themselves).
Add the remaining sugar in a steady stream and beat the mixture until stiff peaks form. As you can see below, the mixture will be glossy, and when you lift the beaters or whisk out of the bowl, the peaks will point straight up with just a tiny droop at the top.
Add the a quarter of the egg whites to the batter and stir to combine — this lightens the mixture making it easier to fold in the remaining egg whites.
Fold in the remaining egg whites — this is just a gentle mixing method that helps the batter retain the volume of the beaten egg whites. It’s easy: use a large rubber spatula to cut down vertically through the two mixtures, then gently turn half the mixture over onto the other half. Continue cutting down the middle and turning a portion over. Don’t stir. The egg whites should be fully incorporated but only just so — try not to over mix.
Transfer the batter to an ungreased 9 x 13 x 2-inch glass or ceramic baking dish (do not use metal). It’s very important not to grease the pan; a chiffon cake needs to grip the sides of the pan to rise. And the cake needs to stick to the pan since it cools upside-down.
Bake for 45 to 50 minutes, until the cake is set and golden.
Let the cake settle for 1 to 2 minutes (you want it to deflate just a bit, so that the top of the cake is level with the rim of the baking dish). Invert 4 glasses onto the countertop and invert the cake pan onto them, positioning one in each corner of the pan. A chiffon cake needs to hang upside down to cool or it will collapse and fall.
Let the cake cool for about an hour, then flip it over and run a sharp knife around the edges to loosen it from the pan. Poke it all over with a toothpick or skewer.
Make the tres leches soaking liquid by combining the evaporated milk, sweetened condensed milk, heavy cream, and rum.
Pour it slowly over the cake, allowing the cake to absorb the moisture as you go. Don’t rush this process or the liquid won’t be absorbed evenly.
It’s helpful to tilt the pan slightly back and forth to help it absorb.
Refrigerate the cake for at least eight hours or overnight to allow it to fully absorb the tres leches mixture. Then, prepare the topping by combining the dulce de leche, rum, and water in a bowl. Microwave it for about one minute so it’s easier to blend.
Spread the glaze over the chilled cake.
Make a pretty design by swirling the glaze with an offset spatula or butter knife.
Chill the cake until ready to serve.
More Cool, Creamy Dessert Recipes
Tres Leches Cake with Dulce de Leche Glaze
A stunning tres leches cake with a rum-spiked dulce de leche glaze.
For the Cake
- 3 large egg yolks
- ⅓ cup vegetable oil
- ½ cup water
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 1½ cups all-purpose flour, spooned into measuring cup and leveled-off with a knife
- 1 cup sugar, divided
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 5 large egg whites
- ⅛ teaspoon salt
For the Soaking Mixture
- 1 (12-oz) can evaporated milk
- 1 (14-oz) can sweetened condensed milk
- ¼ cup plus 2 tablespoons heavy cream
- 3 tablespoons dark rum
For the Glaze
- 1 (13-oz) can dulce de leche, preferably Nestle
- 1 tablespoon dark rum
- ¼ cup water
- Preheat the oven to 325°F and set a rack in the middle position.
- In a medium bowl, whisk together the egg yolks, oil, water and vanilla.
- In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment or beaters, combine the flour, ¾ cup of the sugar, and the baking powder; mix on low speed for 20 seconds to combine. Add the egg mixture to the flour mixture and beat (start slow to combine then increase to medium for stand mixer/medium-high for hand mixer) for one minute to aerate it slightly. Scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula and beat for just a few seconds more. Set aside.
- In a clean, dry mixing bowl, combine the egg whites and salt. Using the whisk attachment or beaters, whip the egg whites (on medium speed for a stand mixer/medium-high speed for a hand mixer) until they are white, foamy, and beginning to hold a very soft peak, 40 to 60 seconds. Increase the speed (medium-high for stand mixer/high for hand mixer) and gradually add the remaining ¼ cup of sugar in a slow stream. Continue whipping the mixture until it is shiny and holds stiff peaks, 2 to 3 minutes.
- Using a large rubber spatula, add ¼ of the egg white mixture into the batter and mix thoroughly. Add the remaining egg whites to the lightened batter and gently fold until the batter is uniform. Do not over-mix. Scrape the batter into an ungreased 9x13-in glass or ceramic baking dish (do not use metal) and smooth the top (note that it's very important NOT to grease the pan). Bake the cake for 45 to 50 minutes, or until it is set and golden.
- Let the cake sit on the stovetop for 1 to 2 minutes, until the cake settles (you want it to deflate just slightly, so that the top of the cake is level with rim of the pan), then invert four glasses onto the countertop and invert the cake pan onto them, positioning one in each corner of the pan. (A chiffon cake needs to hang upside down to cool or it will collapse and fall.) Let cool for 1 hour.
- Once the cake has cooled, flip it over and run a sharp, thin-bladed knife around the edge of the pan to loosen the cake from the sides. Poke holes in the cake with a skewer or point of a small, sharp knife at ½-in intervals.
- Prepare the soaking liquid: in a large bowl, whisk together the evaporated milk, sweetened condensed milk, heavy cream and rum. Slowly pour or spoon the soaking liquid over the cake, tilting the pan every so often to help it absorb evenly. Be patient: this process takes about 10 minutes. If the cake is slow to absorb, run a knife around the edges of the cake again and poke a few more holes. Don't worry if it looks like a mess; it all gets covered with the glaze anyway. Place the cake in the refrigerator, uncovered, to chill for at least 8 hours or overnight.
- Once the cake has chilled, make the glaze: in a medium microwave-safe bowl, combine the dulce de leche, rum and water. (Note: If you want a really boozy cake, change the proportions in the glaze to 3 tablespoons water and 2 tablespoons rum). Heat for 30 to 60 seconds in the microwave to soften the dulce de leche, then whisk until completely smooth. Let the mixture cool to room temperature, then spread over the cake, swirling artistically with an offset spatula or butter knife. Place the cake back in the refrigerator until ready to serve. Serve with fresh fruit, if desired.
- Calories: 234
- Fat: 8 g
- Saturated fat: 3 g
- Carbohydrates: 34 g
- Sugar: 27 g
- Fiber: 0
- Protein: 5 g
- Sodium: 112 mg
- Cholesterol: 41 mg
This website is written and produced for informational purposes only. I am not a certified nutritionist and the nutritional data on this site has not been evaluated or approved by a nutritionist or the Food and Drug Administration. Nutritional information is offered as a courtesy and should not be construed as a guarantee. The data is calculated through an online nutritional calculator, Edamam.com. Although I do my best to provide accurate nutritional information, these figures should be considered estimates only. Varying factors such as product types or brands purchased, natural fluctuations in fresh produce, and the way ingredients are processed change the effective nutritional information in any given recipe. Furthermore, different online calculators provide different results depending on their own nutrition fact sources and algorithms. To obtain the most accurate nutritional information in a given recipe, you should calculate the nutritional information with the actual ingredients used in your recipe, using your preferred nutrition calculator.
This cake tastes wonderful! I had no problem with hanging it upside down to cool, however, one side is lower than the other. I leveled before I baked so any idea what may have gone wrong?
Hi Kay, it sounds like the batter may not have been evenly mixed. Glad you enjoyed it despite that. 🙂
I want to make this for cinco de mayo. Can I use melted butter instead of oil?
Sure, Renu, that should work. Enjoy!
This cake is the best! Everyone loved it. How long will leftovers be good until? Can I freeze it to thaw for later?
So glad it was a hit! The cake will keep nicely in the fridge for 3 to 4 days but don’t think it’s a great candidate for freezing.
What can I use to substitute with the rum (non alcoholic option)?
If I wanted to use the whipped topping instead of the dulce de Leche…how would I go about doing that?
Hi Misha, You can just omit the rum – it will still be delicious. And, it’s fine to top the cake with whipped cream instead of the glaze. After spreading it on top, I’d do some swirls to make it look pretty. 🙂
We had an Argentinian themed NYE celebration in honor of their World Cup win and I made this cake. After reading the comments I only added 1Tbs of water to the glaze but followed the rest of the recipe as written. It was loved by everyone but very messy to serve so it didn’t look very nice on the plate. Liquid oozed out of the cake, which I don’t think it should? Any idea why that happened so I can course correct next time?
Hi Laurie, that sounds like a fun meal! What you’re describing regarding the milk oozing out is actually normal so it doesn’t sound like you did anything wrong.
Hello! I read this recipe over and over, read all the comments! I was so excited to make it. Made the cake yesterday (turned out great)…. added the Dulce de leche today and the cake soaked it all up. It’s no longer on top of my cake but in it. Has this happened to anyone else and it still be good? It’s got my husband’s and my birthday tonight. I could not find Nestle brand Dulce. I used Eagle brand (I’m in Canada). So I’m guessing it was just to liquid of a brand. I added no water or rum to it. Would it still be good to serve tonight?
Hi Jenel, That is strange! I think it will be fine. I would cover the cake with whipped cream and serve it proudly. 🙂
Haha thanks!! It still turned out delicious!!
Hello there, is Dulce de Leche the same as Nestle caramel- I’m in the UK and can’t find Dulce de Leche! I think it must be very similar or the same thing. Thanks!
No, Becky, I believe they’re different – sorry!
This was soooo tasty! The cake hung well without falling out yay! I did omit water from the glaze and only used the rum, and warmed for 20 seconds. Thank you for such a gorgeous recipe!
Could I use whiskey in place of the rum?
Sure, Janet, that will work. Enjoy!
I want to send this cake as a donation in an aluminum pan so I don’t have to worry about getting my dish back. I keep reading not to bake in metal, so would you recommend transferring it somehow? Or any other suggestions? Thank you!
We love ALL your recipes that I’ve made. Will be making this for moms bday as well 🙂
Hi Sophia, So glad you like the recipes! You can use the aluminum pan; I just wouldn’t invert it to cool. Hope that helps!
I followed the instructions. I did not grease the pan. But when I turned my cake upside down it completely fell out of the pan! Devastated. Any tips?!
Oh no– I’m so sorry that happened! Sometimes a chiffon can fall out of the pan if the cake is under-baked. If you want to try again, I’d increase the baking time a bit.
This was really good. I would suggest not adding the full 1/4 cup of water to the dulce de leche right away. Mine was not thick enough to swirl. Great cake regardless!
Hi. I love this recipe but had a different issue to most others here and I hope you can advise me. So the cake baked but it came out sloped to one side. Think like a hill. I tried to pour it in level but I didn’t spread it with a pallet knife or anything. I cooked it in a dish similar to the one you use (same shape) and I cooked it in a counter top oven with the fan on. ‘Fan assisted’ oven rather than an actual fan oven apparently. At the 50min mark the cake did fall out but as a whole cake lol. It left a think cake lining behind in the dish, kinda like when you peel paper off a shop bought slice of cake it leaves that 1mm lining of cake behind. Other than that I think it turned out great but this isn’t the fist time my baking in this dish has gone lop sided. Baking in a loaf tin doesn’t have this problem btw. Thanks for any help!!
Hi Chris, I’m sorry that your cake came out lopsided – sounds odd! I suspect that it may have been due to using a fan assisted oven. If you make this again, I’d use the regular setting on your oven. Glad you enjoyed it nevertheless!
I don’t have a handheld electric mixer. Is it ok to use a stand mixer with whisk or paddle attachment? I’m a little nervous inverting the cake after reading some reviews – I’m horrible at determining if a cake is done or not. Can that part be skipped or will it not come out the same?
Thanks! Love your recipes – made the chicken marsala last night and it was amazing 🙂
Hi Cassandra, Yes, a stand mixer with the paddle attachment is perfect. And I wouldn’t recommend skipping the inverting step of the recipe. I know that sounds a little scary, but the cake needs to be inverted while cooling or it will collapse. Make sure to avoid a metal pan (use a glass or ceramic pan) and DON’T grease the pan. Hope that helps!
It came out perfect and delicious! I didn’t realize you had instructions in the main recipe about the stand mixer so sorry to have bothered you about that. Thanks again!
So glad it came out well — thanks for reporting back! 🙂
I made this cake for the first time for my wife’s birthday. It turned out great and was unbelievably good. Making your own Dulce de Leche from sweetened condensed milk is very easy. Great recipe.
Fantastic recipe. The lightness of this sponge really is what distinguishes this cake from other recipes. I also bake around 50 minutes and were lean towards overbake to prevent the disasters in other reviews. It is worth it to be methodical while introducing the soaking mixture. I make the carmel sauce the day before to make sure that the rum melds well with the rest of the mixture.
I generally don’t prefer desserts with this type of texture. However, I LOVE this cake! I can’t help myself from having more than I should! My son-in-law always requests it for special occasions.