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 in the baking pan and it has a consistency almost like 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.”
Before we get to the recipe, can I just tell you how many tres leches cakes I baked before arriving at this version? Eight! All of them were good, but none had the light and ethereal texture I was going for. Finally, I found a recipe by pastry chef Nick Malgieri that was a winner. I made several changes, like adding rum and dulce de leche, but the base recipe and technique are his.
Begin by combining the flour (you can use all-purpose or cake flour), part of the sugar and the baking powder in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment.
In a separate bowl, combine the egg yolks with the oil, water and vanilla.
Add the egg mixture to the flour mixture and beat for exactly one minute to aerate.
It will look like this. Be careful not to overmix, as this can cause the cake to fall out of the pan while it cools.
Next, combine the egg whites and salt in a clean, dry bowl and beat until soft peaks form. It will look a little foamy, and 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 egg whites 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.
Fold the egg whites into the batter — this is just a gentle mixing method that helps the batter retain the volume of the beaten egg whites. Simply add the beaten egg whites to the batter and 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 Pyrex baking pan. It’s important that the pan is not greased — this type of cake (a chiffon) needs to grip the sides of the pan to rise.
Bake for 35-40 minutes, until the middle is set and the cake is golden.
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 may collapse and fall.
Let the cake cool, then run a sharp knife around the edges to loosen it from the pan and poke it all over with a skewer.
Make the tres leches soaking liquid by combining the sweetened condensed milk, evaporated milk, heavy cream and rum.
Then pour it over the cake. Don’t worry, it will soak right up.
Refrigerate the cake at least eight hours or overnight to allow it to absorb the tres leches mixture. Then, prepare the topping by combining the dulce de leche, water and rum in a bowl. Microwave it for about 40 seconds so it’s easier to blend.
Pour the dulce de leche topping over the soaked cake.
Spread it to cover evenly.
Then chill the cake until ready to serve.
My Recipe Videos
Tres Leches Cake with Dulce de Leche Glaze
For the Cake
- 1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour or unbleached cake flour, spooned and leveled
- 1 cup sugar, divided
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 3 large egg yolks, at room temperature
- 1/3 cup vegetable oil
- 1/2 cup water
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 5 large egg whites, at room temperature
- 1/8 teaspoon salt
For the Soaking Mixture
- 1 (12-ounce) can evaporated milk
- 1 (14-ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
- 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons heavy cream
- 3 tablespoons dark rum
For the Glaze
- 1 (13-ounce) can dulce de leche
- 1 tablespoon dark rum
- 1/4 cup water
- One 9 x 13 x 2-inch Pyrex pan, ungreased, plus 4 cups or glasses for inverting the cake pan after baking
- Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.
- In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the flour, 3/4 cup of the sugar, and baking powder. Mix on low speed for 1 minute to combine. Do not over-mix.
- In a medium bowl, whisk the egg yolks to break them up. Whisk in the oil, water and vanilla, one at a time. Add this mixture to the flour mixture and beat with the paddle on medium speed for exactly one minute to aerate it slightly (it's very important not to overmix). Scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula and beat for just a few seconds more.
- In a clean, dry mixing bowl combine the egg whites and salt. Place on the mixer with the whisk attachment (or you can use a hand held mixer with beaters) and whip the egg whites on medium speed until they are white, foamy and beginning to hold a very soft peak. Increase the speed to medium high and add the remaining 1/4 cup sugar in a slow stream. Continue whipping the egg whites until they are shiny and hold stiff peaks.
- With a large rubber spatula, fold the egg whites into the batter until just combined. Be very careful not to over-mix. Scrape the batter into the ungreased pan and smooth the top. Bake the cake for about 40 minutes, or until it is set in the middle and golden. Let the cake settle on the stovetop or a rack for 1-2 minutes, 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 may collapse and fall.)
- 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 1/2-inch intervals.
- Prepare the soaking liquid: in a large bowl, whisk together the evaporated milk, sweetened condensed milk, heavy cream and rum. Slowly pour the soaking liquid over the cake. Let it sit for a few minutes to absorb. If it's slow to absorb, run a knife around the edges of the cake again and poke a few more holes. Place the cake in the refrigerator 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 seconds in the microwave, then whisk to combine. Let the mixture cool to room temperature, then spread over cake. 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.