Tres Leches Cake with Dulce de Leche Glaze

Tested & Perfected Recipes
Tres Leches Cake

A stunning tres leches cake with a rum-spiked dulce de leche glaze.

Tres Leches Cake

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

ingredients for 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

egg yolks, water, and oil in mixing bowl

Begin by combining the egg yolks, oil, water and vanilla in a mixing bowl. Whisk to blend.

whisked egg yolk mixture

In another bowl, whisk together the flour, part of the sugar, and the baking powder.

whisked dry ingredients

Add the egg mixture to the flour mixture.

egg and flour mixtures in bowl

Using an electric mixer, beat for one minute to aerate. Set aside.

beating egg and flour mixture

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).

foamy egg whitesAdd 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.

egg whites whipped to stiff peaks

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.

adding egg whites to batterFold 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.

tres leches batter in bowl

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.

tres leches batter in pan ready to bake

Bake for 45 to 50 minutes, until the cake is set and golden.

baked tres leches cake

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.

tres leches cake cooling upside-down

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.

poking tres leches cake

Make the tres leches soaking liquid by combining the evaporated milk, sweetened condensed milk, heavy cream, and rum.

tres leches soaking liquid

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.

pouring soaking liquid on cake

It’s helpful to tilt the pan slightly back and forth to help it absorb.

tilting baking dish to help liquid absorbRefrigerate 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.

whisked dulce de leche glaze in mixing bowl

Spread the glaze over the chilled cake.

spreading dulce de leche glaze on cake

Make a pretty design by swirling the glaze with an offset spatula or butter knife.

finished tres leches cakeChill the cake until ready to serve.

Tres Leches Cake

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.

Servings: Twenty-four 2-inch squares
Cook Time: 35 Minutes
Total Time: 9 Hours, plus 8 hours to chill in the fridge

Ingredients

For the Cake

  • 3 large egg yolks
  • 1/3 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1-1/2 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
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt

For the Soaking Mixture

  • 1 (12-oz) can evaporated milk
  • 1 (14-oz) can sweetened condensed milk
  • 1/4 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
  • 1/4 cup water

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 325°F and set a rack in the middle position.
  2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the egg yolks, oil, water and vanilla.
  3. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment or beaters, combine the flour, 3/4 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.
  4. 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 1/4 cup of sugar in a slow stream. Continue whipping the mixture until it is shiny and holds stiff peaks, 2 to 3 minutes.
  5. Using a large rubber spatula, add 1/4 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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-in intervals.
  8. 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.
  9. 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.

Nutrition Information

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  • 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.

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Reviews & Comments

  • 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.

    • — Wally on September 17, 2021
    • Reply
  • 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.

    • — Rachel on January 28, 2021
    • Reply
  • 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.

    • — Janet on December 29, 2020
    • Reply

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