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Sincere Acts of Sweetness

May 15, 2007

Traditional Pastel de Tres Leches Cake

This cake is one of my favorites. I searched a long time to find the perfect recipe because I was dead set on not using a boxed mix. I wanted to make a very traditional, from scratch version and see how it compares to the stereotypical versions I have had at Mexican restaurants. I can tell you this with certainty: there is no comparison!
Authentic Tres Leches cake is much different than the Americanized versions you may have had in the past. The keystone to a great Tres Leches cake is the cake. Americanized recipes based are flawed from the start because the cake texture is too dense and the cake is too sweet. Traditional cakes are different because they are made with stiffly whipped egg whites which produce an extremely light and delicate cake that isn't very sweet. The sweetness comes from the combination of milks that are poured over the cake and let to sit overnight to soak. This makes for a very wet cake, but it's supposed to be that way and the way it should be. Yum! 

Three-Milk Cake (Pastel de Tres Leches)
Adapted from a recipe from The Taste of Mexico by Patricia Quintana.

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
4 eggs, separated and at room temperature
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/2 cup milk full-fat, at room temperature

Three-Milk Topping
2 cups full-fat milk
1 (14 ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
1 (12 fluid ounce) can evaporated milk

Whipped Cream Topping
2 cups heavy whipping cream
1/4 sugar (or more to taste)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350F. Grease and flour a 13-by-9-by-2-inch baking pan. Sift flour with baking powder. In large bowl, beat egg whites until fluffy. Add sugar gradually, beating to form stiff peaks. Add yolks, one at a time.

Alternate folding in flour mixture and milk until it is mixed well but be careful not to over beat. Pour batter into prepared pan and bake until edges are golden brown, about 25 minutes. Remove from oven; let cool on a rack.

While the cake is cooling, in a large bowl, combine the three milks together and whisk to incorporate. Let them sit on the counter until the cake is cool (about 20 minutes). Poke several holes in the cake in with a folk. Whisk milk mixture again and slowly pour it over cake. Put it in the refrigerator and let sit until all mixture is absorbed, 20 to 30 minutes at the minimum. I like to let mine rest overnight.

Prepare the whipped cream topping by chilling the cream, bowl and beaters thoroughly (about 3 minutes in the freezer). Beat cream with electric mixer until it begins to thicken. Gradually add sugar and vanilla and beat until stiff peaks form. Cover top of cake with whipped cream, cover with plastic wrap and store in the refrigerator until ready to serve. Top with fresh strawberries if desired.


  1. AnonymousMay 15, 2007

    50% cake, 50% pudding, 100% sweetened condensed goodness...I shared a desk with this cake. We bonded.

  2. That's a great idea! I'll think of rating system over the next few days. I really appreciate the feedback. Thank you! It's so nice to know that someone out there is reading my blog!

  3. AnonymousMay 20, 2007

    Julia, I tagged you for a meme.. play along if you feel like it. Happy weekend!

  4. I've been looking for a Tres leche recipe!! Yeah! Thanks for posting on Facebook! Muah!


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