Tres leches

What are you trying to do, kill yourself?” asked one of my best friends, “With THREE different kinds of milk?”

I am allergic to dairy. So I made tres leches.**

Tres leches or pastel de tres leches (three milk cake), is a creamy, sweet and spongy cake crowned with hand beaten, whipped cream, and drowned in three different types of milks: evaporated milk, sweetened condensed milk and whole milk or cream.

A popular dessert in Latin America, tres leches hails from Mexico or Ecuador, the two places where it appeared earliest-

Tres leches

although its origins are disputed. While Paula Deen would not approve, the cake does not become soggy when bathed in the milk, because it lacks butter and has many air bubbles to capture the milk.

Other varieties of tres leches include using cream of coconut instead of condensed milk, and pastel borracho, or drunken cake, that is soaked in a mixture of water, rum and brandy. Häagen-Daaz and Blue Bell even offered  a tres leches ice cream back in 2003.

Pancho Villa Mexican Restaurant in downtown Ithaca displays tres leches on their dessert menu if you are looking for this milk drenched cake without the hard labor.

While just as delicious with a little hard liquor, the version below lacks the hangover:

Tres Leches (adapted from American Lifestyle)


  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • 6 eggs
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 3 teaspoons Mexican vanilla extract
  • 1 14 oz can sweeten condensed milk
  • 1 13 oz can evaporated milk
  • 3 cups heavy cream
  • fresh sliced mangoes, strawberries, peaches to top

cooking instructions

  1. Spray the bottom and sides of a 9-by-3-inch springform pan with vegetable cooking spray and set aside. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Sift together flour, baking powder and salt; set aside.
  2. Combine eggs and sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer and beat on high speed until doubled in volume, about 5 minutes. Reduced speed to low; add the water and 1 teaspoon of the vanilla. Mix well. On very low speed or by hand using a long spatula, gently fold dry ingredients into the batter.
  3. Pour batter into the prepared pan and bake for 35 to 40 minutes, or until cake is firm on top and has pulled away from the sides of the pan. Remove from oven and place pan on a rack to cool for 10 to 15 minutes. Turn the cake out onto a serving platter, place a cake plate over the cake, and turn it right side up. Set aside to continue cooling.
  4. While the cake is cooling, whisk together the sweetened condensed milk, the evaporated milk, the remaining two tablespoons of vanilla, and 1 cup of the heavy cream; set aside.
  5. Using a serrated knife, gently slice off the top skin of the cake and discard. Prick the cake all over with a long toothpick or fork ( this will allow the cake to soak up the milk mixture.) Pour milk mixture over the cake in several batches, allowing it to soak in as much as possible each time. Refrigerate.
  6. When ready to serve, pour the remaining 2 cups of heavy cream into a chilled bowl and beat with chilled beaters until stiff peaks form. Pipe or spread the whipped cream on the top and sides of the cake and garnish wit fresh fruit slices.

**UPDATE: Happy to report, that I am no longer allergic to dairy!


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