Rustic Cake Recipe for Tres Leches Cake

May 27, 2012

Tres Leches Cake can be stacked. You treat it as if it were any other layered, filled and iced cake.  There is very little fat in this recipe. The crumb is open and meant to absorb liquid. This is the finest formula you will find for Tres Leches Cake. I flavor the soaking milk with dulce de leche which is made by blending about 1/2 cup of Dulce de Leche with evaporated milk either in a blender or with an immersion stick blender. This cake likes to be soaked with the milk about 5-10 minutes out of the oven as the warm cake will really soak up that liquid quite well.

You will need to preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. Prepare 3 9″ cake pans by spraying the bottom of the cake pans and lining them with rounds of parchment.

Sift and set aside:
4 cups of All Purpose Flour
1 Tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon baking powder


12 whole eggs ( the whites will go into the bowl of a heavy duty 5 quart mixer)


4 cups granulated sugar


1 cup whole milk

2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract


In the bowl of a heavy duty 5 quart mixer, whip the egg whites to a soft peak.   Slowly and gradually start adding the sugar in a thin stream.  If you add the sugar too quickly, the egg whites might collapse from the weight of the sugar so it is best to add sugar very gradually.  This egg white/sugar mixture should become quite stiff and shiny and hold a peak when the whip attachment is turned upside down.  It will take at least 15 minutes to whip the whites with the added sugar so it is best to use a stand mixer.

Add the 12 egg yolks a couple at a time making sure they are well mixed into the whites.

Alternate the addition of the all purpose flour/baking powder with the milk by starting with the flour and folding it into the whites. Then adding half of the milk, followed by a third more flour and folding those in well but not completely.  Add the other half of the milk and fold that in then add the last of the flour.  Fold all thoroughly and if need be use a whisk to allow the batter to fall through eliminating the lumps of flour if any.  Scrape the bowl well with a rubber spatula.

Pour into the prepared cake pans and bake at least 25 minutes.  Remove from the oven when golden brown.  Cool for about 5 – 10 minutes, poke holes in the cake with a bamboo skewer or other similar instrument and then brush the soaking milk over each cake in an equal amount.  Cool and then remove from the cake pans.  Chill the cakes thoroughly before filling them.

Soaking Milk:

1 can evaporated milk

1/2 cup dulce de leche

Blend well and soak cake layers with a brush or use a squeeze bottle if you prefer.

Best filled with Dulce de Leche flavored Bavarian Cream, Bavarian Cream or French Vanilla Cream.  If you are stacking the Tres Leches Cake as for a wedding cake, the French Vanilla Cream has to be stabilized with gelatin and stabilized with gelatin especially if you are adding sliced strawberries in the filling or any fresh fruit for that matter.

57 Responses to “Rustic Cake Recipe for Tres Leches Cake”

  1. Leah Michael Says:

    I have to make a tres leches wedding cake and I was really nervous about it until I saw your recipe. I’m hoping you will answer a few questions. If I double the recipe to make 2 12 inch layers should I double the soaking liquid as well? Can I use the French Vanilla Cream to ice and decorate the cake? Finally would I need to double the recipe to frost and fill a 12 inch layer?
    Thanks so much for your help

    • Hi Leah,
      This recipe will yield a lot of cake batter and you will not have to double this recipe for a 12″ cake tier, however if you want to make two 12″ tiers of cake then yes, double it but you will need a 20 quart mixer for the 24 egg whites. You would want to double the soaking liquid as well because of the increased number of layers of cake for each tier of cake. You might want to consider dividing each recipe among three 12″ cake pans. The layers will bake faster and each layer will not be quite so thick. This cake is difficult to cut in half with a serrated knife. You will see how spongy it is when you start to build your cakes.
      It is not advisable to use French Vanilla Cream as an icing..please use Italian meringue buttercream to ice the cake with or your favorite buttercream icing.
      I have successfully covered this cake not only with Italian meringue buttercream but white chocolate fondant as well.

  2. Leah Michael Says:

    Thanks so much for your reply. I just want to be sure I understand. What I’m trying to make is a 12 inch layer cake to serve approximately 35 people. The recipe said to use 3 9 inch pans so I thought I would need to increase the recipe for 2 12 inch layers Would you saythe recipe makes enough batter for the size cake i need? Or do I need to increase it? And if I double the recipe each doubled recipe should be split into 3 12 inch pans so the tier would be 6 12 inch layers? Sorry for so many questions. I really appreciate your help

    • If you are making just one 12″ inch tier that serves 35 people, you don’t need to double this recipe. This recipe with 12 eggs will make enough batter for on cake that measures 12″ by three layers of cake high.. I prefer to bake my layers thinner and in more cake pans than thicker in a couple of cake pans. If you were to bake the batter with 12 eggs in it in two pans you would get very thick layers of cake which you would want to split in half, but this cake doesn’t like to be split in half, especially with the soaking milk. Hope this helps. Just make this one not double it because you are just going to make on cake.

      • Leah Michael Says:

        Ok I understand now. I can’t thank you enough. I’ll let you know how it turns out

      • Glad to be of help..just remember to make sure your egg whites are good an stiff. Add the sugar very gradually so as not to collapse the whites by virtue of the weight of the sugar and you should be fine.

      • leah Says:

        I wanted to let you know the cake is lovely. The layers baked beautifully and the filling was so delicious. I covered it as you suggested in Italian meringue buttercream.
        I can’t thank you enough

      • Wonderful..!! This is a fantastic cake. People love it. I am glad you found this blog.

  3. Diana Says:

    Hi thank you for your post! I wanted to make a three tier tres leche cake for a friend’s baptism party. 🙂 each layer filled with strawberry. You suggested french vanilla cream with strawberries, I like the idea.. When you say French vanilla creme do you mean a vanilla pudding or is it the same thing as bavarian creme… do you have a recipe you could share? I was however concerned about the stacking of the cakes..can i use wooden rods and round cardboard bases? Also is the picture you posted a tres leche cake that’s beautiful! It looks like its covered in fondant. Do you know of any tres leche frosting recipes? I was thinking 10 – 8 – 6 inch tier or 12 – 10 – 8 inch tier. So is im glad a found someone that responds to their posts. Thank you thank you.

    • Hi Diana,
      French vanilla cream is a cooked pastry cream lightened with whipped cream and it is used in cakes like the Princess Cake, the Tres Leches Cake that I love and eclairs. It is a lightened custard. If you are going to use this filling for a tiered and stacked cake, it is advisable to use Bavarian Cream that is made with gelatin or use gelatin in the French vanilla cream. If you use French vanilla cream that is not stabilized with gelatin and you fill those layers with fresh fruit, you run the risk of having the layers slip, crack or bulge.
      I do flavor Italian meringue buttercream with dulce de leche and it is delicious.

    • Thank you for bringing to my attention the fact that I have not used sub-categories in the search box correctly. If you look under fillings, you will find the French Vanilla Cream. I will correct all the posts.

      • Diana Says:

        Hey there! I really appreciate the quick response, thank you! Your welcome, on the subcategories, I pointed it out accidentally, I didn’t know I could navigate the blog that way.

        BTW I really like your chocolate fondant buttercream tres leche cake in the picture. It looks very well executed like all the other cakes on your blog. Your cakes have an artistic finish, hence the name, ‘theartisancakeguild.’

        I’m excited about trying out the recipe this week! I will proubably use the stabilized French creme or dulce de leche buttercream. 🙂

        P.S. I liked your FB page. Your blog is amazing!

      • Hi Diana,
        You are so welcome..if you have any questions, just send them on this blog and I will be more than happy to answer. I am a teacher.

  4. jessica Says:

    Thank you for posting this recipe!! I am trying to make my daughter’s 1st birthday cake a tres leche tiered with canned mandarin oranges. I would love to create your recommendation of using a dulce bavarian cream filling, but I can not find a recipe for that combination. If I make the dulce, can I just combine it into the bavarian cream and lessen other ingredients appropiately? Do I just top the cream with my oranges? Thank you for the great instructions!! -Jessica

    • I make dulce de leche and flavor Bavarian cream with it..If you are going to make a tiered cake with the tres leches it is advisable to use the Bavarian cream as it has gelatin in it and is sturdy..I am not sure how canned mandarin oranges will work .. I envision too much liquid..just my thought on the matter..If you were to put fruit in the tres leches, would it be advisable to test it first..? I would.. I would want to know how much liquid is generated .. Best of everything and I hope your daughter has a wonderful 1st birthday..

      • jessica Says:

        I bow to you and all professional cake makers!! I just finished making this cake-whew! That was a lot of fun-work. Your attention to the recipe’s details are amazing!! I am going to try your lemon cake next with the fresh blueberries. I did not try the mandarin oranges, and stayed with your recommendations. The flavors, and textures were unique and amazing. Thanks for sharing!!

  5. Very glad the recipe worked for you…I did find a Tres Leches cake recipe on the web that does use mandarin oranges and I thought of you..however, that cake is only a single layer with a single topping and the mandarin oranges..sounds very good..
    I will be happy to help you with any recipes you might come across..

    • jessica Says:

      Thank you! I am pretty sure this Tres Leche cake even tasted better the next day, and will try it the other way next time. I even warmed some left over Dulce de Leche from one of your other recipes, and drizzled it over my slice-mmm simply wonderful. Do you have a lemon creme & mascarpone recipe that you can share or direct me to for a filling for your lemon cake? I really liked your idea of pairing fresh fruit with it-yummy!

  6. One thing you can do for lemon cream is to pour hot lemon curd over a bit of chopped white chocolate until the white chocolate melts and then fold in some whipped cream..the white chocolate makes the whole mass much more can find the ratios if I have some under fruit ganache on my blog..but I will try to post a proper recipe shortly..

  7. Charlotte Says:

    Would I need to do anything different if I were doing cupcakes? Does this cake freeze well? I would like to make this ahead of time, then frost the day of the wedding.
    Do I need to poke holes before soaking? I am planning on one 3 layer 9 inch cake and 30 cupcakes.

    • Hi Charlotte..I have never frozen this cake I don’t know the might have to experiment and test it out if you are going to make a major cake..hope that helps..

  8. Charlotte Says:

    If I were to make this cake ahead of time and freeze, would I need to wait and soak with milk after I have thawed, or soak before I freeze the cake?

    • I wouldn’t think that soaking the cake after it is thawed will be optimal for this cake as the cake wants to be soaked while it is still quite warm..give it a try and see if it works for you..sorry..but I have never frozen this cake before..

      • kath Says:

        I am also really interested to know if has tried freezing this cake once it has been soaked and also if you can freeze Italiano butter merengue. Also what did you use to stack it?

      • Hi Kath….I have not tried freezing the cake might have to do a bit of experimenting as I have never frozen this cake soaked or otherwise. As for the Italian meringue buttercream and freezing it..I am not keen on the idea of freezing the Italian meringue buttercream.. a friend did that once and the buttercream again.. I am not a person who likes to freeze iced cakes at all.. you have to decide for yourself and experiment with cake and icing..
        I stack tres leches cake as any other cake..with dowels or straws even if the cake is small.

  9. Charlotte Says:

    I just want to cry! The center of my cake either fell or never rose correctly, HELP WHAT DID I DO WRONG?

    • Hi Charlotte, If you don’t have much experience with egg whites that are whipped to a meringue you might have added the sugar to the whites too quickly and the weight of the sugar could have damaged the structure of the whites. You need to add the sugar is a thin stream, slowly so as not to collapse the egg whites…do you have experience with making meringue..??

  10. adrianne dueitt Says:

    i’m so happy i found this blog! i have a tiered tres leche this weekend. i’ve never made one before so i’m kinda nervous. she was asking for the traditional fruit filling but so i was thinking maybe bavarian cream with some fresh fruit in it? its going to be a 9′ bottom. i asked on one of my cake groups and everyone said tres leche would not work for tiered cakes and especially decorated!! so is this possible? i would use american buttercream and fondant petals for bottom decor. thanks so much

    • Sorry to have missed this post as the blog host failed to notify me that this post was did your cake turn out? Bavarian cream was the correct choice for a vanilla cream in this cake because whipped cream can collapse and stacked cakes can buckle with collapsed whipped cream. I have stacked many tres leches cakes as wedding cakes and it does work. You can cover your cake boards with fancy foil to keep them from absorbing moisture. As long as you seal in the cake with buttercream it should work. American buttercream should work as well although it is very sweet on top of a sweet cake. I tend to like to neutralize sweetness and richness with balancing components. I hope you try it again and I would be curious about how the cake turned out.

  11. kath delgado cabrera Says:

    thanks for the comments. i have just been experimenting and have frozen a dry cake to see what happenes if I warm it slightly and then soak it, also a soaked cake to see if the fluid seperates and I have also frozen some tres leches fluid to see what happens it is. Then I will make the cakes according to the answers. I intend to use italian meringue icing cos the butter here ( Tenerife, Canary islands) isnt the same as in Soctland ( Im Scottish) and the butter version didnt taste nice at all. However whatever happens because the wedding is in August, our hottest month when it can also be quite humid I am goign to make a large cake fo the caterers to keep int he fridge to serve cos I dont want the tres leches to go off at all! Anymore tips would be great. Thanks to date

    • Hi..glad to hear of your experiments. I like the idea of warming the cake up, however, I don’t think the absorption is going to be as efficient as when the cake comes out of the oven and is allowed to sit for a few minutes before soaking with the milk while quite warm. In extremely hot weather it is not a bad idea to have cutting cake in the back. Home refrigeration is not as cold as commercial refrigeration and that is the main problem. In fact, if you are making this cake at home, it would be best to make it as close to the event as possible and set it up in the freezer of your home kitchen because that is where you will have the coldest temperatures. I would not make a home baked cake in extremely hot weather and try to stack it for display for any length of time…that is too risky on many levels..the filling is cream based and you need to keep that very well chilled..the buttercream can melt in extreme heat.

      Can you get your hands on French butter? Pulgra type extra fat butter would do wonders with your Italian meringue buttercream in the extreme heat as well.

  12. Neikhila Says:

    Hi there, I wanted to try this recipe for this Saturday. I looked up the recipe for Bavarian creme but missed seeing the part on how much dulce de leche to add for your one recipe.
    Also since your Bavarian creme is also meant for soaking do I need to alter the proportions of soaking liquid?

    • Hi Neikhila, because the Bavarian cream has gelatin in will become a thick creamy filling that is quite firm enough to cut through and stay put in each slice of cake. The Bavarian Cream is not a soaking liquid at all..the soaking liquid is the milk cup of evaporated milk mixed with 1/2 cup Dulce de Leche..the Dulce de Leche is a caramel made by reducing cream, milk and sugar to a thick light amber is my flavoring agent for the soaking milk which then creates a caramel flavor in the cake is really quite good..The Bavarian cream is flavored with the Dulce de Leche as well…I would use about 6 ounces of Dulce de Leche to start..taste it and see if you would like a more pronounced caramel flavor and then adjust the flavor to your taste.

  13. Neikhila Says:

    Hi I was planning to make this cake and was hoping you could tell me the proportion of Bavarian cream to dulce de leche to get the right taste. Also in your Bavarian cream recipe you mention it is liquid so does that mean we have to reduce the amount of soaking liquid of tresleches
    Thanks in advance

  14. Randi Says:

    Hi there. As many of thee others have said, I AM SO GLAD I FOUND THIS!! I have a castle cake to make that needs to feed 70. She wants the tres Leches cake. I am self taught and stressing out!!! My question is if you use the Bavarian cream to crumb coat the cake before putting the fondant on. And… I read through the comments but I am still worried about the tier holding up since this cake is so moist. I’m questioning my ability to pull this off!!!

    • Randi Says:

      Sorry also, I was thinking either 2 tier or 3 tier with 2 2 inch layers making each tier.

      • Are you making a 22 inch round tier of cake with 2 to 3 layers of cake per tier? That will serve more than 70 people..if this is for a child’s birthday, remember that little kids eat two or three bites of cake depending on how little they can stack this cake if you properly dowel the bottom tier.
        If you bring down the size of your cake a bit, you would eliminate a bit of stress in making it..Best of luck and I hope it works out for you !!

    • Hi Randi, I have been so busy lately that I haven’t had a moment to respond and I apologize for do not crumb coat cakes with Bavarian cream..Bavarian Cream is only a always crumb coat a cake with buttercream..and let it chill very firmly before ever applying fondant which weighs quite a can build a castle cake with tres leches cake if you make separations every so many inches…in your case I would suggest that you put a separation cardboard round or square which is the same size as your cake under your layers and when you ice your cake go clear to the cardboard and ice that as well as the sides of your cake so that you get a completely smooth finish on your cake..when you make tres leches cake, you are using all purpose flour which makes the cake sturdy and workable..when you brush the milk on the cake while it is still warm the cake crumb absorbs the liquid..the trick is to brush the milks on while the cake is quite warm..I always poke holes in the cake so that the milks can enter the cake more easily..
      Now a word of caution when making this or any cake with meringue types of components…when you are whipping your egg whites on your sturdy stand mixer, add your sugar slowly in a light stream after the whites are quite frothy and becoming white..adding sugar too quickly may collapse your whites because of the weight of the sugar…

  15. Sory Says:

    I have read this recipe about 120 times and I’m happy to see other bakers have asked the questions I had about this cake. Hopefully my cake comes Out good !!

    • I hope so as well. It is actually an easy cake to make. Because it is so rustic it will absorb the milk really well If it is warm cake. I let the cake sit for 5 minutes before brushing it with the soaking milk. I should add that you will have good results if you poke holes in the warm cake before brushing with the soaking liquid.

  16. Sory Says:

    I’m trying to make 2/3 of this recipe as I only want to use 2 10″ pans for it instead of 3 9″, any suggestion or advices? I have already converted the recipe but I don’t want to mess it up

    • i have not reduced the recipe by a third before. However, I imagine the cake would be just fine. Remember To add the granulated sugar in a thin stream to make a sturdy meringue before adding the yolks, flour, milk etched.
      Best wishes for a successful cake.

      • Sory Says:

        Thank you for your response!! I will share my success (or failure) I’m about to start baking today!

  17. Karla Says:

    how much batter does this recipe yield. I am trying to make a 2 tiered cake, 9 inch and 6 inch cake pans. Trying to decide on layers depending on how much batter I get out of one recipe.

    • Hi Karla…I just found these requests for information a little late, but here none the would probably have to make two batches of the recipe for a two tiered would be best to bake three layers in three separate pans for each tier..splitting the tiers is not workable..hope this helps and sorry for the long delay in the reply.. I have been doing other things besides cake lately…!!

  18. Jenny R. Says:

    Hi!! Thank you for sharing this recipe!! It came out amazing!! And it’s so nice to see someone who responds to comments- so thank you!!

    I have a couple questions, I hope you’d be willing to help me with:
    1) could you substitute the whole milk for evaporated milk?
    2) Why is no butter/magarine used?
    3) Idk if you have heard of “ponque”/bizcocho mojadito/ Puerto Rican rum cake.. But if you have- could this cake batter recipe be used and using a syrup to soak the cake instead of milk?

    Thank you again for sharing your knowledge!! 🙂

    • Hi Jenny…I would not substitute whole milk for the evaporated milk..there is too much water in whole milk. There is no fat in this cake aside from the fat found in the egg is a rustic sponge cake and it seems to absorb the liquids really like a sponge if you soak the layers while the cakes are still quite warm..I have not heard of ponque/bizcocho mojadito..Puerto Rican Rum Cake…thanks for the heads up..I have never tried soaking the layers with rum syrup but I imagine it might be quite yummy..!! You are welcome and my apologies for not being able to update this blog..I killed yet another lap top and the phone does not allow me to respond..

  19. Ruby E Nash Says:


    I am baking my brother’s wedding cake in 2 weeks and I’m so very happy to have found this blog, I do have one question, can I use something else besides buttercream icing to do the crumb coat and final icing coat? 3 leches cake is already sweet and I don’t want the buttercream to make it overwhelmingly sweet. Thanks!

    • Hi Ruby… How nice of you to make your
      Brother’s wedding cake.. The Tres Leches cake needs masking and the best masking is buttercream… Have you made Italian meringue buttercream? It is less sweet than traditional American buttercream… You can apply it in thin coats and smooth it with a good side scraper for a nice finish..

      I would definitely recommend using buttercream with this cake.

      • Ruby Nash Says:

        Ok I will definitely try this different buttercream and hope for the best. The wedding is outdoors but hopefully it will be cool enough then. Thanks for the fast reply.

      • You won’t be disappointed… Remember to whip the eggs whites to a soft peak and add 25% of the raw sugar in a slow stream so as not to collapse the whites… When you add the hot cooked sugar syrup to whites with raw sugar in them, the hot syrup will be tempered by the crystals of sugar.. You will not end up with a large omelet that way..
        How many people do you plan to serve?

  20. Ruby E Nash Says:

    I plan on serving 30-40 people because some other family members are making cupcakes

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