Tres Leches Cake

I had a dilemma to solve before I could post this insanely delicious version of tres leches cake.  Despite my efforts to avoid using a boxed cake mix, the from-scratch recipe I tried fell far short of this version I have been making for many years.

Through the years, whenever I have made this tres leches cake, people rave about it and inevitably ask me for the recipe.  Once, a friend of mine bought a tres leches cake for $30 from a Mexican bakery for a Cinco de Mayo get-together.  She said my version was so much better!

About a year ago, all of the major cake mix manufacturers downsized the volume of their boxed cake mixes.  They went from 18.25 oz. down to 15.25 oz. and 16 oz.  This, of course, is no problem if all you are doing is baking a cake or cupcakes.  In the case of doctored cake mix recipes, however, the smaller volume of cake mix would significantly alter the outcome.  Although I haven’t tried it, because of the large amount of liquid in the tres leches (three milks), I am of the opinion that the reduced size of the baked cake would not accommodate all of the liquid; and it would most likely turn the cake into mush.

Now, the easy way out, of course, is to buy two cakes mixes and weigh out the original amount of mix (18.25 oz.); but I don’t always take the easy way out.  I decided to substitute a do-it-yourself cake mix, but it was an epic failure.  Despite the large volume of the three milks (over three cups), the cake was not the moist, melt-in-your-mouth cake I have enjoyed for so long.  It was actually quite hard.  It was so awful that I actually threw the cake out which is a rarity for me.  The DIY cake mix makes a tender, moist, and buttery cake; but it just didn’t lend itself to doctoring.

I looked at other from-scratch recipes for tres leches cake and read all the reviews, some of which were quite mixed.  At that point, I decided not to mess with success!  I pulled out my trusty scale which sits ever ready on my counter and weighed out the 18.25 ounces needed for the cake.  You can throw this tres leches cake together in a flash and put the time you save to making something else special for Cinco de Mayo.  Olé!

One year ago:  Guacamole

Two years ago:  Baked Chicken and Spinach Flautas

Tres Leches Cake

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  • 18.25 oz. of yellow cake mix (you will need to buy two boxes and weigh out the 18.25 oz.)
  • 1 1/4 cups water
  • 1 tbl. oil
  • 2 tsp. vanilla
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 14-oz. can sweetened condensed milk
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1 8-oz. container Cool Whip


Heat oven to 350º F.  Grease and flour a 13×9 inch baking pan.

In a large bowl, combine cake mix, water, oil, vanilla, and eggs. Beat on low for 30 seconds then on medium for 2 minutes, scraping bowl occasionally.  Pour into prepared pan.

Bake 28 to 33 minutes or until edges are golden brown and tooth pick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Let stand 5 minutes then poke the hot cake every 1/2 inch with a long-tined fork.  Wipe the fork occasionally to reduce sticking and tearing.

In a large bowl combine milks and cream.  Carefully pour the mixture evenly over the top of the cake.

The milk combo will look like it’s way too much—but it’s not.  Cover and refrigerate overnight.  In the morning, all the liquid will be absorbed.

Frost cake with Cool Whip.  Garnish with strawberry slices if desired.

So moist!

Source:  Can no longer find the source, but I got it off the internet some years ago.

Fran’s Notes

When you cut the cake, you can expect the cake to be very “wet,” but the pieces will hold their shape when placed on a plate.

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