Darcie Bakes //

Baking from scratch… because good things take time.

Tres Leches Cake: Take Two.

Baking has always been a mostly solitary activity for me. Usually I’m content with this; I’m a very introverted person at heart, after all. I just love being in that therapeutic zone in my own mind when I’m working on a baking project. {But I also have a tendency to be in my own head a bit too much. Oops.}

So I think it goes without saying that it’s not often that I take the opportunity to bake with other people. But every now and again, someone asks to bake with me; in part as a friend date, but also as a baking lesson for them. Making this tres leches cake turned out to be the perfect friend date/baking lesson with one of my newer [but really great!] friends, Helen.

We spent a Saturday morning a while back back dressed up like 1950s housewives, petting her cute little dog, Harry, and making delicious cake. Just ’cause we can. The cake was a very late birthday present for one of our other good friends, Jimmy. You see, tres leches cake is Jimmy’s favorite cake of all time, and I actually made him a tres leches cake using a different recipe a while back. While that recipe certainly wasn’t bad by any means, I had been itching to try a new recipe this time around. I found that I actually prefer this recipe over the old one; this cake was nothing short of amazing.

trust the process collage
{From top to bottom: 1. whipped egg whites; 2. Helen uses the whisk attachment on the mixer; 3. A shot of my half sleeve as I’m using the mixer; 4. Lightly sweetened homemade whipped cream is the best!}

{Side Note: Unfortunately, I didn’t receive my 64 gig SD card for my digital SLR camera in time for this project, so I wasn’t able to take fancy pictures. So you’ll have to deal with semi-crappy phone photos of this cake for now.}

{From top to bottom, left to right: 1) Helen brought her doggie, Harry over to visit for our baking shenanigans; 2) I like to draw my “menu” on the chalkboard in my kitchen; 3) Helen snapped a photo of me pouring the three milks over the cake; and 4) We enable bad doggie behavior by letting Harry sniff some of the cake; don’t worry, I got him some pig ears to make up for the teasing!}

If you’re not familiar with tres leches cake, you are missing out. But don’t worry: I’m here to fill you in on tres leches cake and its awesomeness. Tres leches translates to “three milks” in Spanish. The cake itself is actually a sponge cake, so it soaks up the three milks; the end result is a deliciously moist, rich cake. In this case, the three milks used are evaporated milk, sweetened condensed milk, and heavy cream. We also added some pure vanilla extract and bourbon to the milks for good measure. Then you just make a simple homemade whipped cream topping, and serve it with maraschino cherries after it’s had time to chill in the fridge for a while.

{Our Sunday “Tres Leches Cake and Macaron” party was a smashing success!}
{Jimmy and Helen dig in to their cake slices!}

The recipe itself comes off as slightly intimidating [e.g. separating eggs, whipping egg whites, etc.], but it’s truly not that complicated. It’s mostly a matter of reading the recipe multiple times prior to making it, and ensuring that you understand all the directions. If you’ve got a free Saturday afternoon and you’re looking for a special cake to make for someone, then I’d highly recommend making a tres leches cake. It’s a rare treat for me to have such a cake, but they’re totally worth it. Enjoy. {PS: It also helps when you have great friends to make and share the cake with, plus a cute doggie to “supervise” the process!}

{I enjoy the last few bites of my cake.}

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Tres Leches Cake.


Yield: One 13×9″ pan; about 12 slices.


For the Cake:
– 1½ cups all-purpose flour
– 2 teaspoons baking powder
– ½ teaspoon salt
– 6 large eggs, separated
– ½ teaspoon cream of tartar
– 1½ cups granulated sugar
– ⅓ cup cold water
– 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
– 1 teaspoon pure almond extract

For the Milks:
– 1 cup heavy cream
– 1 can (14 ounces) sweetened condensed milk
– 1 small can (5 ounces) evaporated milk
– 1 tablespoon rum or brandy {Optional; I used some bourbon because I was out of rum.}
– 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
For the Whipped Frosting:
– 2 cups cold heavy whipping cream
– ½ cup powdered sugar
– 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract {I used vanilla bean paste here.}
– Sprinkles and maraschino cherries for garnish


1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Line a baking 9×13″ baking pan with parchment paper and/or grease lightly with nonstick cooking spray and set aside.
2. In a medium bowl, combine the dry ingredients: flour, baking powder and salt, set aside.
3. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment [or an electric hand mixer in a large bowl], whip together the egg whites, along with the cream of tartar until soft peaks form, about 5 to 7 minutes. Transfer to a medium bowl and set aside.
4. In the rinsed bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the egg yolks and granulated sugar until thick and pale. Stir in the vanilla extract, almond extract and water, until smooth. Add the flour mixture and stir until just combined.
5. Fold in the egg whites, a one third at a time, making sure to not over mix.
6. Pour batter into prepared baking pan and bake for about 25 to 30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean. Remove from the oven and allow to cool completely in the pan, but on a cooling rack.
7. Whisk together the tres leches ingredients, in a medium bowl. Using a wooden skewer or toothpick, poke holes all throughout the cooled cake. This will allow for the milk mixture to seep in. Pour the milk, evenly, over the cake. Cover with plastic wrap and allow to chill in the fridge for about 3 hours, or overnight. {I let mine chill overnight, and it is definitely worth the wait!}
8. Make the whipped cream topping by beating the heavy whipping cream along with the sugar and vanilla extract, until soft peaks form. Spread the whipped cream over the chilled cake.
Cover and refrigerate overnight.
9. Just before ready to serve, decorate with sprinkles and maraschino cherries! Enjoy chilled!


+ Recipe via The Candid Appetite [Originally found on Joy the Baker’s blog, but I think the recipe is by TCA].
{I had a slice for my post-lunch snack the following day. It was delicious.}

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