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Tres Leches Cake (with Cake Mix)

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A sweet and decadent semi-homemade tres leches cake recipe. This Latin inspired dessert, flavored with three milks, is sure to become a household favorite.

So, I had never tried this dessert before moving to Miami. In fact, I had never even heard of tres leches cake before 2009.

Needless to say, I’d been missing out. Think of a poke cake filled with sweet milk. When I say it’s decadent, I’m not kidding. I only eat this cake once or twice a year.

Take a look at the nutritional facts and you’ll understand why. However, just like a moist carrot cake, it’s worth the occasional indulgence.

My only complaint is that does require a little time in the kitchen. But, in the end, it’s time well spent. It takes a little longer than our gingerbread cake, coconut cake, or pumpkin cake, but it’s worth it!

Now, enough with the chit chat, we need to get started on one of my all-time favorite dessert recipes.

A piece of tres leches cake garnished with a sliced strawberry.

How to make Tres Leches Cake:

First, preheat your oven to 350° F. and prepare a nine (9) by thirteen (13) inch baking dish. Grab your box of cake mix and dump it into a bowl

After that, mix in the milk, water, eggs, oil, and vanilla extract. Use a hand mixer or stand mixer to blend everything into a smooth batter.

The cake batter mixed in a large glass mixing bowl.

Pour the batter into the baking dish and let it cook for about twenty-five (25) minutes or until it’s done.

Place the finished cake on a cooling rack to cool off for about thirty (30) minutes.

The sheet cake is done and being poked with a wooden spoon.

Once it’s cooled, in medium bowl combine the three (3) milks. Use a whisk to mix the evaporated milk, sweetened condensed milk, and the heavy cream.

Yes, I know heavy cream isn’t technically milk here in the States. But you can take that argument to Latin American where the recipe was first developed.

Tell me how it works out for you. LOL.

After the milks have been mixed, use a wooden dowel or the handle of a wooden spoon to poke holes in the cake. Don’t go all the way to the bottom of the cake.

Otherwise, the milk mixture will just leak into the pan and not get soaked up by the cake.

The three milks have been mixed in a large measuring cup.

At this point, it’s time to pour on that sweet mixture. Take a look at the picture below as a reference.

Go slowly and take your time. There’s no reason to dump it all on there at once.

Pouring the sweet three milk mixture onto the cooled cake.

Once done with that step, cover the cake and place it in your fridge to rest for about an hour.

Give the tres leches cake time to set and really soak up all that great filling.

The cake has set and is being frosted with whipped topping.

Hang in there, you’re almost done. As the tres leches cake rests, go ahead and make the whipped topping.

In a large bowl, whisk together the heavy cream, sugar, and vanilla extract until stiff peaks form. A hand mixer or stand mixer works best for this step. Unless, you have strong wrists and can really whip the cream.

The time has come to top the cake with your homemade whipped cream. Use a rubber spatula or frosting knife to layer it on.

That’s it, your tres leches cake recipe is done. Serve it now or store it for later. Kim and I hope you enjoy our dessert and wish you all a lovely day 🙂

A slice of tres leches cake sitting on a white saucer.

Tres Leches Cake Recipe Tips:

  • About the only shortcut I can offer is to use a store bought whipped topping instead of making your own. With that being said, if you make your whipped topping while the cake is resting in the fridge, using a store bought version really doesn’t save you any time.
  • In Miami, cakes were sometimes topped with a bunch of sliced fruits like cherries, kiwi, and mango. Not only is it a delicious addition, it makes for a gorgeous presentation.
  • Personally, I like to pair this dessert with a cup of cafe con leche. While it’s a ridiculously sweet combination, the mixture of coffee and milk is timeless.
  • If you don’t know cafe con leche is, then I recommend you look it up and try it. Seriously, try it, it’s amazing!!

Other cake recipes you may love:

Don’t forget to check out our Tres Leches Cake web story!

A slice of tres leches cake sitting on a white saucer.

Tres Leches Cake Recipe

Yield: 20 Slices
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 25 minutes
Cooling Time: 1 hour 30 minutes
Total Time: 2 hours 15 minutes

A sweet and decadent semi-homemade tres leches cake recipe. This Latin inspired dessert, flavored with three milks, is sure to become a household favorite.



  • 15.25 Ounces White Cake Mix, (or yellow cake mix, one box)
  • 1/2 Cup Milk
  • 1/2 Cup Water
  • 3 Large Eggs
  • 1/2 Cup Oil
  • 2 Teaspoons Vanilla Extract

Three Milk(s) Mixture

  • 14 Ounces Sweetened Condensed Milk, (one can)
  • 12 Ounces Evaporated Milk, (one can)
  • 1 Cup Heavy Cream

Whipped Topping

  • 1 1/2 Cups Heavy Cream
  • 1/3 Cup Powdered Sugar
  • 2 Teaspoons Vanilla Extract



  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees, and grease a 9 x 13-inch baking dish. 
  2. Using a stand mixer, or large bowl and hand mixer, combine the cake mix, milk, water, eggs, oil, and vanilla. Mix on low speed for 1 minute then increase to medium speed 2 minutes. The batter should be mostly smooth but may have a few small lumps.
  3. Pour the batter into the baking dish, and bake for 23-25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
  4. Allow the cake to cool for about 30 minutes before adding the topping.

Three Milk(s) Mixture

  1. While the cake cools, make the milk topping. In a medium bowl, combine the sweetened condensed milk, evaporated milk, and heavy cream. 
  2. Once the cake has cooled for 30 minutes, use a skewer to poke small holes throughout the cake. Don’t press the skewer all the way through to the bottom. Only go about ⅔ - ¾ through the cake.
  3. Slowly pour the milk mixture over the cake, then use a spatula to evenly distribute it into the holes.
  4. Cover the cake with plastic wrap, and transfer it to the refrigerator to finish cooling (about 1 hour).

Whipped Topping

  1. While the cake is in the refrigerator, make the whipped cream topping. Using a stand mixer, or large bowl and hand mixer, combine heavy cream, powdered sugar, and vanilla. Beat on medium speed until stiff peaks form.
  2. After the cake has cooled completely, add the whipped cream to the top in an even layer.
  3. Serve cold and store any leftovers in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.


The calories listed are an approximation based on the ingredients and a serving size of one (1) piece of cake when the entire cake has been cut into twenty (20) equal sized pieces. The calorie count does NOT include the strawberries seen in the photos. Actual calories will vary. The tres leches cake can be stored in your fridge in a sealed container for up to three (3) days.

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Nutrition Information:
Yield: 20 Serving Size: 1 piece
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 345Total Fat: 21gSaturated Fat: 9gUnsaturated Fat: 0gCholesterol: 84mgSodium: 219mgCarbohydrates: 33gSugar: 24gProtein: 5g

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