International Recipes and Cooking Around the World

Pastel de Tres Leches

Slice of tres leches cake

(Central American cake of three milks)

Image Creative Commons by thewrittengeek

Average: 4.4 (214 votes)

The famous cake of three milks, pastel de tres leches is believed to have originated in Nicaragua. It has become very popular throughout Central America and is becoming more and more common in the United States. Soaking the cake in three kinds of milk gives it a rich, dense quality, almost like a cheesecake.

8 to 10 servings



  • Flour -- 1 1/2 cups
  • Baking powder -- 1 teaspoon
  • Unsalted butter, room temperature -- 1/2 cup, or 8 tablespoons
  • Sugar -- 3/4 cup
  • Eggs, room temperature -- 5
  • Vanilla -- 1/2 teaspoons
  • Whole milk -- 1 cup
  • Sweetened, condensed milk -- 1 cup
  • Evaporated milk -- 2/3 cup

Whipped Cream Frosting

  • Whipping cream -- 1 1/2 cups
  • Sugar -- 1/2 cup
  • Vanilla -- 1 teaspoon


  1. Preheat oven to 350°F and grease and flour an 8x11-inch baking pan.
  2. Sift the flour and baking powder into a large mixing bowl. Cream the butter and sugar together in a mixer on medium speed until light and fluffy.
  3. Reduce mixer speed to medium-low and add the eggs one at a time, allowing each one to get incorporated before adding the next. Finally add the vanilla and continue beating until foamy.
  4. Remove the bowl from mixer and fold in the sifted flour until it is well incorporated.
  5. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake 30 minutes, or until done. Remove from oven and set aside to cool.
  6. Pierce cake all over with a fork, toothpick or skewer. Mix the whole, sweetened, condensed, and evaporated milk together and pour the mixture over the whole cake.
  7. Refrigerate cake for anywhere from 2 to 8 hours, or until liquid is completely absorbed and cake is well chilled.
  8. Beat the cream, sugar and vanilla together until the cream holds soft peaks. Frost the cake with the whipped cream and serve. Because of the milk ingredients, pastel de tres leches is perishable. Leftovers should be refrigerated.

Tres Leches Variations

  • Substitute coconut milk for the whole milk if you like. Scatter the frosting with coconut flakes.
  • Substitute 1/2 cup rum for half the whole milk for a pastel with a punch.
  • If you would like a layer cake, divide the batter between 2 prepared, round cake pans. For layer cakes, you can add a fruit filling between the layers. Try pineapple filling, peaches, bananas or any fruit that suits your fancy.

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