pastel de Tres Leches Cake

Pastel de tres leches, or “three-milks cake,” is a beloved Latin American classic. Made from sponge cake drenched in a milky syrup made from sweetened condensed milk, evaporated milk, and heavy cream, it is served ice cold and traditionally topped with sweet meringue or whipped cream. Delicious when prepared in the classic method, tres leches is also open to a little creative interpretation.

Top pieces of cake with sliced fresh peaches, mango, or raspberries, or stir fresh strawberry purée into the milky mixture before pouring it over the cake for a fresh spin on strawberry shortcake. In this version, I transform ordinary sweetened condensed milk into dulce de leche before stirring it together with cream, evaporated milk, and a splash of dark rum. Robust Mexican vanilla has a bold, spicy flavor that enhances the rich flavors in this classic cake.



  • 1 egg white
  • 1/2 cup [100 g] sugar
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 cup [100 g] sliced almonds


  • 2 cups [240 g] sifted all-purpose flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp fine sea salt
  • 6 eggs, at room temperature
  • 2 cups [400 g] sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla, preferably Mexican vanilla
  • 3/4 cup [180 ml] hot milk


  • One 14-oz [400-g] can dulce de leche or DIY Dulce de Leche
  • 1 cup [240 ml] heavy cream
  • One 12-oz [360-ml] can evaporated milk
  • 1/4 tsp fine sea salt
  • 1/4 cup [60 ml] dark rum
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract, preferably Mexican vanilla


  • 2 cups [480 ml] heavy cream
  • 1/4 cup [50 g] sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract, preferably Mexican vanilla


To make the candied almonds:

Position a rack in the center of the oven. Preheat the oven to 325°F [165°C]. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

In a medium bowl, beat the egg white with a hand mixer on high speed until frothy. Continue beating, adding the sugar and then the cinnamon in a steady stream. Beat just until thoroughly combined. Fold in the almonds by hand, using a rubber or silicone spatula.

Spread the almonds on the prepared baking sheet in as thin a layer as possible. Bake the almonds until they are crunchy and caramelized, about 30 minutes, stirring them every 5 minutes or so. Remove from the oven and let cool on the baking sheet until crisp. (The candied almonds can be stored in a covered container at room temperature for up to 1 week.)

Position a rack in the center of the oven. Preheat the oven to 350°F [180°C]. Spray a 9-by-13-in [23-by-33-cm] pan with nonstick cooking spray.

To make the cake:

In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt together three times to aerate.

In a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat the eggs on high speed until thick, pale, and very fluffy, 3 to 4 minutes. With the mixer running, add the sugar, a little at a time, and beat until thick and frothy and thoroughly combined. Beat in the vanilla.

With a large balloon whisk, gently fold in the dry ingredients, about 1/2 cup [60 g] at a time, taking care not to deflate the batter. Fold in the hot milk and quickly scrape the batter into the prepared pan.

Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, until the cake is firm and golden and a wooden skewer inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean.

Transfer the pan to a wire rack and let cool completely. When cool, pierce the cake all over with a fork or skewer.

To make the syrup:

Combine the dulce de leche, cream, evaporated milk, and salt in a large saucepan over low heat and warm gently, whisking just until smooth. Remove from the heat and stir in the rum and vanilla.

Ladle the warm syrup over the cake, let – ting it seep in and gradually adding more as it is absorbed. Let the cake sit at room temperature until it is completely cool, then cover and refrigerate for at least 3 hours, and preferably overnight.

to make the whipped cream topping:

Right before serving, chill a large bowl and the beaters from an electric mixer in the refrigerator for 15 minutes until very cold. Combine the cream, sugar, and vanilla in the chilled bowl and beat until the cream forms softly mounding peaks.

Spread the whipped cream over the top of the cake and sprinkle with the candied almonds. Cut the cake into squares and serve cold.

The cake can be stored, covered in the refrigerator, for up to 2 days.


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