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Tres Leches Cake with Cake Mix

If you think tres leches cake is dreamy, wait until you try this tres leches cake with cake mix. It takes half the time to prep but has twice the yummy flavor.

In fact, it’s probably one of my top five favorite cakes in the world – and it only takes one bite to fall in love.

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Close up of a slice of Tres Leches Cake with Coconut Toppings

This authentic Mexican dessert is unbelievably moist and undeniably delicious! And it’s all down to the milk.

You see, with tres leches, you’ll soak the cake in not one, but three kinds of milk. So, even if the cake comes out a little dry, the added dairy will make it ultra-moist and tender.

It’s also surprisingly easy to make. This tres leches cake with cake mix recipe only takes a few minutes of your time and a little patience while it bakes.

Ready to give it a try? I know I am!

Tres Leches Cake with Cake Mix

The concept for tres leches is simple enough – soak a dry cake in different kinds of milk, so it comes out creamy, luxurious, and melt-in-your-mouth delicious.

But the result is totally legen-dairy. 

Soaking cake in liquid isn’t a new concept, but it’s a brilliant technique that makes even the driest cake ridiculously tender.

And with this tres leches cake with cake mix, it’s easier than ever. Just blend the buttery cake mix with a few key ingredients, and it’s ready for the oven.

In fact, I’d argue that using cake mix is the only way to make this creamy dessert. Like adding pudding mix to cookies, cake mix will yield a flavorful and moist cake every single time.

It’s a fool-proof recipe that’ll make even amateur bakers seem like pros!

What is Tres Leches? 

Tres leches is a type of poke cake that means “three milks” in Spanish. Once the buttery sponge is baked and cooled, it’s covered in a creamy blend of milks that needs at least four hours to soak up. Once it’s soaked and chilled, this popular Mexican dessert will be ridiculously moist and milky.

Besides the milk mixture, the butter cake base is another thing that makes this tres leches cake recipe even more spectacular. After all, how can you go wrong with the combination of milk and butter?

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It’s so good; you’ll want to make it again and again.

Tres Leches Cake with Milk and Toasted Coconut

How to Make Tres Leches Cake 

To make tres leches cake, you need to:

  • Make and bake the cake
  • Pour over the milk blend
  • Chill for at least four hours (overnight if possible)
  • Serve and enjoy!

Since this cake is served in the pan it’s baked in, I like to use a nice glass baking dish for presentation purposes. But that’s totally up to you!

Make the cake batter by beating the cake mix with room temperature eggs, milk, softened butter, and vanilla. Start beating at low speed for 30 seconds, then increase the speed to medium and beat for two more minutes.

Using cake mix guarantees terrific flavor and plenty of moisture. Go for either a butter cake or yellow cake mix to get the most out of it.

That said, if you have a favorite yellow/vanilla sponge recipe, feel free to use it.

Pour the batter into the greased baking dish and bake it for 30 to 35 minutes. Stick a toothpick all the way through to test for doneness.

You’ll know it’s done if the toothpick comes out clean.

If the batter is still wet, bake it for two to three more minutes, then test again. Finally, let the cake cool for 20 minutes. 

While waiting for the cake to cool, make the milk mixture. Whisk together the sweetened condensed milk, evaporated milk, and whipping cream. 

I like to use a 4-cup measuring glass with a spout for this so I can easily pour the mixture once it’s ready. Of course, a regular bowl is fine, too.

Poke holes in the cake with a skewer, knife, or fork. Be sure the cake has cooled at least 20 minutes before doing this, though.

Pour the milk mixture over the cake, then cover it with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 4 hours or overnight.

This cake is wonderfully moist, so there’s no need for a topping.

But if you want to go all out, beat 1 cup of whipping cream until it starts to thicken. Then, gradually add the powdered sugar and vanilla and continue to beat until soft peaks form, about 1-2 minutes.

Spread whipped cream over the cake right before serving. Enjoy!

Tres Leches Cake Topped with Toasted Coconut and Whipped Cream

Tips for Making The Best Cake

  • Use room temperature eggs to get a smooth, well-combined cake batter. Set the eggs on the counter 30 minutes before using or soak them in warm water for several seconds to warm them up quickly.
  • Let the cake cool slightly – about 20 minutes – before poking holes and pouring the milk mixture. It’ll be too difficult to poke holes in a hot cake as it hasn’t fully set.
  • Allow the cake to soak in the milk mixture for at least 4 hours. Overnight is preferable to get the maximum flavor and moisture.
  • For guaranteed whipped cream success, freeze the bowl and beaters for 15 minutes. This will whip the cream faster.
  • You’ll also want to chill the cream beforehand. Cold cream whips better.
  • For a more stable whipped cream topping, add a teaspoon of gelatin powder for every cup of cream. This isn’t nessecary if you plan to eat the cake right away. But it will help to keep the cream stable if it’s made a day or two in advance.
  • Use a butter cake mix for the best flavor. You can also bake a sponge cake from scratch for a completely homemade version. Just be sure it’s mild in flavor so it doesn’t distract from the milk.
  • Don’t overmix the cake batter, otherwise, your cake will be tough and dry. Stop mixing as soon as the ingredients have combined and you no longer see streaks of cake mix.
  • Don’t overbake the cake. Make sure you bake it at the temperature specified in the recipe card and place a kitchen thermometer inside the oven if you have one. That way, you can monitor the temperature and adjust it accordingly.
  • Slice off the top of the cake to help it absorb the milk mixture more. This part isn’t required, especially if your cake hasn’t formed a crust on top. But if it does, this trick will help a lot.
  • For a full, tres leches experience, stick to full-fat milk. Don’t settle for reduced-fat or dairy-free milk. Now’s not the time to think about your diet.
  • Don’t substitute condensed milk, evaporated milk, and cream for anything else. The combination of these specific ingredients creates a perfect balance of flavor and consistency – thick, yet still liquid enough to permeate the cake, and sweet and creamy, but not too heavy.
  • It will look like there’s way too much milk mixture but don’t be inclined to pour less. Don’t worry, the cake can handle all that liquid! If you don’t pour all of it in, that beautiful mixture won’t reach the bottom of the cake.
  • Serve the cake chilled, straight from the fridge. Definitly don’t leave it on the counter!
  • Add toppings for some textural contrast. You can’t go wrong with these:
    • Toasted coconut
    • Fresh strawberry slices
    • Chopped cherries
  • Try fun mixins and toppings for added oomph and flavor. Such as:
    • Chocolate or salted caramel sauce
    • Cinnamon
    • 1/2 cup of rum to the milk mixture

How to Store Tres Leches Cake 

This cake will keep well for up to 4-5 days in the fridge. Honestly, though, it’s never lasted that long in my house – it’s just too darn good and addictive!

Just be sure to cover the cake with plastic wrap so it wouldn’t absorb the odors and flavors of the other residents of your fridge.

Also, expect the whipped cream to flatten as days go by. If you want a fluffier topping, I suggest stabilizing the cream with gelatin.

That, or don’t spread the whipping cream over the entire cake. Instead, just top individual slices right when you’re about to serve.

More Mexican Dessert Recipes You’ll Love

Tres Leches Cake with Cake Mix

Servings

20

servings
Prep time

20

minutes
Cooking time

30

minutes
Calories

343

kcal

If you think tres leches cake is dreamy, wait until you try this tres leches cake with cake mix. It takes half the time to prep but has twice the yummy flavor.

Ingredients

  • For the Cake:
  • 1 1 standard-sized package butter recipe golden cake or yellow cake mix

  • 3 large 3 eggs, room temperature

  • 2/3 cups 2/3 milk

  • 1/2 cup 1/2 butter, softened

  • 1 teaspoon 1 vanilla extract

  • 1 can 1 (14-ounce) sweetened condensed milk

  • For the Milk Mixture:
  • 1 can 1 (12-ounce) evaporated milk

  • 1 cup 1 heavy whipping cream

  • For the Whipped Cream:

  • 1 cup 1 heavy whipping cream

  • 3 tablespoons 3 powdered sugar

  • 1 teaspoon 1 vanilla

Directions

  • Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Grease a 9×13-inch baking pan with butter or baking spray.
  • Make the cake batter: In a large bowl, beat cake mix, eggs, milk, softened butter, and vanilla on low speed for 30 seconds. Increase speed to medium and beat for 2 more minutes.
  • Pour batter into the greased pan. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Let the cake cool in the pan for 20 minutes.
  • While the cake is cooling, prepare the milk mixture. In a 4-cup measuring glass with a spout, whisk together sweetened condensed milk, evaporated milk, and 1 cup whipping cream.
  • Poke holes in the cake using a knife or skewer. Pour milk mixture over the cake. Let the cake cool further for 30 minutes.
  • Cover the cake with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 4 hours or overnight.
  • For the topping, beat 1 cup whipping cream until it starts to thicken. Gradually add the powdered sugar and vanilla and continue to beat until soft peaks form, about 1-2 minutes.
  • Spread whipped cream over the cake right before serving. Enjoy!
Tres Leches Cake with Cake Mix

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INSANELYGOOD

Hey there! I'm Kim. I love running, cooking, and curling up with a good book! I share recipes for people who LOVE good food, but want to keep things simple :)

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