Recipe: One-Bowl Tres Leches Poke Cake

Recipe: One-Bowl Tres Leches Poke Cake

Meghan Splawn
May 23, 2017
(Image credit: Maria Siriano)

Popular throughout Latin America, tres leches is a buttery cake baked and then soaked in a combination of evaporated milk, sweetened condensed milk, and whole milk, hence the "three milks" name. While milk-soaked cake might sound soggy, this cake is the perfect summertime cake, thanks to its cool serving temperature. The cake acts as a sponge for the milk mixture and takes on a rich pudding-like texture after the milks are added. Served cold straight from the pan, tres leches cake tastes much like a rich vanilla ice cream with a pudding-meets-cake texture.

Tres leches cake often starts with a sponge cake, but here we use the magic of our one-bowl cake to make this classic dessert even easier to bake and make.

(Image credit: Maria Siriano)

A Tres Leches Primer

Many traditional tres leches cakes skip the whipped topping used here. The cake is just as creamy and delicious without it, so feel free to skip it if you are short on time or ingredients. But be sure to chill the cake again after adding the milk mixture — that's how you get that dense, milky sweetness in every bite!

One-Bowl Tres Leches Cake

Serves 12

  • For the cake:
  • Cooking spray

  • 3 cups

    all-purpose flour

  • 1 3/4 cups

    granulated sugar

  • 1 1/2 teaspoons

    baking powder

  • 3/4 teaspoon


  • 4

    large eggs

  • 3/4 cup

    canola oil, or melted and cooled unsalted butter

  • 1 cup

    whole milk

  • 1 tablespoon

    vanilla extract

  • Tres leches mixture:
  • 1

    (12-ounce) can evaporated milk

  • 1

    (14-ounce) can sweetened condensed milk

  • 1 cup

    whole milk

  • For the whipped topping:
  • 2 cups

    cold heavy cream

  • 3/4 cup

    granulated sugar

  • 1 teaspoon

    vanilla extract

Make the cake:

Arrange a rack in the middle of the oven and heat to 350°F. Coat 9x13-inch baking pan with cooking spray; set aside.

Whisk the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt together in a large bowl. Add the eggs, oil or butter, milk, and vanilla and beat with an electric hand mixer on medium speed until smooth, about 3 minutes.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan. Bake until the cake is lightly browned and springs back when gingerly pressed with a finger, 20 to 25 minutes.

Cool the cake on a wire rack for 30 minutes. Using a skewer, stick, or fork, poke the top of the cake all over. Cool completely.

For the tres leches mixture:

Whisk the evaporated milk, sweetened condensed milk, and milk together in a large measuring cup. Slowly pour some of this mixture over the cake (still in the pan). Not all of the milk mixture will absorb right away, so wait until absorbed and then pour the remaining mixture over. Refrigerate for at least 4 hours or overnight.

Make the whipped topping:

Place the cream, sugar, and vanilla in a large bowl. Beat with an electric hand mixer on medium-high speed until stiff peaks form. Spread the whipped topping over the cake, slice, and serve.

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