Cakes/ Dessert/ Recipes

the pioneer woman’s tres leches cake

Last night, Adam and I went over to our friends Ashley and Jesse’s house for dinner. Ashley just had a baby a month ago and she’s such a precious little peapod that it makes me want a puppy….or something. Just kidding!! Well, not really. I still want a puppy.

Anyway, since Ashley was doing the cooking I said I would bring dessert. We were doing a National Day of Prayer slash Cinco de Mayo theme, so I decided to try my hand at tres leches cake.

Note that before yesterday I had never attempted tres leches cake before. Heck, I had never even TRIED tres leches cake before, which is pretty much a mortal sin since I used to live in Tampa where delectable milky slices would sit in Cuban bakery windows all over town.

Okay fine, I’ll just say it. Before yesterday I thought tres leches cake sounded absolutely disgusting. I mean, who wants to eat a soggy milk cake? Thanks, but I’ll take the flan.

However, I stumbled across Ree’s recipe yesterday morning and something in it enticed me. It probably was the fact that the entire cake was covered in whipped cream…or the fact that she called sweetened condensed milk “the sweet nectar of the south”.

Sign me up?

And guys, it turned out ridiculous. And by ridiculous I clearly mean fabulous. Even though I baked it in the wrong size pan (what? It’s not like I bake for a living or anything) and ran out to Target immediately after with the cake cooling on a cutting board to buy a cute cake pan. This cake deserved a cute cake pan.

It was soggy, but totally not in a bad way. No, soggy as in tiramisu soggy. Soggy as in irresistible vanilla cake soggy. Does that make sense? The only reason you should not try this cake is if you are severely lactose intolerant. That would probably be a bad idea….but just worth the stomach ache.


Let it be known that I added a (very) healthy dash of vanilla rum to the milk syrup and also added cinnamon to my whipped cream. And since maraschino cherries scare me, I topped my cake with canned peach slices instead.


Even if it didn’t quite fit in the cute cake pan.

The Pioneer Woman’s Tres Leches Cake

serves 12

adapted from The Pioneer Woman

Print this recipe!


1 cup all purpose flour

1 1/2 tsp baking powder

1/4 tsp salt

5 eggs

1 cup sugar

1/3 cup milk

1 tsp vanilla extract (I used a vanilla bean)

1 can evaporated milk

1 can sweetened condensed milk

1/4 cup cream

2 T rum

for whipped cream frosting:

1 pint heavy cream

3 T sugar

1/4 tsp cinnamon


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9 X 13 inch pan.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt. Set aside.

Separate the eggs into two bowls. I’ve found the easiest way to do this is standing over the sink, cracking an egg and letting the whites slip through my fingers into one bowl then placing the leftover yolk in the other bowl. Kinda messy, but efficient.

Once your eggs are separated, beat the yolks with 3/4 cup sugar on high speed until very pale, thick and ribbony (about 5-8 minutes). Add the milk and vanilla and gently mix until combined. Fold in the dry ingredients carefully (be careful not to over-mix). Set aside.

Wash your bowl and then beat the egg whites on high until frothy. Slowly add the remaining 1/4 cup sugar and continue to beat on high until stiff peaks appear. Fold this mixture into the other with a rubber spatula, mixing only until just combined.

Scoop batter into greased pan and smooth top as best you can. Bake for 35-40 minutes until golden brown and edges start to pull away from the sides. Turn cake over onto serving platter and let cool while you make the syrup.

For the syrup, mix together the condensed milk, evaporated milk, rum and cream. Prick cake all over with a fork and then slowly drizzle syrup all over cake. The cake will absorb it all just like a sponge! Place in the fridge for 30 minutes (I chilled for an hour) and then make the frosting.

Beat the cream, sugar and cinnamon until thick. Spread over cake and serve plain, cut into squares, or decorate with fruit such as canned peaches, maraschino cherries (gag) or thin mango slices.


2 hours

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  • Molly
    May 6, 2011 at 4:56 am

    I’m dying for a puppy, too! I don’t think I’d be able to leave for work though if I had a cute, cuddly puppy at home.

  • Beth @ Beth's Journey to Thin
    May 6, 2011 at 5:21 am

    Jenna that cake looks SOOOO good. Wow.

  • amy walters, aDESIGNdock
    May 6, 2011 at 5:22 am

    Haha, love your writing style. You explained that “adventure” perfectly πŸ˜‰ I was laughing the entire time. The dessert looks amazing! Totally impressed.

  • Angela @ Eat Spin Run Repeat
    May 6, 2011 at 5:25 am

    I’ve never tried tres leches cake either, but yous looks amazing!! You’re right, there’s gross soggy, then there’s super amazing tiramisu/vanilla cake/tres leches cake soggy… and that’s perfectly fine by me!

  • Blog is the New Black
    May 6, 2011 at 5:31 am

    Looks incredible! Always wanted to make this.

  • Nicole
    May 6, 2011 at 5:33 am

    How ironic, I just had tres leches for the first time this week while in Peru!

  • Lauren at Keep It Sweet
    May 6, 2011 at 5:34 am

    Looks amazing1

  • Averie (LoveVeggiesAndYoga)
    May 6, 2011 at 5:35 am

    Wow, Jenna! you did an amazing job on this!

    I have never attempted a tres leche cake but you give me hope! I love the frosting and the peach slices on top.

    And that you went to Target b/c yes, this cake DOES deserve it’s own cute new cakepan πŸ™‚

  • Samantha Angela
    May 6, 2011 at 5:37 am

    That looks great!!
    I’ve never heard of Tres Leches cake before. IS it a Cuban specialty?

  • Shutupandrun
    May 6, 2011 at 5:41 am

    Sounds weird, but I like soggy cake. Even if it is tiramisu soggy. And this one has to be a winner.

  • jenna
    May 6, 2011 at 5:44 am

    I’ve never had tres leches before. It sounds amazing!!

  • Estela @ Weekly Bite
    May 6, 2011 at 5:44 am

    I love Tres Leches Cake!! Its absolute heaven to me!

  • Jessica @ How Sweet
    May 6, 2011 at 5:51 am

    This is one of our favorite cakes too! It was the first PW recipe I ever made. So good!

  • Lori @ RecipeGirl
    May 6, 2011 at 5:51 am

    Looks delicious- LOVE tres leches. Like the idea of topping w/ peaches too!

  • Elena
    May 6, 2011 at 6:00 am

    My husband is Cuban, and this is his absolutely favorite cake. I’ve tried making other versions of tres leches cake, but not Ree’s yet. But there definitely is something about this cake that tastes like magic!

  • megan @ whatmegansmaking
    May 6, 2011 at 6:08 am

    beautiful! I love that you smooshed it in the cake pan πŸ˜‰

  • 17 Perth
    May 6, 2011 at 6:13 am

    This is completely hilarious (about the cake pan) and looks delish! I think its a must try–maybe for my mom for mother’s day!

  • Holly @ The Runny Egg
    May 6, 2011 at 6:17 am

    That cake looks so delicious — the peaches on top look super cute!

  • laura
    May 6, 2011 at 7:00 am

    What kind of rum should you use if you are going to make this cake? I know nothing about using rum in cooking…..or just rum itself period.

  • R @ Learning As I Chop
    May 6, 2011 at 7:09 am

    These are my favorite kinds of desserts. Sweet but not overbearing

  • Michelle of Chellbellz
    May 6, 2011 at 7:11 am

    You are killing me! this looks super yummy! I’m tryin the french toast bake for my mom.

  • Eunice
    May 6, 2011 at 7:12 am

    There is nothing better than tres leches.

  • Maria
    May 6, 2011 at 7:13 am


  • Sara Palacios
    May 6, 2011 at 7:19 am

    You are seriously my new HERO! Tres leches is one of my all time favorite desserts (that and Tiramisu). It is very hard to perfect the cake. Sometimes they turn out too dry…which, for this cake, is a terrible, terrible thing. Even grocery stores mess them up.

    I am from Austin, Texas and we have several places in town that you should try next time you are in town for some awesome Tres Leches. You will soon become a Tres Leches connoisseur. FYI….some other variations to the cake are coconut milk added in with the milk mix and toasted coconut on top….or, probably the most common, fresh strawberries with cajeta and chocolate drizzled across the cake. Oh man….you just made me want a slice!

    • Sara Palacios
      May 6, 2011 at 7:20 am

      Oh….and chopped up pecans is very popular too!

      • meagan
        May 6, 2011 at 7:39 am

        I’m from Austin as well, and have to concur that we have some amazing Tres Leches in this town.

  • Lauren Elizabeth
    May 6, 2011 at 7:25 am

    Love that you ran out to Target to buy the cake plate. That is SO something I would do! Looks incredibly delicious– but being lactose intolerant, my tummy is turning at the thought of all that leche. More dairy-free desserts please! πŸ™‚

  • meagan
    May 6, 2011 at 7:38 am

    My husband is Argentine, so our Tres Leches gets doused with dulce de leche as well.

    And, well, it’s heaven. Obviously.

  • Paige @Running Around Normal
    May 6, 2011 at 7:42 am

    I’ve never ever made this cake just because it scares me!! But Shane always requests it, so I should probably take this recipe and run πŸ™‚

  • Amanda (Eating Up)
    May 6, 2011 at 7:46 am

    It’s so beautifully flat!

  • Laurie @Simply Scratch
    May 6, 2011 at 7:56 am

    YUM! Love the last picture!

  • Ruth
    May 6, 2011 at 8:02 am

    Vanilla rum? I like your style. This recipe looks yum!

  • Cat
    May 6, 2011 at 8:05 am

    tres leches makes mouths happy. truly, truly happy.

  • Urban Wife
    May 6, 2011 at 8:08 am

    I am ashamed to say that I’m Hispanic and have never, ever baked a tres leches cake. What is wrong with me?! Lol, pls don’t judge me. Yours looks like it turned out just lovely. πŸ™‚
    p.s. Love the cake pan!

  • Sarah @ The Pajama Chef
    May 6, 2011 at 8:13 am

    beautiful cake, beautiful pan. amazing as usual!

  • Sonia (the Mexigarian)
    May 6, 2011 at 8:18 am

    Mmmmm. Tres leches. Must give this recipe a try. Lol. And I love how it didn’t fit in the cake pan. That always seems to happen πŸ™‚

  • Erin
    May 6, 2011 at 8:36 am

    That is my favorite dessert right now! That exact recipe. Although I added coconut milk in place of the cream for the tres leches part last time and toasted coconut on top. Delicious.
    I had also never heard of it, but my roommate loves them, so I made it not expecting to like it. It’s the best thing ever. Particularly when it sits in the fridge for a while and gets extra soaked. My favorite breakfast πŸ™‚

  • Kelly
    May 6, 2011 at 8:47 am

    I have actually never had tres leches either…mainly for the reason you stated…soggy cake? Really? But this recipe looks really really good. I might have to trust you and do it! πŸ™‚

  • Angharad
    May 6, 2011 at 8:53 am

    I for one adore tres leches cake – it’s such a wonder. The process I’ve seen before this recipe is one that can take days – add a little, increase the moisture, etc. So fun. But I love this quick approach too! Anything doused in rum sounds good to me.

  • Justeen @ Blissful Baking
    May 6, 2011 at 8:56 am

    I’ve been meaning to try the Pioneer Woman’s tres leches cake, but haven’t gotten around to it yet. I’ve seen two recipes for tres leches cake this week though, so I think it’s a sign. It looks delish!

  • Lisa
    May 6, 2011 at 9:14 am

    A coworker of mine made this. She’s from Mexico and when I asked for the recipe she had to translate it into English for me. LOL But it was freaking delicious! She didn’t add the fruit to the top–I love that idea.

  • Liv @ The Salty n' Sweet
    May 6, 2011 at 9:31 am

    I’ve never had tres leches cake before, either, but I’m definitely willing to try since yours looks amazing! The peaches make it perfect for spring πŸ™‚

  • Kendall
    May 6, 2011 at 9:55 am

    I saw that cake pan at Target yesterday, and I almost bought it! Looks delish!

  • Natalia - a side of simple
    May 6, 2011 at 10:05 am

    The addition of the peaches just scream summer in the South to me πŸ™‚ So…when can I visit for some dessert? πŸ™‚

  • Elena @ GagaForGrapefruit
    May 6, 2011 at 11:04 am

    tres leches intimidates me, but you made it look FABULOUS! i want to reach through the computer and take a bite! YUM!

  • Jess
    May 6, 2011 at 12:46 pm

    The irony – our local paper ran Ree’s recipe yesterday! I went out and bought the ingredients to make one for Mother’s Day! Never had it either – glad to hear it was good!

  • Anna (Munching Mamacita)
    May 6, 2011 at 2:04 pm

    Tres leches always reminds me of when I was a little girl. Growing up in a Mexican/Colombian household, it was always a special treat for my birthday! I’m glad you finally tried this delicious gem!

  • French Heart
    May 6, 2011 at 2:09 pm

    Cinco de Mayo and National Day of Prayer really covers the party theme spectrum.
    Since Mother’s Day is approaching I’m thinking of all the Boston Cream Pies have baked for that day. The Rose Kennedy recipe is the best, but I notice online some try to substitute whipping cream for the authentic B.C.P. filling–which, not to be grumpy, is just not done. Am sure it’s a mortal sin or something. πŸ˜‰

  • Mellie
    May 6, 2011 at 2:28 pm

    I’ve never even heard of tres leche cake before but it looks amazing!

  • kaila @ healthy helper!
    May 6, 2011 at 2:55 pm

    I had this cake on a trip to Mexico and I was hesitant at first from the look and texture of it…..but it ended up being one of the best desert experiences I’ve ever had! It was served with caramel fried ice cream and was absolutely divine. πŸ™‚

  • Wine Girl (Kitchen Doesn't Travel)
    May 6, 2011 at 3:22 pm

    I’m generally not a sweets person, but looking at those pics, it’s all I can do to keep myself from licking the computer screen. Scrumptious!!

  • Sarah@The Flying ONION
    May 6, 2011 at 3:45 pm


    And yes to the puppy AND to the cake. πŸ˜€

  • Heidi - Apples Under My Bed
    May 6, 2011 at 4:22 pm

    Lovely! I’ve never tried a tres leches cake too, but sweetened condensed milk, um yes! yum. Maraschino cherries scare me too.
    Heidi xo

  • Rebecca
    May 6, 2011 at 4:48 pm

    I’ve wanted to make that for so long! I love PDub.

  • JenE
    May 6, 2011 at 4:48 pm

    Oh dear Jenna thank you for trying this for me! I printed out Ree’s recipe months ago b/c I *love* the Tres Leches at our local salvadoran restaurant but haven’t gotten around to making it. Let me rephrase: I have been afraid to make it for fear hubs and I will down the whole thing and lick the plate b/c we love it so much. Now you have confirmed this recipe. Baby boy’s 1st birthday next week – I think we know what the cake will be! xo

  • Mallory
    May 6, 2011 at 5:23 pm

    I see babies and I think puppies too…its ok, furry friends are great. The cake looks great!

  • Emma (Namaste Everyday)
    May 6, 2011 at 6:02 pm

    Man, I wish I wasn’t lactose intolerant AND allergic to cherries! This seems like we would not be a good match πŸ˜‰ but it does look heavenly!

  • Miranda @ Working Mom Works Out
    May 6, 2011 at 7:41 pm

    Tres Leches cake is one of my favorites! Yumm!

  • Baking 'n' Books
    May 6, 2011 at 7:54 pm

    The only thing close to this I’ve ever had is a Dulce De Leches pudding cup from Jello…I know, I know. Such sophisticated tastes here right? πŸ˜‰

  • Christina
    May 6, 2011 at 8:24 pm

    OK, cinco de mayo/ national day or prayer is officially the most hilarious idea for a party theme ever.

  • Lynne
    May 6, 2011 at 11:56 pm

    Oh! I’ve never tried tres leches cake, but it look amazing!

  • Susan
    May 7, 2011 at 7:33 am

    Don’t think of it as soggy cake, think of it as the best vanilla ice cream you’ve ever had, with texture! I’ve made this recipe and it’s easy and oh so delicious!

  • Katrina
    May 7, 2011 at 12:13 pm

    Well this is simply a whole lotta lovely. Yum!

  • Dominique
    May 8, 2011 at 2:45 pm

    I just finished making this and had a slice and it’s fabulous! This is my first time making and eating tres leches cake and it’s excellent. I topped mine off with strawberries since I think maraschino cherries are icky too.

  • Denise @ Creative Kitchen
    May 10, 2011 at 3:40 pm

    Living in Florida I too am surprised I’ve never had Tres Leches cake….but you make it sound as if it’s something I must try!! Love the peaches!! πŸ™‚

  • Ally
    May 10, 2011 at 6:16 pm

    The Pioneer Woman ROCKS. Her monkey bread recipe is just…ridiculous. I feel a little emotional just thinking about it.

  • Jil @ Big City, Lil Kitchen
    May 11, 2011 at 7:26 am

    This looks awesome!!

  • Antoinette Seminario-Skinner
    July 15, 2011 at 6:48 am

    I love Tres Leches cake (I am Peruvian, raised in South Florida- it is a staple just like flan!)!! Ree’s recipe is great too- and hers was the first recipe I tried. Great idea with the vanilla rum. I’ll have to try that. I discovered your blog not too long ago- and I love it!!! It’s pretty awesome!

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