Tres leches cake is a white cake soaked in “three milks.” Adding a toasted meringue topping not only adds a pop of color, it also brings a nice contrasting flavor to this otherwise very rich and very sweet cake.
Confession. I love my kitchen torch. I am constantly finding a reason to use it. So far I only have three recipes that require use of a torch: creme brûlée, s’mores fudge bars, and mini cheesecake brûlées.
I want that list to be longer.
Let’s amp the flavors and texture of tres leches cake with the addition of a toasted meringue topping!
Tres Leches Cake with Toasted Meringue Topping
Toasting the meringue topping not only adds a pop of color, it also brings a nice contrasting flavor to this otherwise very rich and very sweet cake.
Tres leches translates to “three milks.” For this recipe, I used a combination of whole milk, evaporated milk, and sweetened condensed milk. Many recipes use heavy cream (or half and half), but I decided to use whole milk to lighten it just a tad.
Tres leches is made with a sponge cake. Like the name suggest, sponge cake is great at absorbing liquids and flavors.
Sponge cake is fairly simple to make. The most difficult part is separate the eggs into yolks and whites.
The yolks are mixed along with the sugar and milk, following by the dry flour ingredients. In a separate bowl, whip the egg whites to medium peaks. Gently fold the fluffy egg whites into the cake batter.
NOTE: Room temperature egg whites will whip faster and stronger than cold egg whites! However, it is easier to separate egg whites and yolks while cold.
Tres Leches Assembly:
Cool the sponge cake to room temperature. Use a fork or skewer to poke holes all over the surface of the cooled cake.
Whisk together the tres leches (three milks) in a large measuring cup or pitcher. Pour about 1/4 of liquid over cooled cake. Allow cake to absorb liquids. Then, continue pouring a little liquid at a time until all the milk has been absorbed.
Let the cake stand for about 30 minutes to fully soak in all the liquid. At this point, you may keep the cake in the fridge until you are ready to serve.
Right before serving, top the cake with meringue and gently torch the surface!
Tres leches cake is easy to make. The only negative- it doesn’t keep for very long. It is best served the day it is made, especially because of the toasted meringue topping.
When stored in the fridge for too long, eventually the meringue will separate and you’ll end up with a puddle of a mess. I suggest planning ahead and making this fabulous dessert when you know you’ll have people over.
If you made the cake on a whim (like me), make friends with your neighbors and give them a giant piece. Having this large sheet cake all to yourself is dangerous and highly not recommended.
I wouldn’t mind splashing a little rum or coffee liquor to the milk soaking mixture to spike up the flavors. I can’t wait until December because I really, really, really want to make a spiked eggnog tres leches cake. YES.
Toasted Tres Leches Cake
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 2 tsp baking powder
- 1 tsp baking soda
- ⅛ tsp kosher salt
- 4 large eggs, separated
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- ¼ cup whole milk
- ¾ cup whole milk
- 14 oz can sweetened condensed milk
- 12 oz can evaporated milk
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- ⅓ cup water
- 4 large egg whites
- pinch cream of tartar
- ½ tsp vanilla extract
- pinch kosher salt
- Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter a 9"x13" baking pan and line with parchment paper. Set aside.
- Whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat together egg yolks and sugar on medium speed until mixture has thickened and is pale in color. Add milk and mix until incorporated.
- Add dry flour mixture and mix until combined.
- Whip egg whites to medium peaks and gently fold into batter until there are no longer any white streaks.
- Transfer cake batter to prepared baking pan. Spread into an even layer. Bake for 35 minutes until top of cake is golden brown. Leave cake in pan and let cool to room temperature.
- Using a fork (docker or skewers), poke holes throughout the cooled cake.
- Whisk together milk, condensed milk, and evaporated milk. Pour a little bit at a time over poked cake. Once all the milks have been added to cake, let cake stand for about 30 minutes until all the liquids are fully absorbed.
- In a small sauce pot, combine sugar and water. Set over medium-high heat and cook to 238°F.
- Meanwhile, the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment, beat egg whites and cream of tartar on low speed. Once mixture is foamy, increase speed slightly and whisk to soft peaks. By this time, the sugar syrup should have reached its desired temperature. With the mixer running on medium speed, slowly pour in the hot sugar syrup.
- Once all the sugar syrup as been added, increase speed and beat until shiny, stiff peaks. Add vanilla and salt and whisk until incorporated.
- Spoon meringue over milk soaked cake. Use the back of the spoon to evenly distribute meringue. Use a kitchen torch to brown and toast the meringue. Slice and serve immediately.
- Best served and enjoyed immediately.
- When stored in the fridge too long, eventually the meringue topping will separate.
- Add a splash of rum or coffee liqueur to the milk soaking mixture to spike up the flavors!
Reader Questions and Reviews
Eggnog tres leches?! You’re a genius!! I love the addition of toasty topping to this one — the perfect balance to the, erm, soggy (but in a good way) cake!
Yes! I am waiting until it’s appropriate to finally start making eggnog desserts. :)
Oh I never use my torch because I’m afraid I’m going to burn up my kitchen! Glad you have more chops than me. This cake looks gorgeous!
Thanks Liz! Just be careful when using the torch. Have no fear and you won’t burn your kitchen :)
This looks super delicious. I am officially craving a slice of this now before bedtime.
Thanks Jocelyn! I don’t think it’s ever too late (or too early) for cake! :)
You did a great job making the cake look all pretty and appetizing. I could go for a huge slice right now.
I am totally craving a slice of this tres leches cake right now, loving everything about it. Pinned!
Thank you Thalia! :)
Another excuse to use my torch! Hooray! This looks lovely.
Thanks Suzanne! :)
I don’t know why you were so scared – these photographs are stunning! I’m also a huge fan of finding an excuse to pull out the kitchen torch at all times.
Thanks Sarah! Eh, I’m just super picky and critical of my photography.
Lol, I’m always trying to find things to brulee.
Great dessert to serve at holiday parties! I just wanted to let you know that I have a food photo submission site at Simply Creative Recipes and I am linking to this post if you don’t mind. You are welcome to submit your recipes to my site if you’d like.
Really loved this recipe. Wanting to make it this weekend but have some guests who don’t eat eggs. Any way I can make the cake batter eggless with still keeping the fluffiyness? I was thinking yogurt or vinegar+baking soda?? Any tips since you are the baking God!! ? Was going to use whipped cream instead on the meringue anyways, photos were absolutely gorgeous! <3
(made a typo in my blog website so don't mind the double comment, couldn't figure out how to delete the above one)
Hi Rachel! For this specific cake recipe, you cannot substitute the eggs. The egg whites help to create the structure in the cake.
Holy cow this looks amazing! I don’t even know where to begin. I love using the kitchen torch as well and this makes for such a beautiful and I’m sure highly addicting cake.