Tres leches cake

A tres leches cake (lit.'three milks cake'; Spanish: pastel de tres leches, torta de tres leches or bizcocho de tres leches), also known as pan tres leches (lit.'three milks bread'), is a sponge cake—soaked in three kinds of milk: evaporated milk, condensed milk, and whole milk.

Tres leches cake
A decorated slice of tres leches cake
Alternative namesTorta de tres leches, pan tres leches, bizcocho de tres leches, pastel de tres leches.
TypeSponge cake (or butter cake)
Region or stateLatin America, Central America, South America
Main ingredientsCake base; evaporated milk, condensed milk, heavy cream

Tres leches is a very light cake, with many air bubbles. This distinct texture is why it does not have a soggy consistency, despite being soaked in a mixture of three types of milk.

Popularity and origins

Tres leches cake is a uniquely traditional Latin American cake. It can be found all across Latin America, especially so in Central American countries such as Mexico, Cuba, El Salvador, Venezuela, Puerto Rico, and Nicaragua, which all claim an origin to the cake.[1]

Recipes for soaked-cake desserts were seen in Latin America as early as the 19th century, in countries like El Salvador, likely a result of the large cross-cultural transfer which took place between Europe and the Americas.[2] Nicaragua is one of the countries where tres leches cake has become popular.[3] Recipes appeared on Nestlé condensed milk can labels in the 1940s, which may explain the cake's widely disseminated popularity throughout Latin America as the company had created subsidiaries in Argentina, Chile, Panama, Cuba, Colombia, Mexico, and Venezuela in the 1930s. The cake is popular in Central and South America, North America, and many parts of the Caribbean, Canary Islands, as well as in Albania, Serbia, North Macedonia, and some other parts of Europe.[4][5]

In the US, the cake first became popular in the 1980s beginning in Miami due to Latin American immigration. The popularity then spread across the US, possibly from Los Ranchos restaurant in Miami, which featured it on its menu when it opened in 1981. The cake was so popular from Los Ranchos, that it was featured its recipe on fliers, which were pervasively distributed. Cookbook The Joy of Cooking included a recipe for tres leches in the 1997 edition.[6]


A variety of tres leches known as trileçe became popular in the Balkans and Turkey around 2015. One theory is that the popularity of Brazilian soap operas in Albania led local chefs to reverse-engineer the dessert, which then spread to Turkey.[7][8] The Albanian version is sometimes made literally with three milks: cow's, goat's and water buffalo's, though more commonly a mixture of cow's milk and cream is used.[7]


  1. "The Long, Winding Origin Story of Tres Leches Cake". 17 January 2020.
  2. Pack, MM (13 February 2004). "Got Milk? On the trail of pastel de tres leches". Austin Chronicle. Retrieved 19 January 2014.
  3. Stradley, Linda (2015-05-05). "Tres Leches Cake History and Recipe". What's Cooking America. Retrieved 2021-03-13.
  4. Higuera McMahon, Jacqueline (8 August 2007). "Tres Leches cake goes one better". SFGate. Retrieved 19 January 2014.
  5. "Creamy and sweet, tres leches cake is on the rise". The Washington Post. 2020-10-02. Retrieved 2022-06-11.
  7. "Trileçe kazan dünya kepçe". Hürriyet. 1 March 2015. Retrieved 13 April 2015.
  8. Dan Nosowitz / (November 12, 2015). "How a South American Soap Opera Created a Turkish Dessert Craze". Atlas Obscura. Retrieved November 13, 2015.
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