Farmhouse Tres Leches

19 Jun 2012

3 Milks

I have been burning to make this beguiling cake of three milks for some time, and when Lily Rameriz-Foran, another food loving expat living and blogging in Ireland, opened her long-awaited online Mexican food market it seemed like the perfect excuse opportunity to get an authentic recipe to make a Tres Leches cake at last.  We are colossal lovers of Mexican food in this house, and until now finding ingredients such as chipotle peppers, masa or authentic tortillas had been nearly impossible to source where we are located in the west of Ireland.

Lily was kind enough to share her special family recipe for Tres Leches cake with me. This dense and creamy dairy cake is made using three different milks. I knew that I wanted to try and use all three milks fresh from the farm, including the evaporated and condensed milk, so after doing some clandestine research, I learned how I could prepare each from scratch.

Turns out, while it does take a fair bit of time, both milks are very simple to make and the flavour is far superior to any version of the same in a tin with a supermarket shelf life of six months or more.

Interestingly, I found that the preparation for this cake is actually very similar to angel food cake, except the recipe includes the egg yolks as well. It is important to sift the flour at least three times and keep everything really airy throughout the mixing process. I have enjoyed Tres Leches cake in restaurants, but the combination of Lily’s recipe and the fresh milks have resulting in a cake that would be dangerously easy for me to tuck into every day.

If you have children, this is fun to make with the smallies as it involves poking holes in the cake with a toothpick, a skill that kids have heaps of fun doing.

I encouraged our little farmer to assist me in everything from manning the mixer to the pricking, and finally, pouring the tres leches over the cake. Let’s just say, he is very proud of “his milk cake”

Creamy, dreamy…….heavenly cake, especially on a summer day!

Lily’s Tres Leches Cake


For the cake:

2 cups/240g of all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons of baking powder

1 cup/200g of caster sugar 8 eggs (separated)

1/3 cup/80ml of full fat milk

For the Tres Leches Mix:

1 12 oz/354ml condensed milk

1 12 oz/354ml of evaporated milk

1 cup/225 ml of double cream

1 tsp of pure vanilla extract

1 tsp of Rompope or Tia Maria or Brandy ( I left the booze out in order to be kid-friendly this time)

For the Icing:

3 egg whites

1 cup/200g of caster sugar

3 tablespoons of golden syrup

1⁄4/60ml cup of water

For the Cake:

Preheat the oven at 200c/400f degrees and grease a springform cake tin, I use a round 20 cm one, but you might want your cake taller or square. Sieve the flour and baking powder 3 times (yes, 3 times! It’s important) and set aside.

Using an electric mixer, beat the egg whites until they form stiff peaks. Gradually add the sugar while still beating. Then follow with the egg yolks one at a time and beating well between additions. When the last yolk has been mixed well, put the electric mixer away and using a hand whisk, fold the flour & baking powder mix in three goes. Finish off by adding the milk again using a folding motion to keep the cake light and airy. Pour the mixture into the prepared tin and bake in the oven for 30 to 35 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. While the cake is in the oven, get on with making the Tres Leches Mix.

For the Tres Leches Mix:

Put all ingredients in the blender or food processor and blend them together. Pour them into a jug and set aside.

When the cake is cooked, take it out of the oven and using a toothpick or a thin skewer, prick the entire cake. Make loads of holes as they will be used to soak the cake with the tres leches mix. Once the cake has been pricked, take it out of the tin. Place the cake in a cake plate or tray with a bit of a lip as there will be liquid running through it.

Once the cake is in the correct plate and while it is still hot, pour the Tres Leches mixture slowly through the whole of the cake, making sure you’re gentle and that all the little holes you made earlier get saturated with this milky mixture. It is very important that the pouring of the milk is done while the cake is still hot as otherwise the cake will just go soggy. There’s a lot of milk mixture, so don’t worry about it, just pour it gently and try to cover the cake all over and down the edges. You can now leave the cake to cool completely and store it in the fridge until you’re ready to ice it.

For the Icing:

If you have a free standing electric mixer, use it to beat the egg whites until they form soft peaks and leave them ready. In a small, deep pot, put the sugar, water and honey and heat them till they start to boil. As soon as this happens, take them out of the heat and start the mixer on the egg whites again. Slowly, very slowly, pour the hot ‘honey’ you’ve just taken from the heat. Do it very gently and keep the mixer working on high speed until all the liquid has been incorporated to the whites. Switch off the mixer and get ready for icing!

Take the cake out of the fridge and cover it with the icing. Top it up with some chopped pecan nuts, fresh strawberries or a cherry. You can also drizzle some ‘cajeta’ on top of the icing (I sell it in the shop and it is dulce de leche made of goats milk) to turn your cake from 3 to 4 leches!

Farm Fresh Homemade Sweetened Condensed Milk

1 liter whole milk from your farm or local dairy (store bought is fine too)

1 cup granulated sugar (can also use brown or raw sugar)

1 tablespoon butter (optional – to thicken the milk)

In a heavy-bottomed pot, bring the milk and the sugar to a boil over medium heat.

Reduce the heat to low and simmer very gently for about two hours until the volume is reduced by half. The mixture should be barely simmering and never bubbling at any point. Stir every 15 minutes or so to keep the milk from burning on the bottom.

After 2 hours, stir in butter (optional)

Remove the pot from heat and let the milk cool. The mixture will thicken further after it has cooled.

Will keep in refrigerator for 2 weeks or more.

(This milk is perfect (no butter version) for making Vietnamese iced coffee too!)

Farm Fresh Homemade Evaporated Milk

2 litres whole milk from your farm or local dairy (from the store is fine as well)

In a heavy-bottomed pot, bring the milk to a boil over medium heat.

Reduce the heat to low and simmer very gently for about two hours until the volume is reduced by 60%. The milk should be barely simmering and never bubbling at any point. Stir every 15 minutes or so to keep the milk from burning on the bottom.

Remove the pot from heat and let the milk cool. The milk will thicken further after it has cooled.

Will keep in refrigerator for 2 weeks or more.

I hope you enjoy this cake as much as we do! Thanks again Lily! xx

Slan Abhaile,


Photos and styling by Imen McDonnell and Geoffrey McDonnell 2012

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21 Responses to “Farmhouse Tres Leches”

  1. Floyd says:

    My absolute favorite cake, the best argument yet against the people who love Tex-Mex but say “Mexican cuisine can’t do desserts right.” Can’t wait to try it myself, even though it looks hard!

  2. I love this cake! It looks amazing!!!<3

  3. […] I’ve churned butter. Strained farmer cheese. Clouted clotted cream. Creamed curd cheese. Condensed milk and evaporated milk. Dairy-ed fudge. Soured cream. Creamed cheese. Used the remaining buttermilk and whey for various […]

  4. […] Farmhouse Tres Leches — I Married an Irish Farmer […]

  5. Alicia says:

    Looks lovely. I made a version whereby I used coconut milk for the last milk drizzled over the top but I also had added desssicated unsweetened cononut to the cake mixture. The cake needless to say didn’t last long on the plate!

  6. Irish dairy is so wonderful on it’s own, to have a cake made from scratch evaporated, condensed, and farm fresh dairy milk must be outstanding. Still drooling, cheers, Brian

  7. Ilke says:

    Tres Leches is a sure dessert in summer but I add a tad bit rum to the milk combination if it is adults only party 🙂 Then put bunch of shredded coconut for decoration but I end up swiping that aside while eating. I will try your cake next time. I need to go find some raw milk and try the condensed and evaporated. It should be fun 🙂

  8. Cathy Norrie says:

    Oh thank you for this, Imen. Both my husband and I love love love Mexican food and his favourite dessert is flan… but now I am so stoked to try this recipe and it may then become his favourite Mexican dessert! (Can you believe that I have never tasted Tres Leches Cake???).

  9. Mmmm…. love this recipe. Fabulous for warm summer days. That is if it ever warms up here in Seattle. 🙂

  10. What a beautiful cake! And thanks for including the directions for the condensed and evaporated milks too! There are Amish farmers near us that sell fresh milk so I think I might have to give it a go!

  11. Another great recipe and beautiufully photogrraphed – nice to see your new helper featured too 🙂

  12. Thank you, thank you for this. I am the biggest lover of this cake and I have tried so, so many recipes. Already I see a few tips I’ve not seen before and I can’t wait to put it into action.

    Love making my own condensed milk… and drizzling the top with cajeta – the more leches the better, I say!

    Gracias to you and Lily : )

  13. Susan says:

    Ever since my Cuban cousins introduced me to this delicious cake, it has been one of my favorites…I think I will bake a tres leches cake this weekend! Thank you for bringing back fond memories.

  14. I just adore your food styling and photography Imen. Tres leches cake is one of my all time favourites and this has just given me the urge to bake it again, and, soon, very soon. Only this time I will try and make the milks. Thank you for inspiring!

  15. Parisbug says:

    Oh Imen, yet another obligatory recipe to add to my list of things to make with our dairy farmers’ fresh milk when I’m properly equipped and ensconced in my new kitchen. *sigh* 😉 Our dairy farmers are getting married this weekend, we’ve been invited to all the events over the two day affair, an honour I can assure you. We’ve bought them a proper engraved gift we picked up in the US when we were there in May, but I’ve also been giving weekly manicures (to get them in shape) to Mlle Dairy Farmer to prep her hands for the big day, and Friday night I do the big, fancy wedding manicure (I learned professional manicuring in college to save cash & do my own nails :p ) as a personal gift to her. She demands to give me something in return (it’s too much time from me as just a gift–*rolls eyes*) and so, I’ve agreed, a lifetime of all the fresh dairy milk I could want, whenever I want. And you can bet your bottom dollar, because of you, I’m cashing that in!! 🙂 xo

  16. kale says:

    Poking holes into cakes…I hope that’s not just for children! 😉
    Looks absolutely deliciously pokeable.

  17. Beautiful beautiful photos! and love your recipe Imen. Would love to try the homemade condensed milk.
    Thank you xo

  18. Love your dedication in making the milks as well as making the cakes! I skipped over your directions for homemade condensed milk – if I had that in the fridge, it would have to be Vietnamese-style coffees all the way, none left for cake.

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