Sunday, July 21, 2024

Chocolate Tres Leches: Your new favorite dessert

I was always a pie guy before I moved to Mexico. I had found cakes to be miserably dry for my liking, with the generic birthday cake being the most egregious offender.

Cut to my late 20’s when I discovered the antidote — the supremely juicy and indulgent tres leches cake! Tres leches cake is soaked in about a liter of a combination of different milks and I was finally in moist cake mecca. With summer nights and bright mornings on the way, I felt it was finally time to share my chocolate tres leches cake recipe.

Tres leches started life as a marketing campaign for tinned milk. (Nestlé)

The history of this magical cake dates back to the 19th century, during which time recipes for milk-soaked cakes began appearing in cookbooks across Europe, particularly in England. These early versions likely influenced the creation of tres leches in Latin America. Nestlé, believe it or not, played a significant role in popularizing the cake in the 1940s, as part of a marketing campaign to boost sales of evaporated and condensed milk, when they added a recipe for tres leches on the labels of its products distributed in Latin America.

Today, I want to share with you one of my favorite versions of tres leches, a recipe with cocoa powder and a secret weapon, espresso.

Chocolate Tres Leches with Espresso


For the Cake:

1 cup all-purpose flour

1/4 cup cocoa powder

1 tablespoon espresso powder

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

5 large eggs, separated

1 cup granulated sugar, divided

1/3 cup whole milk

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

For the Tres Leches Mixture:

1 can (12 ounces) evaporated milk

1 can (14 ounces) sweetened condensed milk

1/2 cup heavy cream

1 shot of espresso

For the Topping:

1 cup heavy cream

1/4 cup powdered sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Cocoa powder, for dusting

A shot of espresso
A shot of espresso will transform your cake from tasty to perfect. (Jeremy Yap/Unsplash)


1. Preheat and Prepare:

Preheat your oven to 350°F (175°C).

Grease and flour a 9×13-inch baking dish.

2. Mix Dry Ingredients:

In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, cocoa powder, espresso powder, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.

3. Beat Egg Yolks:

In a large bowl, beat the egg yolks with 3/4 cup of the granulated sugar until the mixture is thick and pale yellow.

Add the milk and vanilla extract and mix until combined. 

4. Beat Egg Whites:

In a separate clean bowl, beat the egg whites until soft peaks form.

Gradually add the remaining 1/4 cup of granulated sugar and continue beating until stiff peaks form. 

5. Combine:

Gently fold the flour mixture into the egg yolk mixture until just combined.

Carefully fold in the beaten egg whites until no white streaks remain.

6. Bake:

Pour the batter into the prepared baking dish and smooth the top.

Bake for 25-30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.

Let the cake cool completely in the pan on a wire rack. 

7. Prepare the Tres Leches Mixture:

In a large measuring cup or bowl, whisk together the evaporated milk, sweetened condensed milk, heavy cream, and espresso until well combined.

8. Soak the Cake:

Once the cake has cooled, pierce the surface with a fork all over.

Slowly pour the tres leches mixture over the cake, making sure to cover the entire surface. The cake will absorb the liquid. 

9. Chill:

Refrigerate the cake for at least 4 hours or overnight, allowing it to soak up the tres leches mixture.

10. Make the Topping:

In a large bowl, beat the heavy cream with the powdered sugar and vanilla extract until stiff peaks form.

11. Serve: 

Spread the whipped cream frosting over the cake.

Dust with a generous amount of cocoa powder before wowing your guests.

Enjoy your new favorite dessert and let me know what you think of my chocolate tres leches recipe in the comments!

Stephen Randall has lived in Mexico since 2018 by way of Kentucky, and before that, Germany. He’s an enthusiastic amateur chef who takes inspiration from many different cuisines, with favorites including Mexican and Mediterranean.


Have something to say? Paid Subscribers get all access to make & read comments.
Strawberry pie

Celebrate Mexico’s strawberry capital with this whipped cream pie

Nothing makes summers better than fresh fruit and tequila, so why not try both in this incredible recipe?
Chef Elena Reygadas

How the ‘world’s best female chef’ is helping Mexican women find their own success

A team of Mexico's top chefs are mentoring the award-winners of tomorrow as they aims to help aspiring female chefs follow in their footsteps.
Jalapeños poppers recipe

Get your jalapeños popping with this cheese stuffed recipe

What happens when jalapeños spice meets melted cheese and smoked bacon? Try this recipe and find out.