Tres Leches Cake: Dessert in a Jar!

Tres leches” is Spanish for “three milks.”  The cakes that bear this name are sponge cakes that are literally soaked in three types of milk: sweetened condensed, evaporated and half-and-half [for this recipe].  However, whole milk or heavy cream can also be used, depending on your preference.  These cakes are also topped simply with a homemade sweetened whipped cream and maraschino cherries.

Historically, the cake is very popular in many parts of Latin America.The origins of the tres leches are disputed. [1]

Nestlé company also claims to have helped the tres leches recipe evolve during World War II. The idea for creating a cake soaked in a liquid is most likely of European origin, as similar cakes, such as British rum cake and tiramisu from Italy, use this method.[1] In 2004, the ice cream company Häagen-Dazs for a limited time released a tres leches-flavored ice cream, containing pieces of rum-soaked tres leches in a sweet-cream ice cream.


[For the sponge cake]

  • 1 1/2 cups cake flour (I use an organic unbleached cake flour blend)
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt (I use sea salt)
  • 6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) unsalted butter, softened (I use organic unsalted butter)
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar (I use baker’s sugar )
  • 3 large eggs (I use cage-free large brown fertile eggs)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract (I use Madagascar’s bourbon pure vanilla extract)
  • 1 cup sweetened condensed milk
  • 1 cup evaporated milk
  • 1/2 half-and-half (I use organic half-and-half )

[For the Topping]

  • 1 cup heavy cream (I use organic)
  • 3 tablespoons confectioners’ sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract (I use Madagascar’s bourbon pure vanilla extract)
  • 12-14 maraschino cherries– for garnish

This recipe yields approximately 12-14 individual tres leches cakes


  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F.  Line enough muffin tins with paper liners to make 12/ or 14 cupcake-size cakes.  Whisk the cake flour, baking powder, and salt together in a bowl and set aside.
  2. Cream the butter for 2 minutes on high-speed, then beat in the sugar.  Add the eggs on at a time, mixing to incorporate after each addition.  Mix in the vanilla.  Mix in the flour mixture gradually until combined.  Scoop the batter into the cupcake compartments, filling them 2/3 full.
  3. Bake the cakes for 18-22 minutes, rotating the pan(s) 180 degrees after 9-10 minutes, until the tops are lightly browned.  Removed from the oven and let cool completely on a cooling rack.  Unwrap the cupcakes from their liners.  Poke each cake all over with a fork and place each in a 4-ounce jar.
  4. Stir together the sweetened condensed milk, evaporated milk, and half-and-half.  Spoon 3 to 4 tablespoons of the milk mixture slowly over each cake.  Cover the jars and store them in the refrigerator overnight.
  5. Before serving, make the topping:  Whip together the cream, confectioners’ sugar, and vanilla until stiff peaks form.  Spread or pipe over the cakes and top with a maraschino cherry.
Original recipe adapted from Desserts in Jars 50 Sweet Treats that Shine; Food history source Wikipedia