Lemon Tres Leches Cake is an update of an old classic. No one can ever get enough of this delicious dessert, but finding the right recipe can be a challenge. Look no further, this is it.
The Best Recipes on the Planet
I can’t say that I developed this recipe on my own. My stand-by reference for all recipes is the Better Homes and Gardens cookbooks. This was inspired by the 1968 edition of this annual publication. These recipes were tested over and over again by professional chefs, usually women that were simply thought of as home-economists or “test kitchen ladies.” Back in the day, these nameless female recipe developers and testers of this red-and-white checked kitchen icon never got a lot of credit. But ladies, I’m here to say you that your hardcore attention to recipe success puts us contemporary bloggers to shame. I hope someday we learn more about you, because you taught all of us here at the ranch to cook, even my sons.
Bundt Pans are Excellent for Tres Leches Cake
Tres Leches cake should always have a base of a chiffon or sponge cake, which relies on egg whites for its light texture. Usually made in a rectangular pan, I prefer the Bundt shape, as you can pour the soaking milk over and down the center hole, and then spread frosting on top.
Use a Bundt pan without Teflon coating, if possible. Egg whites help a cake rise by sticking to the sides of a pan, as if the batter is crawling up a wall. If the pan is slick with Teflon, the batter loses its ability to climb. My pan has a bit of Teflon, but the cake still turns out very nicely. Don’t grease the pan, for all the reasons I just mentioned.
Tres Leches Cake History
Tres Leches cake was a recipe that appeared in most Spanish speaking households back in the 1940’s via evaporated milk can labels. The test kitchens must have been given the task to develop a recipe that maximized company product purchases. Thus, Tres Leches was decidedly better than Dos Leches, and Una Leche wasn’t even worth considering.
Before the milk can recipe, the ancestors of Tres Leches cake was the Portuguese soupa dourada, which eventually became English trifle and Italian zabaglione. All are cakes soaked in custard, served with fruit, and delicious European favorites. There are a few recipes that go back to Roman times, from what I understand.
Very happy those professional chefs (aka “test kitchen ladies”) served up this recipe on the milk can. Grateful that they gave us such a culinary treasure.
So enjoy this Lemon Tres Leches Cake, and let’s offer a little spoonful of thanks for all those nameless professional women chefs that gave us some of the best recipes on the planet. Mil gracias, hermanas. Thanks, sisters.Print
Lemon Tres Leches Cake
- Prep Time: 20 minutes
- Cook Time: 1 hour
- Total Time: 1 hour 20 minutes
- Yield: 16 servings 1x
- Category: Dessert
- Method: Baking
2 ¼ cups cake flour, sifted (288g)
1 ½ cups sugar (300g)
1 tbsp. baking powder (12g)
1 tsp. salt (4g)
½ cup vegetable oil
5 egg yolks
¾ cup water (180ml)
1 tbsp. grated lemon zest
8 egg whites
½ tsp. cream of tartar (2g)
2 egg whites
1 ½ cups granulated sugar (300g)
¼ tsp. cream of tartar (1g)
1/3 cup cold water (80ml)
1 tsp. vanilla (5ml)
14oz can condensed milk (414ml)
5oz can evaporated milk (150ml)
5oz heavy cream (150ml)
To make the cake: Heat oven to 350°F (176°C). Combine the cake flour, sugar, baking powder and salt in a large mixing bowl. Stir to combine and make a large well in the center of the mixture. Pour in the vegetable oil, egg yolks, water and lemon zest. Beat the mixture together using an electric hand mixer until the batter is very smooth, about 3 minutes.
In a separate bowl, combine the egg whites and cream of tartar. Using clean, dry mixer blades, beat the egg whites until stiff, about 4 minutes. Gently fold the egg whites into the cake flour batter. Pour the combined batters into an ungreased 10″ tube pan (25cm). Place the pan in the heated oven and bake for 1 hour. (I recommend making the cake one day in advance of serving)
To make the frosting: Fill the bottom pan of a double boiler with sufficient water for heating upper pan. Combine the egg whites, sugar, cream of tartar, and cold water in the top pan of the double boiler. Place the top pan over the bottom pan of the double boiler, making sure the water is boiling. Using an electric hand mixer, beat the mixture for seven minutes over high speed. The frosting should be fluffy and rich.
To make the milk: Combine the condensed milk with the evaporated milk and heavy cream. Beat lightly to combine well.
Assemble the cake by placing it on a cake plate that has depth to hold the soaking milk. Pour the milk over the cake. Spread the frosting on top, and garnish with berries. Serve immediately.
Hi Melissa, so I’m in the process of making the Lemon Tres Leches cake, but the batter was sooo thick and lumpy (before adding the egg whites). There’s no way to beat it until smooth. Is there supposed to be milk or another liquid added to the batter?
Hey Caroline! hmm let me test the recipe again this weekend. I do remember that it was thick. I will let you know, sorry for the late response. More soon, thanks for letting me know!!