Tres Leches

An Academy Awards dinner would not have been complete without some sort of special dessert. I decided to use it as an opportunity to tackle this recipe for Tres Leches cake that has been at the top of my “to bake” list for a while. If you scroll down, you’ll see that this recipe is more complicated than what I normally post. It is true. You need to devote some time and energy to this one. You’ll also notice that this cake might kill you. With over a dozen eggs and several cups of heavy cream, this needs to come with some sort of health warning.

It isn’t quite as bad as it seems, It does serve a bunch of people. The original recipe claims to serve 12, but I think 16 is a better estimate. Bottom line: this is a really lovely version of tres leches. I love the addition of blackberries and maple-glazed almonds. The almond cream is amazing. My only problems were with the cake itself. I had some trouble getting the cream to soak into the cake. I poked lots of holes, and then poked even more holes but much of the cream refused to be absorbed. I’m not sure why. The result was really unevenly distributed cream filling; not the worst thing in the world, but annoying.

The recipe is another from the Paley’s Place Cookbook, which I am becoming a huge fan of. I liked the addition of Kirsch (instead of the more traditional rum). I tracked down a bottle of Clear Creek Distillery’s Kirsch (recommended by the Paleys), and was glad I did. It is excellent stuff and I am looking forward to using it in future recipes. Kirsch is a cherry brandy and this particular kirsch is produced in Oregon from local cherries.

While there are lots of steps in the making of this cake, none of them are particularly difficult. If you have time to devote to the process, you’ll be glad you did. Otherwise, whip up some almond cream and maple almonds and use them to top a bowl of fresh fruit and you’ll have an amazing dessert.

Tres Leches Cake with Blackberries and Maple-Glazed Almonds (adapted from a recipe by Vitaly and Kimberly Paley)


  • 9 large eggs, separated
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 2 teaspoons almond extract
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1/2 cup whole milk
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour, sifted
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt


  • 3 cups heavy cream
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 4 large egg yolks
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
  • 2 teaspoons almond extract
  • 5 tablespoons Kirsch
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Spray a 9 by 13-inch baking pan with nonstick vegetable spray or lightly coat with butter. Set aside.

To make the cake, in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the 9 egg yolks and 2 cups of sugar on high speed until the mixture becomes thick and pale in color, about 5 minutes. Add the 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract and the 2 teaspoons of almond extract and mix on low speed until incorporated. Transfer the mixture to a bowl and set aside.

In a small bowl, combine the baking powder with the milk and stir. In 3 batches, using a large spatula, fold the flour and milk mixture alternately into the yolk mixture, beginning and ending with flour.

Using a clean, dry bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whip the 9 egg whites on medium speed until frothy. Stop the mixer, add the 1/2 teaspoon of salt, and whisk at high speed until the whites form soft peaks. Using a large spatula, in 3 batches, gently fold the whites into the flour mixture.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake the cake until golden brown, 45 minutes to 1 hour. The edges of the cake will have pulled away from the sides slightly.

Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely in the pan. Run a small knife around the edges of the pan, but do not remove the cake.

To make the cream filling, in a saucepan, combine the heavy cream and 3/4 cup sugar and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Simmer until the sugar dissolves, about 3 minutes. Remove from the heat.

Put the 4 egg yolks in a bowl and whisk to combine. Slowly whisk in the hot cream mixture to temper the yolks.

In another bowl, combine the sour cream, 1 tablespoon vanilla extract, 2 teaspoons almond extract, the kirsch and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Whisk smooth and slowly add the yolk-cream mixture, whisking to combine.

To finish the cake, poke holes with a wooden skewer over the entire surface. Slowly ladle a cup of the cream filling over the surface. repeat until all of the cream filling has been evenly absorbed. Refrigerate, covered, until ready to serve.

To serve, cut the chilled cake into servings, and garnish with almond cream and blackberry coulis. Sprinkle with Maple-Glazed Almonds. (recipes follow)

Blackberry Coulis

  • 2 pints blackberries
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 teaspoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • pinch of salt

Place all ingredients in blender and liquefy. Strain to remove seeds. Taste and adjust for sweetness. Refrigerate until ready to use.

Almond Cream

  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon almond extract
  • 1 cup heavy cream

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, combine the sour cream, sugar, salt, and almond extract on low speed until blended. Increase the speed to medium and slowly add the cream. Increase the speed to high and whisk until the cream forms soft peaks. Refrigerate until ready to use.

Maple-Glazed Almonds

  • 2 cups sliced almonds
  • 3 tablespoons maple syrup
  • pinch of salt

Preheat the oven to 375°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment.

In a bowl, add the almonds, drizzle with maple syrup, and sprinkle with salt. Toss to combine and coat the nuts. Spread the nuts on the prepared pan. Bake until golden, 10 to 15 minutes. Cool and store in an airtight container.

28 comments to “Tres Leches”

  1. I look at food photos all the time and rarely have the overwhelming urge to lick the screen. Your opening photo called for serious restraint! Man does this look amazing. Lucious actually. Now I need to find an excuse for a party!

  2. Your site is so great!! I love the recipes!! We have our own chickens and often an abundance of eggs! This recipe would be great for all the extras!!

  3. marry me.

  4. Beautiful dessert!

  5. A perfect non-chocolate dessert….When I’d like a bite, you know it looks/sounds good. Thank you!

  6. Your photography is always so awesome. You should do a post on your skills! Now the cake…mm mm good!

  7. Wow–that looks positively decadent! And a great example of why sometimes it’s worth taking on a monster of a recipe–the rewards far outweigh the efforts…

  8. Tres leches is perhaps the yummiest cake in the world… so good to see it here!

  9. Your recipes never fail to amaze me, and this cake is no exception. It looks incredible! That almond cream sounds so tasty, and those maple almonds. I can’t wait to make some. Thanks!

  10. Thanks for all the nice comments! A post on photography sometime soon.

  11. Looks awesome! Anything with a little Kirsch is ok with me!

  12. looks delish!! Its late here…so I could be wrong – but I think you’re missing the flour step in your recipe :)

  13. Pretty, pretty! I’m making this for Easter.
    Hope I can find the patience! Muchas Gracias.

  14. Hey Kathryn, I think it was just hiding on you. Third paragraph.

  15. Absolutely gorgeous photos!

  16. Fantastic cake. I have always wanted to make this recipe and now I have added it to our test kitchen!

  17. Your photos are always so amazing! Wow, after reading the ingredients listed it is a decadent dessert though it doesn’t look it. Very deceptive which would have lead me to taking a huge piece. :-)

  18. This looks lovely and the blackberries make it for me. They are such a favorite of mine. Thanks for sharing it!

  19. Dawn in CA says:

    March 2nd, 2009 at 2:15 pm

    Chiming in to echo what others have already said — your photographs are just beautiful. The composition, the colors, the contrast… all the “c’s” and so much more. :) You’ve somehow managed to achieve an uber-clean design on the site, while still conveying a sense of homemade-cozy-comforting- yummy-ness. I look forward to every new post.

  20. Thanks for all of the kind words, everyone!

  21. I saw the photo on Tastespotting and immediately checked out your blog. You’ve seduced my tastebuds enough to be added to my blog list page :) I love anything that tastes of Tres Leches. Superb photos!

  22. Amazing cake! It looks so luxurious, and I love the sound of the maple glazed almonds.

  23. I’m going to make this for my husbands birthday next week. I may have to take the day off to get it done, but he deserves it!

  24. I am halfway through making this beauty. So far so good. It’s the first tres leches cake I’ve attempted so I’m exited to taste the final result!

  25. Hey Tim–any chance you’ve repeated this recipe since and had better success cajoling the cake to absorb the cream? Tres leches is one of my favorite desserts…almost to the point where I make it less often to avoid eating entire pans of cake. My favorite versions have brandy in them–wow, sometimes you just stumble upon statements like this that seem true applied to anything, you know?–so I’m particularly interested in this one.

  26. Hey Tim- You’re deep in the archives now. I honestly can’t remember if I made this again, though I think I did. I really loved it. Now that I look at the recipe again, I wonder if you should pour the cream mixture over the cake while it is still warm? It seems odd to wait for it to cool, right? That would be my suggestion if you attempt this. I would let cake cool for 10 minutes, and then poke holes and start pouring process. If you try, let us know how it goes!

  27. Tim, I am making this cake for the 7th year in a row. It is fantastic. I make it every March for my husband’s birthday. This recipe makes me a Rockstar among our friends!

  28. Jackie- So happy to hear that! Thanks for letting me know.

What do you think?