Pastel de Tres Leches

Last night we rang in the new year with some spice. The tamales made an appearance, but only for a short time as they were quickly devoured. Then — there was Pastel de Tres Leches for dessert. This cake is believed to have originated in Nicaragua, but you can go to many Latin American countries and find it now. Essentially, it is a white cake that is baked and then soaked with a trio of milks: condensed, evaporated, and cream. And don’t forget the rum.

I first discovered Pastel de Tres Leches in Costa Rica, served with a toasted merengue topping. Then while I was studying in Oaxaca, Mexico, I learned to make it with whipped cream and fruit on top, sometimes with a chocolate drizzle. Dave even found a place downtown Colorado Springs, El Taco Rey, that makes a beautiful chocolate version.

Sometimes small things are just more special, and I thought I would make this cake, traditionally served as one large cake, as individual cakes for our guests. I also tweaked the milk combination and chose evaporated goat’s milk which took the flavor in the direction of Cajeta. Mmmm . . .  

And with kiwis in abundance right now, I thought they would make a flavorful and festive garnish. So we kicked off the new year with good food. Here’s wishing you all a wonderful 2012!

Pastel de Tres Leches

adapted from a recipe from my professor “Armando,” la Universidad Mesoamericana: Oaxaca, Mexico

Note: Makes 16-18 cupcakes. Remember to store these in the refrigerator.

Ingredients for the Bizcocho:

  • 5 eggs, whites and yolks divided
  • 1/4 tsp. corn starch
  • 1/2 cup + 2 Tbsp. superfine baking sugar
  • 1 c flour
  • 2 tsp. vanilla

Ingredients for the milks (Envinado):

  • 14 oz./396 g. sweetened condensed milk
  • 12 fluid oz./354 ml. evaporated goat’s milk
  • 8 fluid oz. table cream or medium cream (around 25% milk fat)
  • 1 stick Ceylon cinnamon
  • 5 Tbsp. white rum or tequila blanca
  • 2-3 c. heavy whipping cream for finishing/decoration
  • melted chocolate or fruit of your choice


  1. Preheat oven to 375° F.
  2. In a large mixer bowl, add egg whites and beat until white, thick and stiff (forms peaks that do not fall). Add cornstarch and incorporate by beating briefly.
  3. Add sugar, little by little, mixing well.
  4. Beat yolks and vanilla together. Remove bowl from mixer stand and gently fold the yolks into the egg whites.
  5. Carefully fold in the flour until just combined.
  6. Place about 3 Tbsp. of the cake batter in silicone or unbleached paper baking cups set into cupcake pans. You will need 16-18 cups. (Alternately, you can pour this batter into a greased and floured baking pan, a 9-inch round, or a 9 x 13 Pyrex).
  7. Bake cupcakes for 15 minutes until top is golden and toothpick comes out clean. (Baking this cake as one large cake may take 30-40 minutes.)
  8. In a medium pot, over medium flame, combine the condensed and evaporated milk, and the cinnamon stick. Bring it to a boil, stirring constantly for 5 minutes (be careful, as it will boil over in a flash!). Let cool a little and then add the medium cream and the rum.
  9. Remove the cupcakes from their liners (and reserve the liners). Cut a paper thin later off the top off all the cupcakes and return them cut-side up to their liners. Pour the milk mixture over the cupcakes and let them soak in the refrigerator for at least one hour, but up to one day. (If you are making a large cake, cut the a thin layer off the top of the entire cake).
  10. Whip the heavy cream. Turn the cupcakes out from their liners upside down onto plates (cut-side down, now) and decorate the cupcakes (or large cake) using a metal frosting spatula, or pipe it over the cakes for a fun design. Garnish with fresh fruit, or melted chocolate, and serve with good coffee.


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6 Responses to Pastel de Tres Leches

  1. Emily says:

    Oh YUM!!!!! I want to make these!!!! Only, if I’d rather not do the goat’s milk, would I just use regular evaporated milk? The kiwi is PERFECT!!!!

  2. Amy Kunstle says:

    Gorgeous! Festive! I can only imagine how fantastic they tasted! Wow Stephanie!

  3. rita says:

    Yes, they really are as good as they look. Your photos are gorgeous!

  4. Aren’t these beautiful. Happy New Year to you – hope 2012 is terrific.

  5. Stephanie says:

    Em- you can definitely use evaporated cow’s milk instead. That’s the traditional combination! Enjoy!
    Amy, Rita, and Sally- thank you!

  6. MB says:

    Delicious! And your presentations are beautiful as always!

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