Three Milks Cake (Pastel de Tres Leches)

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Prep 30min (+3hr chilling and 2hr cooling time)Bake 35minMakes 12 serves

Immensely well-loved in Latin America, a recipe for this wonderfully milky cake appeared on the label of Nestle’s sweetened condensed milk cans in the 1940s, possible explaining why its popularity has spread so widely in this part of the world.   


Sponge cake

5 eggs, at room temperature
220g (1 cup) caster sugar
125g butter, melted
150g (1 cup) plain flour
75g (½ cup) self-raising flour
1 teaspoon natural vanilla essence or extract

Milk mixture

395g tin sweetened condensed milk
150ml evaporated milk
250ml (1 cup) full-cream milk


  1. Preheat the oven to 180°C (160°C fan-forced). Grease a 20cm x 30cm (base measurement) shallow cake tin or lamington pan and line the base and two longs sides with one piece of non-stick baking paper.
  2. Use an electric mixer with a whisk attachment to whisk the eggs on high speed until combined. Gradually add the sugar, about ¼ cup at a time, whisking well after each addition. Once all the sugar has been added, whisk on high for a further 4 minutes or until the mixture is very thick and a ribbon trail forms when the whisk is lifted. Reduce the mixer speed to low and gradually add the melted butter, whisking until just incorporated. Sift together the plain and self-raising flours. Add to the egg mixture in three separate batches, whisking on low speed between each addition until just combined and scraping the bottom of the bowl when necessary to make sure all the flour is incorporated.
  3. Pour batter into the prepared tin and gently tap it on the bench three times to remove any excess air bubbles. Bake in preheated oven for 30-35 minutes or until the cake is firm when touched in the centre and a skewer inserted in the centre comes out clean. Just before the sponge is ready, make the Milk mixture by combining the sweetened condensed milk, evaporated milk and milk in and bowl and stirring with a balloon whisk until well combined. Transfer to a jug.
  4. Remove the sponge from the oven and stand in the tin for 3 minutes before inverting onto a tray with a lip. Use a skewer to prick holes all over the surface of the cake and all the way through. Pour the milk mixture evenly and slowly over the warm cake, allowing it to soak it up. Stand at room temperature until cool (this will take about 2 hours) and then refrigerate, uncovered, for 3 hours or overnight. Cut into pieces to serve (see Baker's Tips).

Baker's Tips

  • For an extra rich cake you can top it with 375 ml (1½ cups) thickened cream that has been whisked to soft peaks with 2 tablespoons of sifted icing sugar and 1 teaspoon of natural vanilla essence or extract before serving.
  • This cake will keep covered in the fridge for up to 3 days.

This recipe is from Anneka's SBS Food online column, Bakeproof: Latin American Cakes.

CLICK HERE for more Bakeproof recipes.

Photography by Alan Benson.