3 Milk Cake Coconut Rum Tres Leches Cake

3 Milk Cake

A 3 milk cake is a sponge cake that is doused with a combination of milks and then left to soak. Some may say that is is like a trifle, but whatever the case, I urge you to give this simple coconut rum  tres leches cake a try!

3 Milk Cake

Have you ever made a 3 milk cake? Actually have you ever tasted one? This coconut rum tres leches cake is outstanding!

I don’t know why it took me so long before I had my first bite, but this Mexican cake is a winner in my book.

Though this 3 milk cake is very popular in Mexico, no one knows its true origin, but the consensus is that it comes from somewhere in Central America.

There are many theories about this cake’s origin.  One says that in 1810, evaporated milk in cans became available in Central America. Then in 1850 condensed milk added.

Supposedly Nestles printed the tres leche recipe on the cans of milk which popularized the cake. Others say that as Europeans began to settle the Americas, recipes like tiramisu and rum cake, both of which are cakes that are soaked in some kind of liquor, were adapted to the area.

Whatever the case, I can attest that this tres leches recipe is so good!

This easy tres leches cake begins with a sponge cake. I’ve seen these made with other types of cake, but even though this recipe involves beating the egg whites separately, the batter only contains four ingredients.

There are many different types of recipes for this cake. Basically a  sponge cake, as it acts like a sponge when absorbing all the milks poured on top.

Most sponge cakes do not contain leavening, and the only fat is from the egg. The eggs are beaten until light which helps create air pockets or holes in the cake which makes the cake great for absorbing lots of flavors; in this case, the milks!

Several recipes I found did contain butter in the cake batter but I decided that this 3 milk tres leches cake  recipe sounded rich enough and who needs all those butter calories anyway? 

3 Milk Cake

After is is baked, the cake is poked with a lot of holes and then doused with a three milk mixture to become a 3 milk cake!

That’s why this cake is called tres leches, meaning three milks, because there are three milks involved in the soaking of the cake.

Generally,  evaporated milk and condensed milk make up two of the three, but other choices involve heavy cream or half and half. I added coconut milk.  

The frosting also contains heavy cream so in actuality that is 4 milks, but who’s counting?

My friend Becca came over to cook with me and after figuring out the main course, we then had to figure out dessert. She suggested pie, which I like, but didn’t think very Mexican, so I suggested a tres leches cake which she had never heard of.

Frankly, I’ve never had one, but I always love seeing them in Mexican bakeries, all gorgeous with their thick white, fluffy frosting and always topped with colorful slices of fruit, making them look like Carmen Miranda’s fruit basket hat.

Well, we decided to give it a go and I think we are both glad we did.

OK, let’s catch our breath here… Let me tell you this was a great cake. A superb cake. A really, really, good cake. And when you read the directions it sounds so weird. So squishy (you’ll see).

But what the heck? Everyone raves about it, so I wanted to see what all the fuss was about.

There are many  variations of this cake and many involve  how to frost it. Some call for a meringue frosting. Others believe in a whipped cream frosting which is what we chose.

We dolloped the whipped cream on top, rather than frost it, because we knew there would be leftovers. I think this worked great and allowed us to keep the cake longer.

This coconut tres leches cake only got better the longer it stood. It never got soggy, only more moist and creamy.

I still have one piece left in the fridge and we made it last Saturday. Rabbit catcher would not let me throw it away!

3 Milk Cake

Flavoring this cake with rum was a great idea.. I also used coconut milk and meant to top it with some dried toasted coconut flakes, but Becca and I were busy gabbing, and  well, we just forgot!

Frankly, even though we used coconut milk, the rum flavor was more predominant. You could use cinnamon or caramel for other flavor variations, and I would love to try chocolate, but haven’t figure that out yet. 

Making dinner with Becca, who is just 16, was a lot of fun! I mean I’ve known Becca since she was a very wee one and Becca, who has a million and one things to do to keep her busy, asked  if she could cook with me.

Talk about flattery.

Well, Becca and I had a fabulous time which I think made her mom happy, too.

Becca wanted to make my  avocado corn soup  which helped settle us in to a Mexican menu. We had loads of fun while making salsa and fresh refried black beans and Spanish rice.

Flat New Mexican chicken enchiladas with red chile were the main course and I know Becca wants the recipe for that chicken, pronto! But we’ll get to that!

I think it’s because it was the first thing she tasted after she rushed over straight from a sleepover birthday at a friend’s house. (Boy, I wish I looked that good when rushing straight over after an all nighter, because I bet that’s what it was!)

Laura, you’ll be happy to know she eats very healthy. She started with chicken and then gulped some Crystal Light and a Diet Coke, then finished off the rest of the snickerdoodle cookies I had on the counter. I can easily see why she stays so skinny and gorgeous!

While this cake may not make you skinny and gorgeous, this divine tres leches cake will make you very popular. It really is that good!

Need A Few More?

Chocolate Tres Leches Cake

Chocolate Tres Leches Cake

S’mores Bars

S'mores Bars

I’d love if if you’d Follow Me and Pin and Share!

This is an updated post from July, 2013.
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3 Milk Cake

Coconut Rum Tres Leches Cake

  • Author: Abbe Odenwalder
  • Prep Time: 25 Minutes
  • Cook Time: 20-25 Minutes
  • Total Time: 45 Minutes*
  • Yield: 1 13 x 9 pan 1x
  • Category: Dessert
  • Method: Baking
  • Cuisine: Mexican


This 3 milk cake is moist and delicious and perfect for any celebration! Flavored with coconut milk and rum, gives this tres leches cake recipe a pina colada flavor!



1 c all purpose flour, aerated with a fork
6 large eggs, separated
1 c sugar
1 t vanilla
Three Milk Mixture
1 14 oz can sweetened condensed milk
1/2 c heavy cream
1 can unsweetened coconut milk
1 T rum
1 c sweetened flaked coconut toasted
1 1/2 c heavy cream
1 T rum
1/4 powdered sugar


Preheat oven to 325 with the rack in the middle position. Butter a 9×13 baking dish. Set aside.

Separate eggs. Place whites in mixer and beat on high speed until medium peaks form, about 1 1/2 minutes. Transfer to another bowl.

Place egg yolks in mixing bowl and add sugar. Beat on high, until pale yellow, about 5 minutes. Stir in vanilla.

Using a rubber spatula, stir about 1/3 of the whites into the yolk mixture to lighten it. Then gently fold in the remaining whites. Sprinkle the flour over the egg mixture and gently fold it in, until there are no white flour streaks remaining.

Pour the batter into the pan and bake until the cake is puffed and golden around the edges about 20-25 minutes.

Meanwhile! Place the three milks and the rum in a large bowl and whisk until combined.

Remove cake from oven and place on a cooling rack. Using a toothpick or skewer, poke holes all over the cake and allow to cool for 15 minutes. Poke holes at least every 1/2 inch and poke all the way to the bottom. Pout the milk mixture evenly over the cake and continue cooling about 45 more minutes.

Refrigerate at least four hours or overnight.

To make frosting:
Toast coconut for topping. Set aside. Beat cream until soft peaks form. Then add rum and powdered sugar. Continue beating until stiff peaks form. Refrigerate until ready to use. When ready to serve cake, frost with whipped cream and sprinkle with toasted coconut. Or just dollop the way we did!


Adapted from: Chow

*Times do not reflect time for cake to cool

Keywords: 3 milk cake, coconut tres leches cake, tres leches recipe, mexican cake,


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  • Rachel Page
    December 23, 2014 at 7:24 am

    I'm up to ten people asking me for this recipe. So simple, so yummy and elegant.

    • Abbe Odenwalder
      December 23, 2014 at 3:51 pm

      I'm so happy Rachel! It is always fun to receive comments from someone that has tried the recipe! I love this cake!

  • lindaraxa
    July 30, 2013 at 5:08 pm

    That is definitely one of the most popular desserts in Latin America. I like your version.

    Thanks for dropping by.

  • Abbe Odenwalder
    July 30, 2013 at 2:12 pm

    It is extremely moist and drool worthy. Condensed milk is really a great gift in many recipes, isn't it? Thanks for visiting, Irina!

  • Irina @ wandercrush
    July 29, 2013 at 11:36 pm

    This looks so incredibly moist that I might start drooling! I love Central American desserts, especially the use of condensed milk.

  • NancyC
    July 29, 2013 at 10:03 pm

    This looks and sounds really good and rich! I have to add this to my recipe bucket list! 🙂

    • Abbe Odenwalder
      July 30, 2013 at 2:48 am

      Nancy, it took me awhile to try it, but I am really glad I did. It was perfect after a rich, spicy meal!

  • Denise [email protected] Brazil To You
    July 29, 2013 at 9:51 pm

    This looks darn wonderful…I love tres leches cake because it is soaked in deliciousness. You are so lucky to live far away from me otherwise I could have eaten the whole pan. You also do great costumized gifts, Abbe!

    • Abbe Odenwalder
      July 30, 2013 at 2:48 am

      You are kind Denise. And you can move next door any time. Would love some cute little girls right next door!

  • Amy
    July 28, 2013 at 5:45 pm

    Your customized plates are awesome. Totally work of art! That's a great way to have the wedding invitation for keep sake. 🙂 I love cooking with the kids too. Yes, it's totally flattering to have someone who asked to cook with you. And this tres leches cake is looking awesome too. So moist and so soft.

    • Abbe Odenwalder
      July 30, 2013 at 2:46 am

      Thanks Amy. They are a lot of fun to do! I do other custom things to to like bath accessories and lots of vintage stuff. And this cake is good. When I don't need a chocolate fix, this would totally suffice!

  • Kim Bee
    July 28, 2013 at 4:10 am

    So you're adopting me when? We can celebrate with this cake.

    • Abbe Odenwalder
      July 30, 2013 at 2:45 am

      You have an open invitation Kim. I promise-I won't let you down!

  • kumars kitchen
    July 27, 2013 at 2:33 am

    perfectly tender, moist and luscious cake…loved all your creations, hats off to you 🙂

    • Abbe Odenwalder
      July 27, 2013 at 3:15 pm

      Ohhh, that is so sweet of you! And thank you for commenting. Gasp! I'm blushing. I'm so glad you liked it!

  • Yvonne @ bitter baker
    July 26, 2013 at 4:45 pm

    I've never had tre leches cake either before, but this really makes me want to try it!

    • Abbe Odenwalder
      July 26, 2013 at 4:57 pm

      Yvonne, than my description worked! Check it out. You will love it and thanks for commenting!

  • Abbe Odenwalder
    July 26, 2013 at 5:05 pm

    Well, not quite heaven, Ashley, but pretty dang close! Thanks for writing and stopping by!

  • Ashley @ Quarter Life (Crisis) Cuisine
    July 26, 2013 at 4:51 pm

    This cake looks like heaven! Yum!

  • Liz Berg
    July 26, 2013 at 3:43 pm

    My daughter requests this a lot for her birthday…so I'm glad I have another recipe to try! What a fun day for you and Becca 🙂

    • Abbe Odenwalder
      July 26, 2013 at 4:57 pm

      wow Liz! I'll have to check your out! My daughter might have liked this growing up but I never knew about it. It was a fun day!

  • Laura Dembowski
    July 25, 2013 at 7:26 pm

    It is so cool you helped your friend's daughter prepare all this food! You are very nice and also talented with the work you do. I never realized this was such a simple cake to make either.

    • Abbe Odenwalder
      July 25, 2013 at 7:32 pm

      We were a great team! And thank you for the compliment. I love cooking and making plates. It is a very simple cake! Thanks for always commenting!

  • Angie Schneider
    July 25, 2013 at 6:40 pm

    You two had a great time and good eat! The cake looks seriously rich and yum.

    • Abbe Odenwalder
      July 25, 2013 at 7:30 pm

      It is rich but very refreshing after a big Mexican meal. And we had lots of fun!

  • Paula @ Vintage Kitchen Notes
    July 25, 2013 at 6:09 pm

    I have this cake on my list and it´s going to be made very soon! How great it is to bond with your friend´s teenagers, it happens to me too and I love it.

    • Abbe Odenwalder
      July 25, 2013 at 7:30 pm

      Keeps me young, Paula! And it is a very good cake! Thanks for commenting!

  • Abbe Odenwalder
    July 25, 2013 at 5:40 pm

    We did have a great time! Though this isn't a rum cake it helps give it lot of flavor. It just gets creamier as it ages! Try it! And make me a pina colada to go with it!

  • Kitchen Riffs
    July 25, 2013 at 5:17 pm

    Fun post! I've eaten Tres Leches this and that (cakes mainly, but other stuff), but never made anything in this line. Looks delish. And I like the idea of rum. I can imagine it got better as it aged – not really the fruit cake principle, but kinda sorta similar. Glad the two of you had such a great time.