Happy May!  That means a few things to me currently.  1) My Dad’s birthday (the 1st of the month), 2) it’s time to drink margaritas before Sunday, and 3) omigosh my wedding is just about a month away.  This cake celebrates the first two on that list – I made it for my Dad’s birthday cake yesterday and its Mexican heritage also helps celebrates the upcoming Cinco de Mayo.  Gotta love when my desserts serve double duty.  If anything, the cake is counterproductive to that third item on the list – the combination of evaporated milk, sweetened condensed milk, and heavy cream (thus, tres leches – three milks) is not helping any of us on our weight loss journey.  But once again, everything in moderation folks.  So happy birthday Dad, happy Cinco de Mayo everyone that loves margaritas, and happy eating delicious cake for those of you with simply no other reason!


Tres leches cake isn’t something I would normally order from a dessert menu, especially from our favorite Mexican restaurant that gives you free churros after dinner anyway.  But ever since we went there for Ryan’s birthday last year and the restaurant chose their citrus tres leches cake as his treat, I have become a convert.  Tres leches cake is in fact soggy and that always turned me off from trying it in general, but only now do I realize that the extremely moist texture is what makes it so delicious!  The cake itself is of a very light crumb and acts like a sponge for the large amount of milk/cream that is poured over it after it is baked.  Since I wanted to make this as a birthday cake, I decided to do a layer cake, but I must say this isn’t the easiest option.  Most tres leches cake are seen as single layer sheet cakes, and now I understand why – the cake is so delicate and soft that stacking them on top of each other isn’t easy.  Although I was able to get some great photos of the cake, it was rather lopsided and messy overall.  I still love a layer cake (especially 6″ ones!) but would probably recommend a single layer if you’re trying to win some beauty awards.  I could tell my parents and Ryan were a bit skeptical looking at my lopsided cake, but once we cut in and had a bite – they were sold!


I decided to infuse my tres leches cake with oranges because that is how the restaurant served it and I remember loving it so much.  I figured it’d be a great way to use up some oranges and clementines towards the end of their season and add some bright, vibrant flavors and colors to the cake.  For the decoration I actually made some candied clementine slices that I think add a touch of class to my otherwise unfinished cake.  I actually love the look of unfrosted cakes, I’ve even seen that done for wedding cakes, and it saves me the trouble of frosting the entire thing.  Probably would have hid some of the cake’s flaws, but I think that just adds character!

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Orange Tres Leches Layer Cake

Cake recipe adapted from The Pioneer Woman, candied orange recipe adapted from Annie's Eats


for the cake:
1 cup all purpose flour
1-1/2 tsp baking pwoder
1/4 tsp salt
Zest of 2 oranges
5 egg yolks
5 egg whites
1 cup sugar, divided
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/3 cup whole milk
1 12oz can evaporated milk
1 14oz can sweetened, condensed milk
1/4 cup heavy cream
Juice of 2 oranges

for the whipped cream frosting:
1-1/2 cups heavy cream
2 tbsp confectioners' sugar

for the candied clementine slices:
3 clementines (or oranges if you want bigger slices)
3/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup water


for the cake:
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and spray 3 6" pans, 2 8" pans, or 1 9x13" pan with cooking spray.
- In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt, and zest and set aside.
- In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat the egg yolks with 3/4 cup of sugar on high speed until they reach a light yellow color. Then mix in the vanilla and whole milk.
- Gently pour the yolk mixture over the flour mixture and fold until just combined.
- Wash the mixer bowl and beat the egg whites on high speed until soft peaks form. Turn the speed to medium-high, add the 1/4 cup sugar and continue to beat until the egg whites are stiff.
- Fold the egg white mixture into the batter very gently, being careful not to totally deflate the egg whites. Divide the batter into prepared pans and spread the tops evenly with an offset spatula.
- Bake for 25-30 minutes if using 6" pans and 35-40 minutes if using 8" or 9x13", or until cake tester comes out clean. Turn the cakes onto rimmed dishes and allow to cool completely.
- When the cakes are cool, poke cakes liberally with a fork.
- In a large measuring cup whisk together the condensed milk, evaporated milk, heavy cream, and orange juice. With the measuring cup in one hand and spoon in the other, slowly pour an equal amount of the milk mixture over each cake, using the spoon to gently swirl the mixture into the cake until it is absorbed. After cakes have been milked, place in the refrigerator for an hour to firm up before layering.

for the whipped cream frosting/assembly:
- In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whip the cream and sugar on high speed until stiff peaks form.
- After the cakes have been in the fridge for an hour, assemble the cake by placing one layer on a cake plate and coating the top with a thin layer of whipped cream. Gently place the other layer on top. There will most likely be a lot of frosting that oozes out the sides - just use an offset spatula to remove the excess. Repeat with the remaining layers and return cake to the fridge until ready to serve. I found that the cake continued to leak some of the milk mixture, so you might want to wait to transfer the cake to the serving platter until right before so you don't make a mess of it.

for the candied clementine slices:
- Cut the clementines into thin slices using a very sharp knife.
- In a saucepan, combine the sugar and water and heat over medium-high heat until sugar is dissolved.
- Add the clementine slice in a single layer, making sure that none are overlapping, and reduce the temperature to medium-low. Let simmer for about 20 minutes, turning the slices over halfway through. Remove from the heat and store slices in a container with the syrup until ready to use.


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6 Responses to “Orange Tres Leches Layer Cake”

  1. #
    Hana Sarker — May 3, 2013 @ 4:16 am

    I really love tres leche and actually make it frequently, but never thought of making a layer cake, seems like quite a bit of work, will let you know if I ever try it :)

  2. #
    Becki — May 4, 2013 @ 9:34 pm

    Does this recipe make enough for the three layers, or for one layer?

    • Erica — May 4th, 2013 @ 10:19 pm

      It makes enough for 3 6″ layers, 2 8″ layers, or 1 9×13″ layer. Hope that helps!

  3. #
    javi — May 8, 2013 @ 3:55 am

    Oh my goodness I am still licking my spoon from dessert tonight. I made this today and it was absolutely perfect. My husband adores anything tres leches and he couldn’t get enough of this. Thank you for putting up this recipe.

  4. #
    Courtney — June 21, 2014 @ 1:36 am

    Cooking time for 8 inch pans is WAY OFF! 20 minutes tops.

  5. #
    Alyssa — June 23, 2014 @ 4:27 am

    My husband is Mexican and I now live in Mexico so I have high standards to live up to and it was SO good! Approval from Mexico! Thank you!

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