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A piece of Chocolate Tres Leches Cake with chocolate whipped cream garnished with a fanned strawberry.

Chocolate Tres Leches Cake

This decadent version of a popular Latin American cake is sure to become your new favorite.
Begin this cake early in the day or the evening before you plan to serve it.
Course Dessert
Cuisine Hispanic, Latin American
Keyword cake, chocolate, tres leches, whipped cream
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 15 minutes
soaking time 4 hours
Total Time 4 hours 30 minutes
Servings 12
Calories 519kcal


  • hand mixer or stand mixer
  • 9x13x3" cake pan


For the Chocolate Sponge Cake

  • 1 tablespoon (15 grams) unsalted butter melted, for greasing the cake pan
  • 1 1/3 cups (165 grams) cake flour
  • 1/4 cup (30 grams) Dutch processed cocoa powder
  • 8 large eggs yolks and whites separated and at room temperature
  • 3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons (180 grams) granulated sugar divided
  • 1 teaspoon (6 grams) kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon (5 milliliters) vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup (60 milliliters) warm water

For the Chocolate Tres Leches Mixture

  • 1/2 cup (60 grams) chocolate malted milk powder
  • 2 cups (500 milliliters) whole chocolate milk
  • 1 12-ounce can (354 milliliters) evaporated milk
  • 1 cup (250 milliliters) half-and-half
  • 1 tablespoon (15 milliliters) vanilla extract
  • 1/8 teaspoon kosher salt optional

Chocolate Whipped Cream Topping

  • 1/4 cup (50 grams) granulated sugar
  • 2 tablespoons (10 grams) chocolate malted milk powder
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons (10 grams) Dutch processed cocoa powder
  • 2 1/2 cups (625 milliliters) heavy cream
  • 1 teaspoon (5 milliliters) vanilla extract or chocolate extract

Optional Garnishes


Make the Chocolate Sponge Cake

  • Grease only the bottom of the cake pan with melted butter or non-stick baking spray.
    Avoid greasing the sides of the cake pan because the sponge cake needs something to grab onto for it to achieve its maximum height.
    Set the pan aside for now. 
  • Begin preheating your oven to 400°F (205°C).
    As soon as you turn on your oven to preheat it for baking the cake, slide in the oven-safe bowl with your measured sugar in there as well.
    Allow the sugar to heat up for 5 minutes to warm them up slightly. After 5 minutes, remove 1/2 cup (110 grams) of the sugar to use when whipping the egg yolks. Use the remaining 3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons (70 grams) sugar for the egg whites.
  • Sift the cocoa powder and cake flour together two times over parchment paper or into a bowl. Reserve the sifter because you'll need it again.
    Set these dry ingredients aside for now.

Whip the Egg Whites

  • Add the egg whites to a very clean mixing bowl and begin whipping them with an electric hand mixer at medium speed.
    Once the egg whites look foamy, gradually sprinkle the reserved 3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons (70 grams) warmed sugar into the bowl. It should take about 1 1/2 minutes to sprinkle in the sugar.
    Continue whipping the whites the whole time at medium speed. 
  • Stop the mixer and scrape down the sides of the bowl and the beaters once all of the sugar has been added.
    Begin whipping the whites again, this time on medium-high speed for at least 8-9 minutes, or until the whites stand straight up in stiff peaks when you lift the beaters from the surface.
    Set this bowl off to the side for now.

Whip the Egg Yolks

  • Working quickly, because you don't want the egg whites to deflate too much, begin whipping the egg yolks, the reserved 1/2 cup (110 grams) sugar, salt, and vanilla extract in a separate, larger bowl.
    Whip the egg yolks on high for 5-7 minutes, or until they are a very pale yellow, and the beaters leave ribbons in the mixture. Stop and scrape down the bowl and beaters at least twice during this mixing period.
    Fold in the warm water.

Alternate the Dry and Egg Mixtures

  • Try to work gently but quickly through this next step. 
    Sift one-third of the dry ingredients into the bowl of whipped yolks. Use a large rubber spatula to gently fold the dry ingredients into the yolks until it is mostly incorporated.
    Next, fold in half of the whipped egg whites in the same gentle but quick manner.
  • Sift in another one-third of the dry ingredients after you fold in the whites, and only thin streaks remain. Gently fold it in, followed by the remaining egg whites.
    Lastly, add the last third of dry. 
  • Working quickly, scrape the chocolate cake batter into your prepared pan and smooth the surface. Give it two gentle taps against the countertop to expel any air bubbles.
    Bake the cake for 15-18 minutes, or until the center springs back when lightly pressed. 
    Remove the pan from the oven and allow the cake to cool completely inside the pan. Once the cake is completely cool, use a thin, wooden skewer or toothpick to pierce holes all over.

Mix the Chocolate Tres Leches Mixture

  • Whisk 1/4 cup (60 milliliters)- just eyeball it- of the chocolate milk into the chocolate malted milk powder to create a thick paste.
    Once the paste is formed, whisk in the remaining chocolate milk, evaporated milk, half-and-half, and the vanilla extract. Stir these together until well combined. 
  • Slowly pour the tres leches over the surface of the cake. Pour in stages- waiting about a minute between pours- to allow the cake time to absorb the milk.
    Once you pour the last measure of the milk bath over the cake, cover it with foil or plastic film and carefully transfer it to the fridge to soak for 4 hours or overnight.

Whip the Chocolate Whipped Cream and Decorate the Tres Leches Cake

  • In a small bowl, use a whisk to stir the sugar, chocolate malt powder, and cocoa powder until they are well combined. Set this to the side while you begin whipping the cream.
  • Begin whipping the cream and vanilla extract at medium speed using the whip attachment. After about 1 1/2 minutes, or when you see the whip leaving ribbons in the cream, start sprinkling in the sugar mixture, sprinkling gradually over 30 seconds so you don't deflate the volume you've achieved thus far.
    Once the sugar mixture is in the bowl, stop the mixer and scrape down the sides and the whip. 
  • Continue whipping the cream at high speed for another 2-3 minutes, or until the cream holds stiff peaks when you lift the whip from the surface.
    Spread the chocolate whipped cream over the surface of the chocolate tres leches*.
  • Garnish your chocolate tres leches cake with fanned strawberries or your favorite berries. You can also drizzle cajeta, caramel, or, leave the chocolate tres leches cake plain. 
    Enjoy the cake within 4 days of soaking.


Swaps and Substitutions

  • If you want a really decadent cake, you can replace the warm water with coffee or espresso.
  • You can omit the chocolate malted milk powder if you don't have it. 
  • If you want even more chocolate flavor in the whipped cream, replace the vanilla extract with chocolate extract.
  • You can top chocolate tres leches with plain whipped creamrum-flavored whipped cream, or even a cream cheese frosting instead of the chocolate whipped cream.

Tips and Techniques

  • The heat from the sugar warms the room temperature egg whites, which bolsters their proteins. As a result, your egg whites will whip higher and be stronger for longer.
  • Time is of the essence when you're making a sponge cake. The volume you create in the whites and yolks decreases the longer they sit.
  • Poking your sponge cake is important because it provides more areas in the cake for the chocolate tres leches mixture to seep into. You don't have to do this, but it will take longer for your cake to soak up the tres leches mixture if you don't.  
  • The tres leches mixture takes about 4 hours to soak into the cake. You'll start to see bubbles on the surface of the milk. That's your sign that the cake is beginning to soak up the milk mixture.
  • It's best to soak your tres leches cake overnight, so the cake has a chance to fully absorb the milk mixture.  
  • *For optimum taste, allow the whipped cream to sit on the cake for at least 30 minutes before serving.

Storage Instructions

  • You can store tres leches cake covered in the fridge for four days. It's important to keep it refrigerated because of the amount of dairy in it.
  • Chocolate tres leches cake is safe to store at room temperature for 2 hours. After that, you risk exposing yourself or your diners to foodborne illnesses.
  • It's best to cut and serve your pieces of cake and return the rest to the fridge. You can always get more. 

Freezing Instructions

  1. Wrap it well in plastic film to prevent freezer burn and store it in the freezer for up to 2 months.
  2. Thaw it in the fridge overnight before serving. The whipped cream may deflate slightly, but it should still hold its shape. 


Calories: 519kcal | Carbohydrates: 56g | Protein: 14g | Fat: 28g | Saturated Fat: 16g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 2g | Monounsaturated Fat: 8g | Trans Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 197mg | Sodium: 332mg | Potassium: 411mg | Fiber: 3g | Sugar: 30g | Vitamin A: 1072IU | Vitamin C: 1mg | Calcium: 167mg | Iron: 2mg