Chano’s Tres Leches Cake

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FOR 22 OF OUR 25 YEARS, we’ve been blessed to work with Chano Valencia, an incredible baker. Of all his cakes, I think this one is my very favorite. Topped with strawberries, sandwiched with jam and soaked in cream, it makes for a super moist take on a traditional strawberry shortcake. Just plan to make it ahead so the milk that pools at the bottom of the pan has time to soak in. 

Makes one (9 x 13 x 2-inch) cake / Serves 12 to 15


3 ½ cups sugar
1 ½ cups canola or safflower oil
6 large eggs
1 ½ cups milk
2 tablespoons pure vanilla extract
4 ½ cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon kosher salt


2 cups whole milk
2 cups sweetened condensed milk
1 ½ cups coconut milk
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
2 cups strawberry jam
2 ½ cups heavy cream
½ cup sugar
2 pints (4 cups) strawberries, hulled and cut in half


1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Grease the sides of a 9 x 13 x 2-inch baking pan and line the bottom with parchment paper (do not flour; it prevents the milk from soaking into the cake).

2. Combine the sugar and oil in a large bowl with an electric mixer or with a wooden spoon by hand and whisk until creamy and thoroughly combined. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.

3. In a small bowl, combine the milk and vanilla.

4. In a separate bowl, combine the flour, baking powder and salt and stir to mix.

5. Add the flour mixture to the oil mixture in thirds, alternating with the milk mixture and beginning and ending with the flour mixture. Mix just until the dry ingredients are incorporated.

6. Pour into the prepared pan and bake until a skewer inserted in the center comes out clean, 35 to 40 minutes. Remove the cake from the oven and let cool in the pan about 20 minutes. Run a small knife around the edges of the pan before turning the cake out onto a baking rack to cool completely. 


1. While the cake is cooling, stir together the whole milk, condensed milk, coconut milk and vanilla in a large bowl to combine.

2. Once the cake has cooled, slice it in half crosswise with a large serrated knife to make two layers. Place the top layer of the cake on a rimmed baking sheet, cut side up. Using a wooden skewer or a fork, poke holes all over (you cannot create too many; it helps the liquid absorb) and slowly pour half the milk mixture over the cake on the baking sheet, about ½ cup at a time, spooning it back over the cake as it pools in the bottom of the pan until most of the liquid is absorbed. (There will still be a little liquid in the bottom of the pan, but it will continue to absorb as it sits.) After most of the liquid is absorbed, spread half the jam over the top of that layer. Place the other layer, cut side up, on top of the soaked layer. Repeat the soaking process with this layer.

3. Whip the heavy cream to form soft peaks, add the sugar and continue to whip to form stiff peaks. Frost the cake all over with the whipped cream. Thin the remaining strawberry jam with 1 tablespoon water and pour over the top of the cake. Decorate the edges with strawberries. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours or overnight before serving. Slice into portions and serve chilled.


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