Active Prep: 20 min. Inactive Prep: 30 min.
Difficulty: Medium
Yield: 5 cakes

This hack of the decadent tres leches cake that’s made fresh daily at Cafe Rio is an easy scratch sponge cake soaked with a generous mixture of evaporated milk, condensed milk, and cream and then chilled for several hours. There’s also whole milk in the cake batter here, so we should call this ”cuatro leches cake” if we want to be more accurate about it. The chain prepares the dessert in 4-inch foil tart pans, which can be tough to find in stores, so I use the more common and easier-to-find 5- inch potpie pans for this recipe. Homemade cream and sliced strawberries top off this Top Secret version of what is the best tres leches cake you’ll find at any chain.


7½ ounces (1½ cups) all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
4 large eggs, separated
1 cup granulated sugar
 ¾ cup whole milk
 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 12-ounce can evaporated milk
1 14-ounce can sweetened condensed milk
 1¼ cups heavy cream

1 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons powdered sugar
¼ teaspoon vanilla extract

Sliced strawberries
5 mint sprigs

How to prepare

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
  2.  Mix the flour with the baking soda, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl and set it aside.
  3. Beat the egg whites in a large bowl with an electric mixer on high speed until the whites form stiff peaks. Gradually add the sugar while beating. Beat in the yolks one at a time, mixing well after each addition.
  4. Add the flour mixture a little bit at a time along with the milk, alternating the addition of each. Add the vanilla.
  5. Rub each of five 5-inch foil potpie pans with some shortening or softened butter, or coat with nonstick cooking spray. Fill each pan halfway with batter and arrange the pans on a baking sheet. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes or until the tops have browned. Rotate the pan halfway through the baking time. 
  6. While the cakes bake, combine the evaporated milk, condensed milk, and cream in a medium bowl with an electric mixer on medium speed for 1 minute. When the cakes come out of the oven and while they are still warm, use a fork to poke several holes with quick jabs in the top of each cake. Pour the milk mixture into a 9 x 13-inch baking pan. Remove all of the cakes from their pans and invert them into the milk mixture for about a minute, then flip them all over to soak on the other side for another 30 seconds. Pour about ½ cup of the milk mixture back into each cake pan and replace the cakes in the pans. Use up all of the milk mixture. Loosely cover the pans and chill the cakes until cold, about 3 hours or overnight.
  7. When you are ready to serve the cakes, use an electric mixer to whip the cream in a medium bowl with the sugar and vanilla until stiff. 
  8.  To serve the cakes, remove each one from the pans and place them on individual serving plates. Top each with sliced strawberries, whipped cream, and a sprig of mint

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