This is a twist on pastel de tres leches, or three milks cake, one of the most - if not the most popular - cakes throughout Mexico. 






Skill level

Average: 3.2 (214 votes)



  • unsalted butter to butter the pan
  • large eggs, separated, at room temperature
  • 200 g sugar
  • 3 tsp vanilla extract
  • 250 g plain (all-purpose) flour
  • 235 ml hot water
  • 40g unsweetened cocoa powder


  • 400 g can sweetened condensed milk
  • 375ml can evaporated milk
  • 235 ml full-cream milk
  • 3 tsp vanilla extract

Whipped cream topping

  • 2 cups thickened cream
  • 2½ tbsp icing sugar
  • 90 g Mexican-style chocolate, grated, for garnish (see Note) 

Cook's notes

Oven temperatures are for conventional; if using fan-forced (convection), reduce the temperature by 20˚C. | We use Australian tablespoons and cups: 1 teaspoon equals 5 ml; 1 tablespoon equals 20 ml; 1 cup equals 250 ml. | All herbs are fresh (unless specified) and cups are lightly packed. | All vegetables are medium size and peeled, unless specified. | All eggs are 55-60 g, unless specified.


Chilling time At least 2 hours

Preheat the oven to (160°C) 350°F with a rack in the middle. Butter a 22 cm x 33cm baking pan and line the bottom with a piece of parchment paper.

To make the cake, beat the egg whites on medium-high speed in a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment until they hold soft peaks, about 4 to 5 minutes. Reduce the speed to medium and slowly add the sugar, beating until the whites hold stiff, shiny peaks. Transfer to a large bowl and set aside.

Pour the egg yolks into another large bowl and beat with a whisk or fork, until fluffy and pale yellow. Add the vanilla and continue beating until fully incorporated. Gently fold the egg yolk mixture into the egg white mixture with a rubber spatula, taking care not to deflate the whites. Fold in the flour ¼ cup at a time and mix well. The batter will look a bit streaky.

In a small bowl, combine the hot water with the cocoa powder. Pour half the cake batter into another bowl and fold in the cocoa-water mixture with a rubber spatula until thoroughly mixed.

Spread the vanilla batter in the prepared pan. Pour the chocolate batter on top, in a straight line down the center. With a knife or spoon, make a whirling design from one side of the pan to the other. Bake for 22 to 25 minutes, until the top of the cake has lightly browned and feels spongy to the touch. Remove from the oven and let cool.

Invert the cake onto a large platter or board and remove the pan and parchment paper. Cover the cake with an upside-down platter large enough to hold the cake and the vanilla sauce and invert again so the cake is right side up. Using a fork, poke holes all over the top of the cake, so it will absorb the sauce.

To make the sauce: In a large bowl, combine the three milks and vanilla and stir to blend well. Pour about ⅔ of the sauce over the cake. Don’t worry if it looks like there is too much sauce —the cake will absorb it. Cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours or overnight. Reserve the remaining vanilla sauce.

When you are ready to finish the cake, remove the cake from the refrigerator and spoon the remaining sauce on top of the cake.

Make the whipped cream: In a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whip the cream and sugar on medium speed until it holds well-formed peaks, about 6 minutes. Spread the whipped cream over the top and sides of the cake. Garnish with the grated chocolate.



• Mexican chocolate is a grainer style of chocolate, usually flavoured with almonds and cinnamon. Mexican chocolate bars are available in Australia from specialist shops and on-line retailers. Read more about this chocolate on Pati’s website here. You can substitute 90 g of semi-sweet chocolate plus ½ tsp of cinnamon in this recipe.