Costa Rican Tres Leches Recipe

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When I was living in San Ramon, Costa Rica, I discovered the Costa Rican Tres Leches cake. I would (more often than I should have) stop by the Musmanni bakery on my way home and buy a personal-sized tres leches and eat it when I got home.  I loved them so much that I even attempted to bring one home on the plane in my purse… and ended up with a sticky, sauce-covered contents of my purse. Once I realized that I wasn’t going to be living in Costa Rica any more, I wanted to make sure that I could replicate the recipe at home, and now I make a tres leches to celebrate almost every birthday that I find out about! Here’s our version of Costa Rican tres leches- enjoy!

Costa Rican Tres Leches Cake

Yield: approximately 24 small pieces, 12 large

For the cake:

  • 4 eggs, room temperature and separated yolk from the whites
  • 1 cup of white granulated sugar
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract (affiliate) (in Costa Rica we would use Vainol)
  • 1 cup white flour
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • Hand or stand mixer  (affiliate) (the cake really doesn’t come out very well if you try to beat it by hand)

For the milk sauce:

  • 1 cup sweetened condensed milk (affiliate)
  • 1 cup evaporated milk (affiliate)
  • 1 cup sweet cream
  • 1 cup whole milk (optional. I never had seen this ingredient, after all it is TRES leches, but it cuts down on the sweet taste of the sauce if you feel it is too sweet)

Combine all ingredients in a bowl. I usually just stir them for a couple of minutes, but you can also beat them in the mixer.


For the topping: (optional)

There are several ways to make this topping, and some people don’t even add it. (This is a super sweet dessert and the topping makes it sweeter!)

Option #1: Dream Whip (affiliate) (follow package instructions for preparation)

Option #2: Whipped topping (like Cool Whip)

Option #3: Whipped cream from the can (like Reddi Whip), and spray as much as desired on each piece. (This is great because some people might like topping and others might not).

You can garnish with sliced strawberries, drizzled chocolate, maraschino cherries, etc.


Instructions for the cake:

Separate the yolk from the white of the egg. In a large mixing bowl, place the egg whites and beat until foamy. Place the mixer on low, and add the egg yolks one at a time.  Slowly add the cup of sugar while mixing constantly on low. Add in the salt, vanilla and baking powder while mixing constantly. Fluff the flour and add it slowly to the entire mixture and mix until well combined. Place in a 9 x 13″ greased baking pan (I use a glass Pyrex) and bake at 325 for 25 minutes, or until the top is slightly golden brown and a toothpick comes out clean. Allow to cool completely.Gently pull the cake away fro the edges of the Pyrex with a fork, and poke holes throughout the cake. Slowly pour the milk mixture over the cake, allowing the cake to fully absorb the liquid. Cover with the topping of your choice, and decorate as you wish (or not! I never do…). This cake should be refrigerated until ready to serve, and can be made up to a few days in advance.

Note: When you chill the cake, it allows it to set up a little bit so that it is easier to serve. The cake tastes different warm than hot, and I often like to bring my own slice to room temperature before eating, but that’s just me! Buen provecho!


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