Strawberry tres leches cake recipe with a healthy topping!

Special everyday cakes and treats

And pondering on the milk that doesn’t exist, but later.  First let’s talk strawberries, the perfect complement for a traditional Mexican tres leches cake, a deliciously moist sponge soaked in three kinds of milk (tres leches):  condensed, evaporated and full-fat (yes, full-fat!).  Strawberries give this cake the freshness and lift that make them such a popular filling in Mexico but you can still taste the cinammon, vanilla and orange cognac liqueur!  And never fear, there’s a minimal diet plan involved:  a smaller cake, thinner slices and a healthy topping of fruit with zero-fat quark and maple syrup instead of whipped cream.  So je ne regrette rien (I regret nothing!) because this cake is delicious and days later I’m still excited when I retrieve a slice from the fridge taking me to milky cake paradise.  Swoon…

Pastel de tres leches con fresas

Strawberry tres leches cake

I know many people feel this way and have said they’d love to make a tres leches cake.  And eat it of course.  So I thought a tres leches cake challenge could encourage us all to bake one, choosing from the many different versions out there.  Since I’d never tried it I ate as many as I could find then toddled off to interview local Mexican chef Ruben Boldo who makes the most delicious version ever.  I was prepared to beg for his recipe and tips.  Do you sense obsession here?  I’m too happy experiencing tres-leches-induced bliss to feel worried! 🙂

Strawberry tres leches cake

Strawberry tres leches cake

My version is based on the chef’s original recipe but with less sugar, another type of cognac, separated eggs, strawberries and a pinch of salt (a Cordon Bleu chef’s secret!).  And the sacrilegious quark-based topping!  Please use whipped cream or Italian meringue instead if you’re young, fit with no cholesterol issues or planning to run 15 kilometres and need extra calories to burn.


The good news:  takes about 55 minutes to make and bake (just over an hour by hand).  Woohoo!

The bad news:  you have to wait till the next day to eat it!!!  (but it’s worth the wait)


Butter and flour your cake tin (15-16cm diametre by 4.5-5.5cm high)

Preheat the oven to 190°C (static, non-convection oven) or 170°C (fan-assisted oven)

DSCF7795Prepare the soaking milk

  • 110ml (half a cup) full fat milk
  • 110ml (half a cup) condensed milk
  • 110ml (half a cup) evaporated milk (I only found semi-skimmed here in Barcelona!)
  • two thirds of a tablespoon Grand Marnier orange liqueur (cognac), brandy or rum
  • a pinch of vanilla powder or quarter teaspoon pure vanilla essence
  • a pinch of cinammon

Whisk all the ingredients together in a small bowl, cover with plastic wrap and store in the fridge till needed.

Sponge ingredients
(cup measurements in italics)

  • 1 yolk and 2 egg whites (medium eggs) – separated and at room temperature
  • 90g (half a cup) caster sugar (or granulated sugar that’s been ground very quickly)

Sift then whisk the following ingredients in a big bowl.  If you want to sift your flour like grandma get another big bowl and sift from one bowl to the other till you’ve sifted the flour mixture three times!  It’s not obligatory but it’s how the chef does it as taught by his grandmother.  I can’t resist doing it too to honour them!

  • 65g (a bit less than half a cup) plain (all-purpose) flour
  • 1 tsp teaspoon baking powder
  • pinch of vanilla powder, quarter tsp pure vanilla essence or seeds scraped from a quarter of a pod
  • pinch of cinammon
  • pinch of freshly ground nutmeg

Topping (best added the next day an hour or so before serving)

  • about 8 to 15 strawberries (depending on size, thickness of slices and pattern)
  • about 60 or 70g quark (or 3 to 4 tablespoons)
  • three quarters tablespoon maple syrup or more, to taste


Whisk by hand or with a stand mixer.

1. Whisk the egg whites till almost firm.

2. Add the sugar little by little, whisking in between …

3. … till the sugar is incorporated to make a shiny meringue.

3. STAND MIXER version.

4. Whisk in the egg yolk (if using more than one then add one at a time whisking well after each yolk) to get a fluffy batter and reach ribbon stage (see photo below).  By hand this will take time.

4. STAND MIXER version – can you see it’s reached ribbon stage?

5.  Fold in half the flour then when almost incorporated the other half – with a rubber spatula or big spoon with a hole and gentle figure of eight movements.

6.  Don’t overwork – fold until the flour is only just incorporated.

7. Pour gently into your prepared cake tin and get into the oven fast (the rising agents are already interacting with the wet ingredients!).

Bake in the middle of the oven for 20 to 25 minutes (don’t open the oven door to check during the first 20 minutes).  The cake is ready when an inserted skewer comes out clean and when you press the top lightly with a finger it springs back slightly.

Let the cake cool for 6 or 7 minutes in the tin (don’t remove) then make holes all over the cake with a skewer (preferably thinnish) to the bottom.

Soaking with the milk

  1. Put your tin on a deep plate or tray.
  2. Slowly pour or spoon the milk mixture evenly over the cake.DSCF7643
  3. Try to reserve a little of the liquid for serving.

Note:  according to Chef Ruben Boldo the milk will come out from under your removable bottom mould into the plate/tray.  DSCF7645My milk didn’t originally.  So I unmoulded the cake and put it on the serving plate.  A little milk came out.  Use whichever technique makes sense to you.  If the milk does leak out, pour it back over the cake – the chef repeats the pouring process three times.  The following time I made a softer cake and the milk did seep out more.  It’s fine if there’s a little liquid left on the plate but drain if there’s a lot.  Logically, too much liquid could be detrimental to the cake’s lower integral structure (captain).

The next day…


  1. Whisk the maple syrup into the quark.  Taste to check it’s the right sweetness for you.
  2. Spoon over the cake carefully and level out a little or swirl with the back of a spoon.
  3. Slice the strawberries as you like and arrange in a nice pattern on your cake.  One green stalk will add colour though Paul Hollywood would fix you steadily with his piercing gaze and ask ‘Will you be eating that?’  It’s okay – he’s not here.

Oh, and arranging strawberries is a whole challenge in itself and I need practise!  Another option is spreading with quark topping and serving strawberries on the side.  The cake’s also delicious plain and unadorned!Storing and eating your cake!

Store in the fridge covered or in tupperware and keep for at least 4 hours before eating.  It’s best kept overnight and eaten the next day (and up to three days later).  Pour a little saved milk around each portion to serve.  Add colour and taste by sprinkling some extra cinammon powder into the milk – the chef’s tip!DSCF7709What’s evaporated milk?

Let’s ponder the matter.  But is it matter?  I was sitting with my climbing friends at the rock and talking about this cake (as I do) with three types of milk in it.  I mentioned the evaporated milk and a young Catalan guy snickered ‘Does that mean it doesn’t exist any more and it’s evaporated into the air?’  Good point.  No-one in the group knew about evaporated milk until the Canadian-Russian physicist (yes, lots of scientists are climbers or vice versa) said it was extremely popular in Russia!  Aha, interesting!  And because a scientist backed me up this milk’s existence was confirmed!  phew!  🙂  Though he couldn’t actually clarify this milk’s physical properties.  So I googled and found an answer to the question.

Though you might want to avoid expounding on evaporated milk, the tres leches cake is an amazing discovery.  And I’ve been so happy with the response from readers enthusiastic about having fun and making it together for our tres leches cake challenge!  Such a lovely friendly crowd of bloggers and non-bloggers to be baking with!  So if you haven’t yet, come and join us!  🙂

I think I’ll dare myself to make a ‘healthier’ dairy-free and sugar-free version!!!  I’ll let you know how that goes!  What about you?  Any ideas?

Ooops, I’m a bit late and anxious to put this strawberry tres leches cake in a box and join my other lovely group of friends who’ve been busy baking and cooking for the wonderful Fiesta Friday party hosted by a delightful trio:  Angie@the Novice Gardener and co-hosts Ginger@Ginger & Bread and Loretta@Safari Of The Mind.  Come along and socialise with some friendly people who love food! 🙂

Have some strawberry pastel de tres leches!

Have a slice of strawberry tres leches cake!

Must dash.  I’m also taking some of the ‘real’ cake to a friend’s house for lunch today!  So for now I’ll bid you a very cheerful and glowing farewell sweet reader.  May you float like evaporated milk throughout the weekend, gently spreading your sweetness wherever you go!  See you soon!  🙂

Posted by

Baking on Sundays with my French mum was a lovely part of my childhood. Later I experimented with baking books or internet recipes and did the pâtisserie course at Le Cordon Bleu Paris. Still trying out new recipes and inventing cakes with influences from all around the world, including some healthier ones. Yes, love cakes!!! Hope you'll love them too and have fun baking. :)

33 thoughts on “Strawberry tres leches cake recipe with a healthy topping!”

  1. This cake looks great!

    I’ll be posting my cake story sometime soon – I made the cake and it was a great hit with my family! I’m not sure my pictures will do it justice, but it was definitely tasty and that’s what really matters!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks Sarah! Glad you like the strawberry cake and I’m happy your family enjoyed your tres leches cake. Hurrah! As you say, that’s the important thing – no worries about the pictures. Looking forward to reading your cake story, and seeing the cake!!! 🙂

      P.S. Hey, you might just be the fastest off the mark with the challenge!! 🙂 You could make a comment on the challenge post If you have any tips for us…

      Liked by 1 person

      • Oh, that’s not a bad idea (though my comments would be things along the lines of “make sure to pay attention when measuring your flour, so you don’t have to redo it, like some of us.” More cautionary tales than anything!

        Liked by 1 person

      • Whatever you think is helpful! Actually chefs who are training you do look very closely at how you’re measuring stuff out!! 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  2. This looks so wonderful! The perfect dish for the upcoming summer weather. I love strawberries and this looks like a keeper! Thanks for sharing! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you Arlene and you’re welcome! 🙂 I’m happy you like the cake, and yes I love strawberries too. Must look for some more strawberry recipes! 🙂


  3. Pingback: The Amazing New Cake Diet | Journey of a Blogvelist

  4. Pingback: lemongrass coconut tres leches cake | ten.times.tea

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