Cafe Lattes Tres Leches Cake

Cafe Lattes Tres Leches Cake

Finally, it’s here. The Cafe Lattes Tres Leches Cake. If you follow me (I’d love it if you would, sign ups are to the right!) you might remember a blogging fail when I dropped the Cafe Lattes Tres Leches Cake in February, The Cake of Broken Dreams.

Caffe Lattes Tres Leches Cake,

Caffe Latte’s Tres Leches Cake,


Well, here it is again! With Easter coming soon, and right after, Cinco de Mayo, I knew this cake couldn’t wait until next Valentine’s day before I remade and posted it. The Cafe Lattes Tres Leches cake is perfect for either holiday or for that matter, almost any holiday party. It’s a cake often served at celebrations throughout Latin America.

About Cafe Latte’s Tres Leches Cake:

If you don’t know about Tres Leches Cake, the name comes from three milks that are traditionally used in & on the cake. evaporated milk, condensed milk, and heavy cream. Mine takes a slight departure from the traditional because it’s a copycat version of the famed Cafe Latte’s Tres Leches Cake. Cafe Latte is practically an institution here in the Twin Cities. It’s located on historic Grand Avenue in St. Paul, which is such a fun place to visit with shops & restaurants galore.

I’ve mentioned Cafe Latte, before; their Turtle Cake is our preferred birthday cake so I was psyched that the Quinn’s shared their Cafe Lattes Tres Leches Cake on WCCO.

The Tres Leches Cake is absolutely creamy, dreamy perfection and is absolutely divine. It’s also super easy to make. The hard part is getting the frosting smooth, at least for me coz I’m not too much of a decorator and my hands were getting shaky by the time I was done. I watched a few youtube videos, which helped, but I might just go free form next time with a few swoops and peaks. Also, I kept trying to smooth the top and took off too much of the frosting. There’s always next time, right? I should have refrigerated this, too, before cutting…mine got a little squishy!

Making Cafe Latte’s Tres Leches Cake:

I only made a small, little adaptation to the cake – I used a stabilized whipped cream for the frosting, and I’m pretty sure Cafe Latte does, too. Refrigerate this cake for a few hours or overnight if you have time so it firms up a bit before cutting that will help avoid the cake squishing as the knife goes through.

It’s helpful to make the cake the day before, then make the whipping cream and frost it the next day. The Cafe Lattes Tres Leches Cake is a great make-ahead option & keeps very well, uncut for two days in the fridge. What’s leftover, if there is any, is still pretty decent for four days, maybe beyond.


Caffe Lattes Tres Leches Cake 6

Caffe Latte’s Tres Leches Cake,

Saving Money on Cafe Latte’s Tres Leches Cake:

Just adding up the cost of all the cream is enough to make me gasp. Buy at Aldi or wait for a sale because cream is great holiday sale item & keeps for weeks in the fridge. You could cut the whipped cream back by half to lower the cost and just frost the middle and the top of the cake – it would still be gorgeous, although all that topping is part of the appeal of this cake. And choosing seasonal fruit is always a good call. I couldn’t resist raspberries, though!

Condensed milk is another holiday sale item and there are usually coupons available; shop for it during the Winter Holidays, especially around Thanksgiving and look for sales, too, around Lent & Easter. Half & half is just 1/2 milk & half cream. Milk runs about $2.75 a gallon in my area and has 16 cups/gallon, so that’s 17 cents a cup. If you’re going to buy a pint (2 cups of 1/2 & 1/2) it should be no more than the cost of an 8-ounce container of cream + the 17 cents.

Cafe Lattes Tres Leches Cake

Cafe Latte’s Tres Leches Cake


Cafe Latte’s Tres Leches Cake

A creamy, dreamy “three milks” cake from the famed Twin Cities eatery,  Cafe Latte.

  • Author: adapted from Cafe Latte
  • Yield: 12 servings 1x



Cake Layer:

  • ¼ cup canola oil
  • ¾ cup granulated sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup flour
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon baking powder
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ½ cup buttermilk

Soaking Liquid:

  • ½ can (4 ounces) sweetened condensed milk
  • 1 cup half and half
  • ¼ teaspoon vanilla


  • 4 teaspoons gelatin (you’ll need 1 packet + 1 teaspoon from another)
  • 4 tablespoons water
  • 4 cups heavy whipping cream, divided
  • ½ cup powdered sugar
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla



Butter an 8” round pan. Line the bottom with parchment paper, then butter and flour, shaking out any excess flour. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Combine oil, sugar, eggs, and vanilla in a large bowl. In another bowl, sift together flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Add dry ingredients to oil mixture. Add buttermilk in stages, stirring (a wooden spoon works well) until the mixture is wet enough to accept the rest, being careful not to overbeat.

Pour into the round cake pan, bake for 20-25 minutes until cake is golden brown and when pressed lightly in the center, springs back. The top will be slightly rounded but will even out as it cools.

Cool in pan about 10 minutes, then remove to a rack to cool completely.

Soaking Liquid:

Combine all ingredients with a whisk, then pour into a bowl or measuring cup with a spout. When cake is cool, slice in half horizontally so there are two 8” round layers. Arrange cut side up. Slowly pour soaking liquid over the cake layers.


In a small saucepan, add the water then sprinkle gelatin evenly over the top. Let sit for several minutes until gelatin softens and becomes translucent. If it doesn’t become translucent after about10 minutes, place the pan over medium-low heat for just a few seconds until gelatin starts to melt. Remove pan from heat and swirl to distribute heat and fully melt the gelatin.

Slowly mix in about 3/4 cup of the cream, set aside. In the meantime, add cream to mixing bowl and beat just until soft peaks form. Beat in the sugar, then with the mixer running, slowly add the gelatin cream mixture. Turn mixer on high and beat until very stiff peaks form.

The whipped cream at that stage may not look quite as smooth as “regular” whipped cream but will smooth out as it’s spread.

Place one layer of cake on a cake plate, cut side up, and top with 1/3 of the whipped cream, then smooth it. Place the second layer on top of the whipped cream, cut side down, then to the top, add another 1/3 of the whipped cream and smooth it. Frost sides with the remaining whipped cream.

For best results, refrigerate for several hours before cutting. Store in the fridge, keeps very well for two days, if you’d like to make it ahead, but is still good after several days in the fridge.


No buttermilk? No problem. Add a teaspoon and a half of vinegar to a measuring cup. Add milk until it reaches the 1/2 cup mark.

Make sure to measure the soaking liquid exactly or you’ll end up with a cake that is too dry or worse, too wet.

If you need a recipe to use the rest of the condensed milk, check out the Fake Frappe recipe right here on my site.

Garnish with fresh berries; Cafe Latte uses raspberries.

For best results, refrigerate for several hours before cutting.

Did you make this recipe?

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I’ll be bringing this cake to Fiesta Friday #215, hosted this week by  Laurena @ Life Diet Health and Alex @ Turks Who Eat. We’d all love it if you stop by & see a collection of recipes and posts by the fantastic food bloggers who’ve joined in.

if you like Cafe Latte’s Tres Leches Cake, you might also like:


Cafe Latte's Tres Leches Cake is creamy dreamy perfection. Simple, stunning & a great cake for Cinco de Mayo, Easter or any celebration. Cafe Latte is a Twin Cities institution! #TresLechesCake #CafeLatteTresLeches

55 thoughts on “Cafe Lattes Tres Leches Cake

  1. PalB

    Looks like you copied the recipe almost exactly as the Dutch Baker’s daughter. She has had it online since 2012. Just saying – she deserved some credit of having figure this out first. Or shall I say, you stole her recipe! Adding some gelatin to the original recipe by someone else does not make it your own!

    • FrugalHausfrau

      Hi Pal, it stings to be accused of plagiarism (such an ugly word) but I am sure your intentions were coming from the right place.

      My version came from WCCO (credited and linked by me in the post above) and when search engines weren’t so effective, I added it here as well.

      It’s a fave of my family and I wanted to make sure it will always be available for them. I believe the only thing I think I changed was the frosting, which, as published by WCCO was NOT the original Cafe Latte’s frosting. I’ve had their cake many times and know the taste well!

      I just such searched Dutch Baker’s Daughter’s site and I see she credited Joe’s Email Printable Recipes (and that link doesn’t work anymore.)

      She’s got a great name and a great site. We both must be Cafe Latte’s fans because we both have their Turtle Cake recipe, too! Her’s is credited to the Star Tribune; I got my recipe years- make that decades- ago (around 1996, I think,) from Minnesota Monthly’s recipe insert.

      If I were still in my beloved Minnesota, I’d email her and say, “Hey, let’s meet up – at Cafe Latte’s, of course!”

      Have a great day, Pal!

      If anyone is interested, here’s the link for the Dutch Baker’s Daughter’s recipe – only because I like to share the love!

  2. Carlyn


    I made the stabilized whipped cream and found that it did not smooth very well and even had little chunks of gelatin. Any tips to mix it better? Thanks!

    • FrugalHausfrau

      Hi Carlyn, sorry to hear that. It sounds like the gelatin either wasn’t completely melted or hardened a bit as it mixed with the cream (just like jello, it will firm as it gets cold.) I have found the above method has always worked for me; the first mix with the 3/4 cup of cream usually loosens it enough.

      If you feel like your gelatin was completely melted and didn’t have any clumps when mixed with the 3/4 cup of cream and after added is still smooth (and if it did at that point, heat it up just a little to dissolve) then the only other thing I can advise it to make sure you whipped cream is still at soft peaks, not stiff peaks and very slowly add the gelatin cream mixture as you’re beating. I try to add it halfway between the beaters and the bowl, slowly, as I mix.

      I hope that helps!!


  3. Olivia

    Hi! I’m so glad to see this posted, it;s my favorite cake in the world! Question- I went to the link as well – thank you for including that!- and it doesn’t mention gelatin for the frosting- what does the addition do?

    • FrugalHausfrau

      Hi Olivia!

      I now it’s amazing, isn’t it! You’ve got great taste and just seeing your comment right now makes me want to run down to Cafe Latte! It’s 6:15 and they don’t close till 10:00!!

      I noticed right away when at looked at the WCCO post that they called for just sweetened whipped cream to top. I think they must have given it as an easy option for the home cook.

      That whipped cream made like they call for in the WCCO link unfortunately, will not hold up; it’s light and airy and just like any old whipped cream and will be very squishy. It will break down and separate, too, after a few hours and certainly by the next day. It also won’t taste like Cafe Latte’s cake.

      The gelatin stabilizes that whipped cream by giving it more substance so it will hold up, not weep or change over time and be a little firmer than your basic whipped cream. Just like when you make jello at home and it gets firm when you refrigerate it, it makes the whipped cream firmer.

      With my cake above, I should have refrigerated it a little longer before I cut it and given that gelatin in the whipped cream a little longer to firm up the frosting and it wouldn’t have squished like it did. So much for not delaying gratification!

      I know at Cafe Latte that they use stabilized whipped cream because first of all, they would have to or their cakes wouldn’t hold. I can also tell by the taste and texture.But that’s probably because I’ve done a lot of baking over the years and I’m always obsessive and thinking about food as I’m eating it, what’s in it, and how it’s made, not just reveling in the experience, lol! Next time you go, examine that frosting on their cake as you take the first bite and I think you’ll notice it’s not just your basic whipped cream.

      By the way if you make this and have any ?’s be sure to let me know!


    • FrugalHausfrau

      Hi Isabelle – I didn’t develop the actual recipe, it’s from a cafe here, and it really is just perfect as is! I assume you mean the evaporated milk as park of the soaking liquid?

  4. Lynn Ziegler

    This recipe is amazing. I used the double portion and 3 – 9″ pans. I learned in cake decorating class that moist paper toweling folded in tinfoil wrapped around the rim of pan can keep the cake level, and it did mine. I was a bit nervous about stacking soaked cake so I placed the first cake, just trimmed the very top of the cake off, soaked it, frosted, and repeated with the second and third. It was a hit and looked incredible! It was beautiful, uniform and cut really well. I didn’t even get to taste it but heard a lot of compliments. I think one and a half recipe for soaking and frosting portions would be plenty as I had left overs. Thank you so much for this wonderful gift!

    • FrugalHausfrau

      Hi Lynn, and thank you for checking back and the helpful hints! I’m fascinated by the paper towel tinfoil trick!! I do love this cake – one of my absolute faves and it’s not even chocolate!

      I am dismal at decorating but I have never thought to take a class! What a great idea!

  5. What a beautiful cake! Can you believe that I’ve never made nor eaten a tres leches cake? I’ve had it on my list, but you just made it move up! I can’t wait to make one and dig in!

    • FrugalHausfrau

      Hi Carlee, I love Tres Leches and you’ve got to try it = this was my first layered Tres Leches and it is such a beautiful thing!


  6. TurksWhoEat

    This cake looks amazing! I love the big layer of frosting in the middle 😀 Thanks for sharing at Fiesta Friday!

    • FrugalHausfrau

      Thanks, it really was fantastic! The top layer should have been thicker, but I took off too much trying to smooth it! I thought about trying to put the frosting back, but I just can’t fuss too much with decorating! 🙂

  7. You know, I’ve had many a tres leches cake, but not once made it myself. Because then, I’ll have the whole cake sitting around at home, and that’s way too dangerous! Same thing with tiramisu. Maybe I can make a tiny, mini version? One day, Mollie, I promise I’ll give this a go. It’s beautiful 😍

    • FrugalHausfrau

      I would love to see how beautiful you would make this, Angie!! But yes, it is a bit dangerous for me to have anything sweet around. I’ve been wanting to make my Chocolate Granola which needs some shavings from a good chocolate bar. Well three times I’ve bought that bar and all three times ate it, lol!!

  8. I am craving for anything cake and it seems like I have the answer now. The thing is – you have to make me this, Mollie.😂 Looks so so good!!

    • FrugalHausfrau

      lol, Jhuls! You’re welcome to come over anytime!! 🙂 But in the meantime, I guess you’ll just have to bake it!! 🙂

    • FrugalHausfrau

      Thanks! Honestly, I think it looked even better in person. I still might have to have another go at it though…I promised a friend!

  9. What a gorgeous chunk of cake Mollie!! All that cream! And I know what you mean about cream costs adding up. One time Larry went to the market with me and I dropped a carton of cream in the basket and he said– Did you see how much that cram cost?! Yep. (but it’s worth it!). Love love the cake. Pinning it Molle! xox

    • FrugalHausfrau

      I hope you do try it! It is such a fun cake…I’ll be making one this summer and filling it with strawberries, I think. 🙂

      And after the last disaster, I just couldn’t let it go without remaking!!

    • FrugalHausfrau

      Thanks Jess. It’s just right, i think – sometimes they’re too dry or too wet, but this was just beautiful.

    • FrugalHausfrau

      Tres Leches coffee sounds fun! I’ll have to check it out. I can’t do straight coffee, but I do seem to like the fancier ones!

    • FrugalHausfrau

      Thanks! i do have to admit it is divine! I think it and variations of it will become a family thing.

        • FrugalHausfrau

          lol, yes!! I am not a huge whipping cream fan, so I wondered if I could eat this, but I think that there’s hardly any sugar in it (well comparatively speaking) & that helped keep it from being too, too much. Small pieces and admittedly a bit of a share with Chance (and I know I shouldn’t have!) helped! It was so incredibly good! I didn’t run the nutritional numbers…was afraid to!!

    • FrugalHausfrau

      I’m’ glad! I’d call this a must have in a cake collection. Plus I love that it’s two layers; seems fancier.

    • FrugalHausfrau

      Hi Sheree, thanks, and it was. I’m afraid it was dinner one night, lol! And probably the only cake I didn’t want milk with.

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