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Buttermilk Tres Leches

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082 A Buttermilk Tres Leches.JPG

Buttermilk Tres Leches


I was first introduced to Tres Leches at my favorite Cuban restaurant, Felix’s, in Old Orange, California. One day, I decided I was going to make my own version and happened to have buttermilk in my fridge. Typically, the third milk in Tres Leches is evaporated milk, but given the buttermilk was close to expiring, I figured why not! Turns out, this recipe was a huge hit and gets constant requests among family and friends. Goes to show, no idea is a bad idea when it comes to experimenting in the kitchen. You just never know!

Yield: 10 – 12

Oven: 350ºF

Preparation time: 15 minutes

Cook Time: 25 minutes

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6 eggs, yolks and whites separated

1 1/4 cups sugar, divided

1 1/2 cups low-fat buttermilk, divided

2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

1 1/2 cups cake flour

2 teaspoons baking powder


1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar


1, 14-ounce can fat-free condensed milk

4 cups heavy cream (or whole milk), divided

2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

1/2 cup Kahlua


Whipping Cream:

2 cups heavy whipping cream

1 tablespoon pure vanilla extra


1.   Preheat oven to 350ºF.

2.   In a bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attached, or alternatively in a large bowl with a hand whisk, add egg yolks and 1 cup sugar and beat on medium ­ high until fluffy, approximately 4 – 5 minutes. Add 1/2 cup buttermilk and vanilla, mix until just combined.

3.   In a separate small bowl, add flour and baking powder. Whisk to combine. In one addition, add dry ingredients to wet and mix until just combined being careful to not over-mix.

4.   Transfer yolk mixture to a clean bowl and set to the side. Wash and clean electric mixer bowl. 

To make the meringue:

5.   Add reserved egg whites and cream of tartar to the clean mixing bowl and using the whisk attachment, whisk on high until foamy, approximately 1 minute. Add remaining 1/4 cup sugar and mix until stiff peaks form, approximately 5 minutes.


6.   In three additions, fold egg white mixture into yolk mixture until just combined being careful to not over-mix or deflate the egg whites.

7.   Grease a 9x13-inch baking dish with melted butter or cooking spray. Transfer batter to the prepared baking dish and spread into an even layer. Place in preheated 350ºF oven and bake until an inserted toothpick comes back clean and the cake has set, approximately 23 – 25 minutes.

8.   Remove from oven and allow to cool at room temperature for 25 minutes.

9.   Meanwhile, in a medium size bowl, whisk together the remaining 1 cup buttermilk, sweetened condensed milk, 2 cups cream, and Kahlua. Set to the side.

10.   Using a toothpick or cake tester, prick holes all over the cake ensuring the holes go all the way to the bottom of the dish.

11.   Ladle the milk mixture to cover the entire cake allowing it to seep down the holes and around the sides. Note: The cake will pull away from the side of the dish allowing the liquid to settle down the sides as well.

12.   Place in refrigerator until cold, approximately 2 – 4 hours or overnight.

To make whipping cream:

13.   Add 2 cups heavy cream in a medium size bowl and whisk until small peaks form. Add vanilla extract and continue to whisk until medium – high peaks form.


14.   Serve a cold slice of cake with a dollop of whipping cream on top.


Kitchen Note:  Traditionally, whipping cream includes vanilla extract and powdered sugar. In this recipe, the cake is so sweet, additional sugar in the cream makes it ultra sweet. If you prefer things on the sweeter side, feel free to take it to the next level by adding powdered sugar when you add the vanilla.  I use fat-free condensed milk because quite frankly, no one could tell the difference and I feel a little less guilty.