Delicious Homemade Lemon Tres Leches Cake

This lemon tres leches cake recipe features a super lemony cake drenched in a creamy tres leches blend topped with lemon whipped cream.

Side view of sliced lemon tres leches cake on a white plate

Why This Lemon Tres Leches Recipe Works

  • It’s a delicious twist to the classic tres leches cake.
  • If you love lemon and prefer a cake that isn’t too sweet, this simple recipe is easy to make.
  • Homemade from scratch!

Watch this Lemon Tres Leches Cake in web stories.

What is Tres Leches Cake?

Have you ever tried tres leches cake? It’s a delicious sponge cake that’s soaked in a special mixture of three types of milk: sweetened condensed milk, evaporated milk, and whole milk or heavy cream. Then topped off with a light whipped cream.

If you love condensed milk, try this Colombian Arroz con Leche recipe.

The Origins of Tres Leches Cake

Tres leches cake is really popular in Latin America, especially in countries like Mexico, Cuba, and Colombia. It’s hard to say where it came from exactly, but some think it started in Nicaragua, and now it’s enjoyed all over Central and South America.


Lemon Tres Leches Cake, Other Toppings, and Variations

Lemon tres leches cake is a delicious lemony variation of the original tres leches cake, starting with a lemon sponge cake, three milks including condensed, evaporated, and whole milk, and topped with lemon whipped cream.

Variations

  • Add blueberries to the batter for a delicious twist. Then bake.

Toppings

This recipe includes lemon whipped cream, but you can top this cake with an original whipped cream instead.

Add fresh fruit like strawberries or blueberries.


Side view of Lemon tres leches cake with lemon whipped cream
Lemon tres leches cake with lemon whipped cream

Ingredients and Substitutions

The best lemon tres leches cake flavors are perfectly balanced, with just the right sweetness and a zesty kick from fresh lemon rather than lemon extract.

Ingredients For Each Layer Of The Lemon Tres Leches Cake

Cake Ingredients

  • Eggs – separated, egg whites separated from egg yolks.
  • Cane Sugar – divided. Substitute with brown sugar if that’s all you have in your pantry.
  • Flour – sifted, all-purpose flour
  • Baking Powder
  • Salt
  • Lemon – zest and juice, fresh lemons are preferable. However, lemon extract works. In this case, increase the milk in your cake to offset the difference in liquid in the recipe.
  • Whole Milk
  • Vanilla Extract or vanilla beans.

Tres Leches Ingredients

Topping – Lemon Whipped Cream Ingredients

Top Tips For The Best Lemon Tres Leches Cake

The best lemon tres leches cake flavors are perfectly balanced, with just the right sweetness and a zesty kick from fresh lemon rather than lemon extract.

Fresh Lemon vs. Lemon Extract

Use fresh lemons rather than lemon extract for a fresh, tangy lemon flavor when available. It’s always my go-to in this recipe.

Absorb The Tres Leches

The best way to encourage the absorption of the tres leches is to poke small holes in the cake with a fork. This will allow the milk mixture to seep into the cake.

Allow The Cake To Cool

Allow the lemon cake to cool slightly before adding the milk mixture to the cake.

Serve Cold

Keep it in the fridge until you’re ready to serve. Cold tres leches cake is delicious, allowing all the flavors to mesh well and the three milks to absorb.

See Below for Detailed Instructions


Equipment Needed For This Recipe

The best way to get organized for this recipe is to set the bowls aside for the egg whites, egg yolks, and dry ingredients.

Here’s What You’ll Need For The Cake

Here’s What You’ll Need For The Tres Leches

  • 1 Medium Bowl – To blend the three types of milk
  • Whisk – To whisk the three types of milk.

Here’s What You’ll Need For The Topping


Instructions For A Creamy, Light, Tangy Lemon Tres Leches Cake

Step One: Prepare The Ingredients For The Cake

Start with the ingredients for the cake first. Set those in place for phase one – the sponge cake.

1. The Lemons

Clean the lemons in water and baking soda.

Zest and juice the lemons. Set aside.

2. Preheat the Oven

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

3. Butter The Baking Dish

Butter the baking dish and set aside.

Step Two: Separate the Eggs

Separate the egg yolks from the egg whites.

Egg White Mixture

Add the egg whites and 1/4 cup of the sugar in a large bowl and whisk to form a meringue with the egg whites—meringue forms when the egg whites and yolks are whisked to form white, airy peaks.

Tip: This egg white mixture helps add volume to the cake.

Set aside.

Egg Yolk Mixture

In a small bowl, whisk the egg yolks with the remaining sugar and vanilla extract.

Set aside.

Step Three: Sift the Flour

For best results, make sure to sift the flour and baking powder through a fine mesh strainer. This will help get rid of any lumps and ensure that it mixes evenly.

Step Four: Add The Egg Yolks, Sugar and Vanilla Extract

Add the egg yolk and sugar mixture to the sifted flour and mix them together with a rubber spatula – avoid overmixing.

Step Five: Add The Lemon Juice, Lemon Zest, and Milk

Add The Lemon Juice

Add the lemon juice and zest to the mixture and combine with the rubber spatula.

Add The Milk

Then add the milk and continue to mix with the spatula.

NOTE: Do not overmix.

Step Six: Fold In The Egg Whites

Then, add the whisked egg white mixture and fold it into the batter. Do it carefully to keep the fluffiness in the batter.

Step Seven: Bake

Add the batter to the buttered baking dish and distribute it evenly with the rubber spatula. Then, pop it in the preheated oven at 350 degrees. Remember to keep an eye on it and check for doneness with a fork or knife since baking time can vary depending on your oven.

Step Eight – The Three Milks

While the cake is baking, prepare the three milk or tres leches combination. Whisk the whole, evaporated, and condensed milk in a medium bowl until it’s well mixed. Keep it in the refrigerator until ready to add it to the cake.

After 30 minutes, check the cake for doneness and allow it to cool off slightly (2-5 minutes).

Step Nine – Poke Holes In The Cake

To make sure the tres leches mixture gets into the cake evenly, poke some holes in the cake with a fork.

Step Ten – Add The Delicious Tres Leches Mix

Keep the cake in the baking dish, and once it’s cool, add the three milk mix to the cake. Pouring it over the cook – you’ll notice the cake will start to soak the milk mixture.

Once the baking dish has cooled off completely, place the cake in the refrigerator and allow it to cool before topping it with the lemon whipped cream.

Step Eleven: Time For The Lemon Whipped Cream

If you’re a fan of lemon, you might want to consider topping this cake with lemon whipped cream for a tangy kick. However, it’s totally up to you whether or not you want the added lemon flavor.

Whisk the heavy cream in a large glass bowl with a handheld electric mixer, gradually adding the powdered sugar and lemon juice. Continually whisking on a low setting.

Important Tip: Whipped cream can be overmixed. Once the whipped cream starts to form, even slightly, stop the mixer. Otherwise, the whipped cream will break.

Once the whipped cream is ready, mix in the lemon zest with a spatula. Slowly folding it in.

Final Step

Remove the cake from the fridge and top the cake with the lemon whipped cream. Use a rubber spatula or icing spatula.

Garnish (optional) lightly with lemon zest. Serve and enjoy!

side view of lemon tres leches cake with lemon whipped cream and zest
lemon tres leches cake with lemon whipped cream and zest

Storage

Store the lemon tres leches cake in the refrigerator for 2-3 days. Transfer the cake to a glass airtight container, or keep it in the original baking dish and cover.

Here’s a quick guide to extend the life of your tres leches cake in the fridge.

Serving

Slice and serve the cake on a plate, and drizzle on the tres leches mix. Enjoy!

overhead shot of lemon tres leches cake in baking dish
lemon tres leches cake in baking dish

What to Serve with Lemon Tres Leches Cake

Serve a slice right after dinner, and top it off with extra whipped cream if you’re a fan!

Serve it with a cup of coffee.


FAQs

Should I Store A Tres Leches Cake Uncovered In The Fridge?

Cover the cake, and store the lemon tres leches cake in the fridge for up to 3-5 days.


Side view of Lemon tres leches cake with lemon whipped cream

Easy Homemade Lemon Tres Leches Cake

Olga Muñoz
Tangy Tres Leches Cake with Fresh Lemon
No ratings yet
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Refrigerate 1 hour 10 minutes
Total Time 2 hours
Course Dessert
Cuisine Colombian, Cuban, Dominican, Mexican
Servings 9 people

Equipment

  • 1 10"x8" Baking Dish x 3 1/2"
  • 3 Large bowls
  • 2 Medium Bowls
  • 1 Rubber Spatula
  • 1 Portable Electric Hand Mixer
  • 1 Zester
  • 1 Citrus Juicer

Ingredients
  

Lemon Cake Ingredients

  • 5 whole Eggs Separated
  • 1 cup Cane Sugar
  • 2 cups All-purpose Flour
  • 3/4 tsp Baking Powder
  • 1 tsp Salt
  • 2 Lemons
  • 1 tsp Vanilla Extract
  • 1/4 cup Milk

Tres Leches

  • 1 can Evaporated Milk
  • 1 cup Whole Milk
  • 1 can Condensed Milk

Lemon Whipped Cream

  • 1 pint Heavy Whipping Cream
  • 4 tbsp Powdered Sugar
  • 1 tbsp Lemon Juice

Instructions
 

Lemon Cake

  • Prepare the Ingredients:
    Lemons
    Clean the lemons in water and baking soda.
    Zest and juice the lemons. Set aside.
    Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
    Butter the baking dish and set aside.
    Overhead photo of lemons in a large bowl
  • Step Two: Separate The Eggs
    Separate the egg yolks from the egg whites.
    Add the egg whites and 1/4 cup of the sugar in a large bowl and whisk to form a meringue with the egg whites—meringue forms when the egg whites and yolks are whisked to form white, airy peaks.
    Tip: This egg white mixture helps add volume to the cake.
    Set aside.
    In a small bowl, whisk the egg yolks with the remaining sugar and vanilla extract.
    Set aside.
    Overhead shot of Separated eggs lemon tres leches cake
  • Step Three: Sift The Flour
    For best results, make sure to sift the flour and baking powder through a fine mesh strainer. This will help get rid of any lumps and ensure that it mixes evenly.
    Overhead shot of flour in fine mesh strainer
  • Step Four: Add The Egg Yolks, Sugar And Vanilla Extract
    Add the egg yolk and sugar mixture to the sifted flour and mix them together with a rubber spatula – avoid overmixing.
    Overhead shot of Flour and egg yolks bowl lemon tres leches cake
  • Step Five: Add The Lemon Juice, Lemon Zest, And Milk
    Add The Lemon Juice
    Add the lemon juice and zest to the mixture and combine with the rubber spatula.
    Add The Milk
    Then add the milk and continue to mix with the spatula.
    NOTE: Do not overmix.
    Overhead shot of Flour, Egg yolks, and lemon juice for lemon tres leches cake
  • Step Six: Fold In The Egg Whites
    Then, add the whisked egg white mixture and fold it into the batter. Do it carefully to keep the fluffiness in the batter.
    overhead shot Stiff egg whites in tres leches cake batter
  • Step Seven: Bake
    Add the batter to the buttered pan and distribute it evenly with the rubber spatula. Then, pop it in the preheated oven at 350 degrees. Remember to keep an eye on it and check for doneness with a fork or knife since baking time can vary depending on your oven. 
    side view of tres leches cake battter in buttered pan

Tres Leches

  • Step Eight – The Three Milks
    While the cake is baking, prepare the three milk or tres leches combination.
    Whisk the whole, evaporated, and condensed milk in a medium bowl until it’s well mixed. Keep it in the refrigerator until ready to add it to the cake.
    overhead shot og tres leches for lemon tres leches cake
  • After 30 minutes, check the cake for doneness and allow it to cool off slightly (2-5 minutes).
  • Step Nine – Poke Holes In The Cake
    To make sure the tres leches mixture gets into the cake evenly, poke some holes in the cake with a fork.
    overhead shot of lemon tres leches cake with fork holes
  • Step Ten – Add The Delicious Tres Leches Mix
    Keep the cake in the baking dish, and once it’s cool, add the three milk mix to the cake. Pouring it over the cook – you’ll notice the cake will start to soak the milk mixture.
    Once the baking dish has cooled off completely, place the cake in the refrigerator and allow it to cool before topping it with the lemon whipped cream.

Lemon Whipped Cream

  • Whisk the heavy cream in a large glass bowl with a handheld electric mixer, gradually adding the powdered sugar and lemon juice. Continually whisking on a low setting.
    overhead shot of lemon whipped cream
  • Important Tip: Whipped cream can be overmixed. Once the whipped cream starts to form, even slightly, stop the mixer. Otherwise, the whipped cream will break.
    Once the whipped cream is ready, slowly fold the lemon zest with a spatula.
  • Final Step
    Remove the cake from the fridge and top the cake with the lemon whipped cream. Use a rubber spatula or icing spatula.
    Garnish (optional) lightly with lemon zest. Serve and enjoy!
    overhead shot of lemon tres leches cake in baking dish

Notes

Storage

Store the lemon tres leches cake in the refrigerator for up to 3-4 days. Transfer the cake to a glass airtight container, or keep it in the original baking dish and cover.
Keyword lemon tres leches cake, tres leches cake
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