A Food & Travel Blog

Orange Tres Leches Cake

22/11/2013 | By

tres leches cake

Like many good recipes, the origins of Tres Leches Cake are shrouded in mystery. The name literally translates to “three milks cake” and that is basically what it is – either a light sponge or a butter cake soaked in a blend of condensed milk, evaporated milk and whole milk. It is very popular in South America with some claims that it originated in Nicaragua, others that it was a Mexican invention and yet others that say it was developed by a canned milk company who printed the recipe on their labels. While the latter claim is true, doubt surrounds the timing of the labels and their appearance in relation to the appearance of the cake.

indugent dessert - Tres Leches Cake

The cake itself started to become popular early last century and a fondness for it has since spread into the United States and the Carribean. After baking, the cake is perforated and a mixture of the milks is gradually spooned over and allowed to soak in, resulting in a rich, moist, cooling cake which is then covered in either meringue or whipped cream and sometimes fruit. Because of this, it is best made at least eight hours before required or, even better, the day before to allow it soak up as much as possible. As you can imagine with such a moist treat, this is not the sort of cake that you can munch on the run but it is a wonderfully indulgent dessert cake – which is exactly what I wanted to serve after a barbecue for friends last weekend.

As ever, I had plans to tweak the traditional recipe as I had some luscious glacéd oranges which I’d bought from the famed fig folk, Willabrand, at Adelaide Farmers Market. I was wondering if I was just being sloppy in my hunting, but glacéd fruit seems to have all but vanished from the shelves over the last few years. It seems that, for once, it isn’t just me and in fact the company up in the Riverland that used to produce it closed down some time ago. Spotting a need, Willa Wauchope of Willabrand, is producing some gorgeous glacéd products including pineapple, apricots, orange, muscatel grapes on the bunch, figs and their glorious saffron pears.

Of course, this is all on top of their popular range of fig products and Willa has told me they have plans for even more glacéd fruit in the new year! Locals can get their hands on these delicious products at Adelaide Farmers Markets, good gourmet cheese stores, some of the Foodland stores and the Adelaide Central Market. Interstaters don’t need to miss out as they have an online shop for web ordering, too.

Better the next day - Tres Leches Cake

But, back to the cake! This is a simple recipe and quick to make, but I used my KitchenAid to mix the batter for this as it takes a bit of beating. You want to get the eggs as thick and creamy as possible before adding the flour. This is not a particularly sweet cake and I intended to scatter it with my chopped glacéd oranges so, in order to accent the orange flavour, I unearthed the bottle of Cointreau that was languishing in the depths of my pantry. I was quite happy with the result, even if it is a little off the beaten path for this style of cake. My guests were even happier!

Orange Tres Leches Cake

Make this at least 8 hours before you want to serve it. This is simple to make, but a good stand mixer is an asset - unless you have strong arms!
Prep Time10 mins
Cook Time35 mins
Total Time45 mins
Course: Dessert
Servings: 12
Author: Amanda McInerney of www.lambsearsandhoney.com


  • 120 gms 1/2 cup butter, melted and cooled
  • 1 1/2 cups SR flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
  • 5 large eggs
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla paste
  • 1 can sweetened condensed milk
  • 1 can evaporated milk
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 100 mls Cointreau divided into 2 x 50 mls
  • 2 cups cream
  • 1/2 cup chopped glaced oranges


  • Preheat oven to 160C (350F). Lightly butter a 9-by-13-inch baking dish.
  • CAKE
  • In a large bowl, using an electric mixer with a whisk, beat eggs and 3/4 cup sugar on high until pale and thick - approx. 4 minutes.
  • Add vanilla and 50 mls of Cointreau, beat to combine. With mixer on low, gradually add flour and salt, beat to combine.
  • Gently fold in melted butter until incorporated.
  • Transfer batter to dish and bake until top is golden brown and a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean, 30 to 35 minutes, rotating dish halfway through.
  • In a medium bowl, whisk together milks. Poke warm cake all over with a skewer or fork, then slowly spoon milk mixture over top and let cool to room temperature. Cover and refrigerate.
  • At least one hour before serving, whip cream and 1/4 cup of sugar together until soft peaks form. Fold in Cointreau then cover the cake with the cream, scatter with the fruit.


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  1. Jennifer @ Delicieux

    Oh Amanda, this looks so insanely good. I’d love a big slice with my cup of tea. It also sounds like I’ll need to get my hands on some of the Willabrand saffron pears. They sound divine.

  2. Jason @ Plenty Of Zest

    Looks great Amanda! A cake with a good hit of Cointreau would be a hit with my Mum, something to remember.

  3. Kate

    I can’t wait to get back home and bake this, even, I am thinking, as a Xmas dessert option.

  4. Helen (Grab Your Fork)

    Ooh I love tres leche cake! Boozy candied oranges would have worked a treat too. *Hic*

  5. Hotly Spiced

    This is very pretty, Amanda. I love how you decorated it with the orange pieces. I have never tried a tres leches cake but anything with condensed milk is a favourite of mine for sure xx

  6. InTolerant Chef

    What a wonderful looking cake indeed- even if it’s out of bounds for lactose free me!I bet the rich of orange went so well with that amazing looking glace fruit 🙂

  7. Maureen | Orgasmic Chef

    John’s son is bringing his new partner up this weekend for Thanksgiving. She’s from Chicago but her parents are from Mexico and the Caribbean. I have been trying to think of something to acknowledge that at dinner and this is it!! I’ve already printed it out.

  8. Amanda McInerney

    I’m glad my timing was so good for you Maureen. I’d love to hear about your take on this delicious dessert.

  9. Jamie

    Well there it is YOUR Cointreau cake and you made me go and create an Oranges! board on Pinterest for our two Orange Cointreau Cakes! It looks outrageously good, super moist and flavorful. And you know how I love orange cointreau cake!

  10. Fran @ G'day Souffle'

    I can’t wait to return to Adelaide in one week, so I can shop at the Central Market. No place like it in San Diego- I’ve got to get on the dang freeway and drive all over the place to buy fresh duck! I’ll have to check out Willabrand’s!

  11. Lizzy (Good Things)

    I noticed that glace’d fruit has disappeared too, Amanda. A lovely recipe. Thank you for sharing.