This take on a classic Mexican dessert is cake, custard and meringue all at once… swoon

El Bosco chef Ismael Castro shares his mother’s Tres Leches recipe — his childhood fave may soon be your fave.

El Bosco chef Ismael Castro shares his mother’s Tres Leches recipe — his childhood fave may soon be your fave

(Photography by Ashley Gollogly)

You don’t need to go searching for a cotton candy-wrapped, gummy worm-stuffed ice cream burrito to find the mash-up dessert of your dreams. This take on a classic Mexican dessert, Tres Leches, is cake, custard and meringue wrapped into one irresistible sweet — that’s actually elegant enough to serve at a dinner party. It comes to us from Toronto’s El Bosco Catering, and it’s been a favourite of chef Ismael Castro’s since his mom started making it for him as a young child in Mexico. “I have always liked [its] moist dessert texture,” he says, “and the Tres Leches, it soaks in the three milks” to get that signature sponginess. 

Typically, traditional Tres Leches cakes do not include custard, but Castro uses it here as a kind of icing in between cake layers, simply because “that is how my mother made it. She always made it with custard.” As a result, he removes the customary condensed milk from the soaking process to cut down on sweetness, but for those keeping track — don’t fret! — the third milk is right there in the custard. And if you really, really want to play with the rules, Castro says Baileys Irish Cream is a great swap for the condensed milk in the soaking step. “It’s creamy and licoricey and makes it very good as well,” he says. “I love my candies.”

Tres Leches Cake (Triple Milk Cake)

By Ismael Castro

If I would pair the Tres Leches [with anything] it would be just with a nice, black Columbian coffee,” Castro says. “You don’t need anything else. You’ve got the sugar, you’ve got the cream, you’ve got everything there. A plain black coffee would be amazing.”


Chiffon Cake:

  • 6 eggs
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 tsp baking powder


  • 1 (250 mL) can condensed milk
  • 1 (250 mL) can evaporated milk
  • 4 egg yolks
  • 2 tbsp cornstarch
  • 1 tbsp vanilla extract

Fluffy Meringue Frosting:

  • 3 egg whites
  • ¼ tsp cream of tartar
  • ½ cup icing sugar

Milk Mix:

  • 1 cup evaporated milk
  • 1 cup 2% milk

For garnish:

  • Chocolate shavings
  • Strawberries


Chiffon Cake:

Separate the egg whites and yolks. In a bowl, mix the yolks thoroughly with sugar, then add the flour and baking powder. 

In another bowl, whip the egg whites until you achieve stiff peaks. 

Fold the whipped egg whites into the yolk mixture. Pour the mixture into a 9x13 inch baking pan prepared with parchment paper or with some butter and flour. 

Bake at 350F degrees for 25-35 minutes. Let the chiffon cake rest and cool.


Add all ingredients to a pot and simmer, stirring frequently, until they reach a thick, pudding-like viscosity, about 15-20 minutes. Set aside to cool.

Fluffy Meringue Frosting:

In a bowl, whip the egg whites with the cream of tartar, then slowly add the icing sugar until stiff peaks form. 

Milk Mix:

In a bowl, combine both milks. 


Once the chiffon cake is cooled, cut it in half lengthwise into two even layers. Put the bottom half back into the baking pan, and pour half of the milk mix over top to soak. 

Once the cake is moistened, spread a layer of custard on top. Cover the custard with the dry layer of cake, then pour the remaining milk mix over top to soak. 

Spread the Fluffy Meringue Frosting over the cake, and garnish with shaved chocolate and strawberries (or your favourite fruit). Refrigerate.

Served chilled. Enjoy!

Yield: Makes 8 servings


To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.

Become a CBC Account Holder

Join the conversation  Create account

Already have an account?