Strawberries and Cream Tres Leches Cake

Every year, I take it as a personal challenge to make the most over-the-top delicious and most “extra” possible birthday dessert for my husband. But of all of the cakes (and non-cakes) I’ve made for him, by far his favorite is any type of tres leches.

Tres leches is a Latin-American dessert consisting of a light sponge cake that is soaked with a mixture of “three milks” (the literal “tres leches”). It probably originated as a way to re-use stale cake, similar to an English trifle. Now, tres leches has been reimagined into all kinds of flavors and variations, and why not? It’s the perfect combination of airy cake and rich sweet cream, and it’s completely addictive.

This year, I was inspired by the strawberries that were just coming into season in time for my husband’s mid-May birthday. I mean, what better combination is there than strawberries and cream? My grandma used to serve strawberries to us that way – sliced up in a small bowl with thick cream poured on top. Try it. You won’t regret it.

This cake captures that sweet-tart-rich flavor combination perfectly. But I wanted to take it even further and pack as much fresh strawberry flavor as possible throughout the cake. The bright flavor of just-picked strawberries is very fleeting and can be hard to hold onto in baked goods. The solution? Roasted strawberries.

Roasting the strawberries concentrates their flavor, similar to what happens when you simmer berries to make jam. But roasting keeps a bit more texture, and the strawberries end up with a slight tangy caramelized flavor that stands out against the sweet cake.

(As a side note – you can absolutely use a good-quality, low-sugar strawberry jam as a substitute. It won’t have quite the intense flavor, but it will still be delicious.)

I toss quartered strawberries with just a little sugar and roast them for about 20 minutes, until the liquid is thick and syrupy and the strawberry smell has permeated the whole house. After taking them out of the oven, I mashed them slightly with a fork.

Some of the roasted strawberries are pureed into the three-milk mixture to make the most delicious strawberry milk you’ve ever tasted. It’s hard to resist just drinking this as is. The rest are both added into the cake batter and spread in between the cake layers, and they contrast perfectly with the sweet creaminess of the cake.


Before you do anything, preheat the oven to 375°F, and line two 8-inch cake pans with parchment paper and cooking spray.

After you’ve roasted the strawberries, begin preparing the cake batter. First, grind some freeze-dried strawberries into a fine powder.

Then, mix the dry ingredients together – flour, strawberry powder, baking powder, and salt.

Next, work with the eggs. Separate the yolks and whites into two different bowls. The yolks are beaten with sugar and vanilla until the mixture is thick and pale and the sugar has dissolved.

In another bowl, beat the egg whites until stiff peaks form.

Finally, combine the egg yolk mixture, 1/4 of the roasted strawberries, and flour mixture together. Then fold in the egg whites gently until everything is combined, but keep as much air as possible in the batter.

Pour the batter into the prepared pans, and bake for 20-25 minutes, or until a wooden skewer inserted in the cake comes out clean. Cool on the counter for about 10 minutes, then carefully remove the cakes from their pans (you’ll be putting them back in soon!) and remove the parchment paper.

While the cake cools, it’s time to make the strawberry “tres leches” itself. This milk mixture gets a boost from pureeing some of the roasted strawberries. In the pitcher of a blender, combine evaporated milk, condensed milk, and whole milk with about 1/3 of the roasted strawberries. Puree until smooth and creamy (try to resist pouring it into a glass and drinking it…).

Put the still-warm cakes back into their pans. Use a fork, skewer, or toothpick to poke holes all over the cakes. Then pour the strawberry milk all over the cakes, taking your time to allow it to soak in.

I found it helpful to carefully lift up the cake in the pan with a rubber spatula to allow some of the milk to run underneath. Once you’ve used as much of the milk mixture as possible, place the cakes in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours (overnight is best).

Assemble the cake right before you’re ready to serve. Before you assemble, put the cakes into the freezer for 15-20 minutes to firm up even more. This will make it easier to remove them from the pan and put the whole cake together.

While the cakes are in the freezer, make the whipped cream. Combine heavy cream, powdered sugar, and a pinch of salt in the bowl of a stand mixer, and whip until stiff peaks form (about 2-3 minutes). You don’t want the whipped cream to be too soft, otherwise it will just run down the sides of the cake.

Carefully remove one of the soaked cakes from its pan and place it on a rimmed plate or cake stand. Spread the rest of the roasted strawberries on top, then place the other cake on top of the strawberries.

Scoop the whipped cream on top of the cake in a thick layer. Top with sliced fresh strawberries, the rest of the strawberry powder if desired, and get ready to serve!

Can I make it in a sheet cake pan?

Yes, this cake works very well as a sheet cake. To be honest, making tres leches in a 13 x 9 baking dish is much simpler than the layer cake version. But the layer cake looks more impressive, and I wanted as festive a cake as possible for my husband’s birthday.

If you follow the tips I give – removing the cakes from the pan before soaking, and freezing the cakes before assembly – the layer cake version is pretty easy, too. But if I were making this cake for a dinner party or potluck, I would definitely do it in a sheet cake pan.

The procedure is the same, just bake the cake in a single rectangular pan rather than the round pans. Once the cake is soaked, then spread the roasted strawberries on top, and top with whipped cream and sliced strawberries. Done!

(I’ve included instructions for the sheet pan version of this cake in the “Notes” section of the recipe below).

How long will the cake keep in the refrigerator?

Keep the leftovers covered in the refrigerator for up to 5 days (if it lasts that long…). After that, the soaked cake gets a little too soft and hard to eat.

I kept mine on a plate and covered it with a cake stand cover for the first day. Then I stored individual slices in sealed plastic containers for a day or two after that. The sheet cake version can be stored, covered, right in the cake pan.

I seriously doubt this cake will last more than a couple days, however! I can’t think of a better way to celebrate strawberry season than the cake version of strawberries and cream.

Strawberries and Cream Tres Leches

This cake is a celebration of summer strawberries! There’s strawberry in every step – strawberry sponge cake, strawberry milk mixture, roasted strawberry filling, and sliced strawberries on top. Strawberries and Cream Tres Leches manages to be both light and rich, just like a bowl of fresh strawberries and cream.
Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Inactive time 4 hours
Total Time 5 hours
Course Dessert
Servings 12 slices


  • Silicone baking mat (optional)
  • parchment paper
  • Sheet pan
  • Food processor or spice grinder
  • 3 medium/large bowls
  • 2 (8-inch) round cake pans
  • Stand mixer or hand mixer
  • Blender
  • Plate or cake stand with a rim around the edge


Strawberry sponge cake

  • 2.5 lbs. fresh strawberries divided
  • 1.2 oz. 1 package freeze dried strawberries
  • 1 ¼ c. all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 6 large eggs separated
  • ¾ c. plus 2 tbsp. sugar divided
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract

Milk mixture:

  • 12 oz. can evaporated milk
  • 14 oz. can sweetened condensed milk
  • 8 oz. 1 c. whole milk

Whipped cream:

  • 1 ½ c. heavy whipping cream
  • 2 tbsp. powdered sugar
  • pinch of salt


Prepare roasted strawberries:

  • Preheat the oven to 375°F. Set aside ½ pound of strawberries to garnish the final cake. Quarter the other 2 pounds of strawberries and toss with 2 tbsp of sugar.
  • Roast the strawberries on a silicone- or parchment-lined baking sheet for about 20 minutes. The roasted strawberries should be deep red, glossy, and the juice should be thick and syrupy. Be careful not to over-roast or burn the berries.
  • Scoop the roasted strawberries into a bowl. Use a fork or potato masher to slightly smash the berries.
    Divide the roasted strawberries in half, then divide one of the halves into quarters. Half of the strawberries will be used between the cake layers, 1/4 is for the milk mixture, and 1/4 will be stirred into the batter.

Make the sponge cake:

  • Using a food processor or spice grinder, grind the freeze-dried strawberries into a fine powder. Measure ¼ cup of strawberry powder to use in the cake batter; set the rest aside.
  • Lower the oven temperature to 325°F. Spray two 8-inch cake pans with cooking spray, then line the bottom of each pan with a circle of parchment. Spray the parchment with cooking spray. (For instructions on how to make this cake in a sheet cake pan rather than as a layer cake, see the “Notes” section below.)
  • Mix the dry ingredients. To a medium bowl, add the flour, ¼ cup of strawberry powder, baking powder, and salt, and stir with a fork or wire whisk to combine.
  • Prepare the wet ingredients. Separate the egg whites and yolks, being careful not to leave any yolk residue in the egg whites (otherwise they won’t whip up). Using a stand mixer or hand mixer, beat the egg yolks with the vanilla and ¾ cup of sugar until the mixture becomes thick and light colored, and until the sugar has dissolved – about 3 minutes.
  • In another clean bowl, whip the egg whites (with a stand mixer or hand mixer) until stiff peaks form, about 5-6 minutes on medium speed.
  • Combine the batter. Using a rubber spatula, gently stir the dry ingredients and 1/4 of the roasted strawberries into the yolk mixture until completely combined. Then gently fold in the egg whites until the mixture is smooth. Try to keep as much air as possible in the batter.
  • Divide the batter into the two cake pans and bake for 20-25 minutes, or until a wooden toothpick inserted into the cake comes out clean. Allow the cakes to cool in the pan for about 10 minutes while you prepare the milk mixture. Remove the cakes from the pans and set onto a cooling rack until you are ready to soak them. There’s no need to cool completely – the milk mixture will absorb better into a slightly warm cake.

Prepare the strawberry milk:

  • In a blender, combine the evaporated milk, condensed milk, whole milk, and about 1/3 of the roasted strawberries. Blend until completely smooth. Set the remaining roasted strawberries aside in the refrigerator until you are ready to assemble the cake.

Soak the cake:

  • Put the warm cakes back into their cake pans (remove the parchment liners first.) Use a fork, wooden skewer, or toothpick to poke holes all over the cakes.
  • Pour the strawberry milk gently over the cakes, giving it a few minutes to soak in. If necessary, use a rubber spatula to lift the bottom of the cakes in the pans to allow the strawberry milk to soak underneath.
  • Once you’ve poured as much of the strawberry milk as possible over the cakes, cover them in plastic wrap and place them in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours (or overnight).

Assemble the cake:

  • When you are close to serving the tres leches, place the soaked cakes in the freezer for about 15 minutes. This will firm them up a bit more and make it easier to remove them from the pans.
  • While the cakes chill in the freezer, make the whipped cream. In the bowl of a stand mixer (or using a hand mixer), combine the heavy cream, powdered sugar, and a pinch of salt, and whip until stiff peaks form, about 2-3 minutes.
  • Remove the cakes from the freezer. Use a rubber spatula to gently lift one soaked cake out of the pan and place it on a plate or cake stand. Be sure to use something with a rim around the edge to collect any strawberry milk that seeps from the cake. Spread the remaining roasted strawberries on top of the first cake. Then remove the second cake from its pan and place on top of the strawberries. Top with the whipped cream. Slice the remaining fresh strawberries and arrange them on top of the whipped cream. If desired, sprinkle the remaining strawberry powder over the top. Keep the cake in the refrigerator until you are ready to serve.


– This cake can be made as a simple sheet cake rather than in layers. Prepare a 13 x 9 rectangular baking dish or sheet cake pan as noted above, with parchment and cooking spray. Once the batter is made, pour all of it into the pan, and bake for 22-28 minutes. After cooling the cake for about 10 minutes, poke holes and soak the cake as described above. After the soaked cake has chilled for at least 4 hours (or overnight), assemble it with a layer of roasted strawberries on top, followed by whipped cream and fresh sliced strawberries as a garnish. Cut in squares and serve!
– In a pinch, you can use a good-quality strawberry jam instead of roasting the strawberries. The roasted strawberries give a deep, intense, concentrated strawberry flavor without adding too much sweetness, but jam or preserves would work as well. Choose a low-sugar jam so it contrasts with the sweetness of the cake.
Keyword sponge cake, strawberry, tres leches, whipped cream

Dianna Grabowski

Dianna is a gardener and professional singer living in East Texas. After discovering her latent green thumb, she now has over 10 years of practical gardening experience. Dianna founded The Fruit Grove in 2022 as a way to expand and share her knowledge and love of growing fresh fruit.

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