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  • Writer's pictureCulinary Cam

Tres Leches Cake, Not for the Lactose-Intolerant #FoodieReads

This cake makes an appearance in both The Cipher and A Different Dawn, books one and two of the Nina Guerrera series by Isabella Maldonado. It's a family favorite, so I decided to make one inspired by these novels.

These books aren't foodie books. Nina Guerrera - literally 'Warrior Girl - adopted her name after she escaped and survived a serial killer. Flashforward a decade and she is now an agent in the FBI. This is not a series for the squeamish. Think murder, mutilation, and rape. But (spoiler alert!) she always gets her guy. And she has a phenomenal team who know her history and support her through thick and thin.

There is plenty of food mentioned though as her team criss-crosses the county from hoagies, pizza, Boston baked beans, and carne asada burritos. I will definitely be making a bourbon pecan pie after reading this passage: "'And it couldn’t have been a real pecan pie unless it came fresh from the oven and there was bourbon in it.' 'Bourbon?' 'That’s how they make it in Savannah, where I’m from. In fact, if you want to taste the best bourbon pecan pie, you’ve got to go to the Pirate’s House Restaurant next to the Savannah River, it’s . . .' Breck trailed off, mouth open, eyes wide. 'Oh. My. Gawd'." OMG is right.

But, in both books, Nina's neighbor brings over a Tres Leches Cake. In book one: "'Hola, mi’ja.' Her next-door neighbor, Mrs. Gomez, stood in the doorway with a ceramic tray cradled in her hands and her seventeen-year-old foster daughter, Bianca, by her side. 'I wasn’t sure if you’d eaten, so I brought you some tres leches cake'." And, in book two: "'It’s tres leches, Bianca’s favorite.' The gorgeous dessert, with its dense yellow base covered in fluffy white frosting and topped with strawberries, had Nina’s mouth watering. The 'three milks' involved in making the cake were whole, condensed, and evaporated. In addition, whipped heavy cream was used to make the frosting."

"Definitely not a dessert for the lactose intolerant." - A Different Dawn

Pura Vida!

The first time we had a Tres Leches cake was in Costa Rica. We were celebrating my parents' birthdays and the restaurant owner said that we had to have the cake. We did and have been in love with it ever since.

We have made it multiple times since. And every time I marvel that the cake isn't a soggy mess. Seriously. How does that work? I have no idea. Truly.

Magically Not a Soggy Mess


makes one 9-inch square cake


  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter + some for prepping your baking pan

  • 1 cup cake flour

  • 3/4 cup organic granulated sugar

  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

  • 5 eggs

  • 1-1/2 teaspoon baking powder


  • 1 can evaporated milk (12 ounces)

  • 1 can sweetened condensed milk (14 ounces)

  • 1/3 cup organic heavy cream plus 1 cup more for the topping

  • sliced mango, for garnish


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Prepare your baking dish with butter and set aside.

Melt the butter in a small skillet. Remove from heat and set aside.

Separate your eggs, placing yolks in a larger mixing bowl and whites in a smaller one. Into the same bowl as the yolks, add in the flour, sugar, vanilla, and baking powder. Whisk to combine. Add in the melted butter.

Beat your egg whites until soft peaks form. Gently fold them into your batter. Try not to deflate the egg whites too much.

Spoon batter into prepared dish and bake for 30 minutes, until golden on top and spongy to the touch.

Remove the cake from pan and cool on a wire rack for 20 minutes. In the meantime, whisk together the three milks: evaporated milk, condensed milk, and 1/2 cup whipping cream. Pour into something from which you can pour easily; I used a measuring cup.

Once the cake is cool, place it on a rimmed cake platter or plate. Poke cake with a skewer or fork to help the milks absorb.

Pour a little bit at a time until the cake is saturated and it just begins to pour off the cake. Cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hour before serving.

To serve, beat the whipped cream into soft peaks and spoon over the cake. Garnish with sliced mango and serve immediately.

I am linking this to our online #FoodieReads group. Here are the other readers' books for June.

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Wendy Klik
Wendy Klik

Sounds like an interesting series.

Camilla M. Mann
Camilla M. Mann

It is. I just breezed through the third book in the series.

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