Dreamy Lemon Tres Leches Cake

What’s better than a creamy tres leches cake…? A lemon tres leches cake of course! This cake consists of a fragrant lemon sponge that’s soaked in a creamy lemon milk syrup, and topped with fluffy lemon whipped cream. A treat perfect for lemon lovers.

lemon tres leches cake
Lemon Tres Leches Cake

About The Recipe

What is Tres Leches?

Tres leches is a traditional Latin American dessert that you’ll find in nearly all Mexican restaurants and bakeries. It’s made up of a sponge cake that soaked in a milk syrup which, as the name suggests(“tres leches” means three milks) , contains three types of milk- whole milk, condensed milk and evaporated milk. Although the cake is saturated in liquid, it’s not dense, in fact, tres leches is known for it light and airy texture. Read more heare.

This recipe is a lemon flavored tres leches, and all you need to make it lemon flavored, are lemons! No artificial flavorings at all. In fact the lemon flavor that comes from fresh lemons is hard to beat using any artificial flavoring. The cake starts with a lemon sponge that soaked in a lemon milk bath, and then topped with a lightly sweetened lemon whipped cream.

Too Much Lemon?

If you’d like to cut down on the lemon flavor, or lemon’s just not your thing I suggest making the classic tres leches cake, (checkout my recipe) or you could make a plane sponge cake instead of a lemon sponge cake. The lemon flavor will still be there due to the lemon milk bath and whipped cream.

What you Need To Make Lemon Tres Leches Cake

Ingredients for lemon sponge cake

Ingredients for lemon milk bath

Eggs: Cold eggs are easier to separate into whites and yolk. Remember to let them come to room temperature before using.

Lemons: I used 4 medium sized lemons in total, and the juice of only one of them. When zesting the lemons, be careful not to grate all the way through into the white part as it is quite bitter.

Butter: Does not have to be at room temperature as it’s going to be melted anyway.

Milk: I recommend using whole milk as there is no evaporated milk in the lemon milk bath.

Whipped Cream

For this cake I used a cream Chantilly, which is basically whipped cream in powdered form, you just add cold milk and whip it up. So to make it lemon flavored, I added lemon zest to the milk and let it sit in the refrigerator for an hour which caused the lemon flavor to be infused into the milk. Then I used the cold milk to whip the cream Chantilly.

If you want to use fresh cream just do the same, but instead of the milk, add the lemon zest into the heavy whipping cream. Then beat it with a little sugar and voila, you got delicious lemon whipped cream without adding any artificial flavorings. The full measurements are available in the written recipe below.

How To Make Lemon Tres Leches Cake

Step 1: Prepare the lemon sponge cake.

Beat the egg whites with a teaspoon of lemon juice (for stabilizing egg whites, not for flavoring) and sugar until stiff peaks form. Separately combine the egg yolks with milk, lemon juice and zest, vanilla and butter. Sift in the dry ingredients and mix.

Meringue should look like this.

Add some of the meringue into the egg yolks and mix. Add all of the egg yolk mixture into the meringue and fold until incorporated.

Combine meringue and egg yolk mixture.

Bake in a preheated oven at 160 degrees Celsius (320 Fahrenheit). I used an 8*8 square baking tray. I recommend that you do not use a pan bigger that this, or your cake will be pretty flat.

Step 2: Make the lemon milk bath.

Mix together the condensed and whole milk and lemon zest. Cover and let it sit in the refrigerator or an hour.

Step 3: Make the lemon whipped cream.

Add lemon zest to your heavy cream, or milk if you’re using Cream Chantilly. Cover and refrigerate for an hour. After an hour strain the cream and beat with some sugar to stiff peaks. You could even add a tiny bit of yellow food coloring to your cream to give it a beautiful light yellow color.

Lemon whipped cream.

Step 4: Assemble and rest.

Poke hole into the cake using a toothpick, pour on the milk syrup while straining it through a sieve. Let that sit for 10-15 minutes. Add on the whipped cream and spread it out. Top with some freshly grated lemon zest. Refrigerate for at least an hour before serving. It’s best served cold.

Storing The Cake

This lemon tres leches cake can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 5 days. You could make the cake 1-2 days in advance. I usually make it a night before so the cake has plenty of time for the milk to soak up.

Freezing The Cake

If you’re planning to freeze the cake it’s best to add the milk syrup and whipped cream after thawing the cake. Wrap the sponge cake in plastic wrap then in aluminum foil and freeze for up to three months. Thaw in the refrigerator and add the milk syrup and whipped cream.

Pro Tips

  • Measure the dry and wet ingredients properly. For the flour spoon it into a measuring cup and level it using the back of a spoon.
  • Cold eggs are easier into whites and yolks, so separate them and then let them come to room temperature before using.
  • Use a spatula to fold the egg whites and egg yolk mixture. Once fully incorporated stop mixing, do not overmix otherwise your cake will deflate. This is because the cake relise on the volume of the eggs to rise.
  • Rest the cake for at least an hour before serving, this is key for the perfect lemon tres leches cake.
  • Baking in a glass or ceramic baking dish is best to get a nice rise on the cake, plus you could serve it just as it is.

FAQ’s

Can I make the cake ahead of time?

You could make tres leches cake 1-2 days in advance. I usually make it a night before so the cake has plenty of time for the milk to soak up. 

Is lemon tres leches cake better than a classic tres leches?

It definitely depends on personal preference, but I love a delicious tres leches cake no matter the flavor. I should add that this dessert is a dream come true for lemon lovers :). If you’d like to make a classic tres leches, try this recipe.

Can I make the cake with lemon extract?

If you prefer, yes, but I recommend using a vanilla sponge recipe(<–I used this one in my classic tres leches recipe) and swapping out the vanilla extract for lemon extract instead.

Recipe Card

Lemon Tres Leches Cake

What’s better than a creamy tres leches cake…? A lemon tres leches cake of course! This lemon tres leches cake consists of a fragrant lemon sponge that soaked in a creamy lemon milk syrup, and topped with fluffy lemon whipped cream. A treat perfect for lemon lovers.

Prep Time: 30 min

Cook Time: 30 min

Rest Time: 2 hours

Total Time: 3 hours

Course: Dessert

Servings: 12

Calories: 232kcal

Ingredients

For lemon sponge

  • 2 egg yolks
  • 4 egg whites
  • 1/2 tsp lemon juice, for stabilizing egg whites
  • 1/2 cup sugar, 100g
  • 1/2 cup + 1 tbsp. milk, 130g
  • 3 tbsp. melted butter, 40g
  • zest of 2 lemons
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 3/4 cup all purpose flour, 120g
  • 1/4 tsp salt

For lemon milk bath

  • 1 + 3/4 cup whole milk, ~430g
  • 1/3 cup condensed milk, 80g
  • zest of 1 lemon

For lemon cream

  • 250ml heavy whipping cream
  • 3 tbsp. granulated sugar
  • zest of 1 lemon

Instructions

Prepare the milk bath and heavy cream

  1. In a small bowl mix together the whole milk, condensed milk and lemon zest. Cover and refrigerate for an hour.
  2. Add lemon zest into the heavy whipping cream and mix. Cover and refrigerate for an hour as well. ( Or add lemon zest into milk if using cream Chantilly, use amount mentioned on box.)

Make Lemon Sponge Cake

  1. Preheat the oven to 160 degrees Celsius, or 320 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. In a medium sized bowl beat the egg whites with 1/2 tsp of lemon juice using a whisk, hand or stand mixer. Once frothy start adding the sugar gradually. Beat to stiff peaks, 3-4 minutes, and set aside.
  3. In a separate small sized bowl mix together the egg yolks, melted butter, vanilla, milk, lemon juice and zest.
  4. Sift in the all purpose flour, baking powder and salt. Mix until combined.
  5. Add a third of the egg whites into the yolk mixture and fold together. Add all of the yolk mixture into the remaining egg whites and carefully fold together until combined, do not overmix.
  6. Pour the batter onto a greased and lined baking tray and bake for 25-30 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Let the cake cool completely before proceeding with the next step.

Assembly

  1. Strain the heavy cream and beat with sugar until stiff peaks form. Or make the cream Chantilly using box instructions.
  2. Poke holes all over the cake using a toothpick. Pour on the milk syrup through a sieve to prevent the lemon zest from getting into the cake. Let it sit for about 10 minutes.
  3. Add on the whipped cream and spread it out using an offset spatula. Add some freshly grated lemon zest to top it off.
  4. Let the lemon tres leches cake rest for at least an hour before serving. Enjoy!

Nutrition

Calories: 232.21kcal

Total Fat: 21.36g

Carbs: 26.25g

Sugars: 18.21g

Protein: 4.8g

Sodium: 158.07mg

Fiber: 0.44g

** Nutritional information is based on third-party calculations and should be considered an estimate only. Actual nutritional content will vary based upon brands used, measuring methods, cooking method, portion sizes, and more. **

Watch Video Tutorial

Lemon Tres Leches Cake Video Tutorial

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