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Turn up the heat with this decadent Mexican Chocolate Tres Leches Cake! When a traditional tres leches cake just won’t do, add a bit of chocolate, cinnamon, and cayenne pepper for a spicy surprise everyone will love!
So let’s talk about cake.
In my experience, tres leches cake is one of those things that people either love or hate. It’s a completely different kind of dessert than a lot of people are used to.
If you like to pair your cake with or dunk your Oreos in a tall glass of milk, then this Mexican Chocolate Tres Leches Cake will be right up your alley.
JUST TAKE ME TO THE MEXICAN CHOCOLATE TRES LECHES CAKE ALREADY!
If you’d rather skip my (pretty darn helpful) tips and tricks, essential cooking info, and similar recipe ideas – and get straight to this deliciously easy Chocolate Tres Leches cake recipe, just scroll right on down to the bottom of the page where you can find the printable recipe card!
I’ve been a milk drinker my whole life. Matter of fact, there is photographic evidence of my as a baby drinking chocolate milk from a bottle.
So naturally, using it in a cake is something I’m totally down with.
Traditionally, tres leches cake (like my Pina Colada Tres Leches Cake) itself is a very basic cake made from folding whipped egg whites into batter. This creates a very dense, spongey cake that’s perfect for soaking up the milks that go into it.
While that’s a great method, if you’re looking for an easy version, you CAN make tres leches cake with cake mix!
And I often do, with tasty results!
What Is Tres Leches Cake?
Tres leches means “three milks” in English, and that pretty much describes it. Created in the Central America area, tres leches cake is traditionally a dense, moist cake that has been soaked in a blend of three types of milk:
- Sweetened condensed milk
- Evaporated milk
- Whole milk or heavy cream
The milks are simmered together to blend the flavors and create an even consistency. Then, while the cake is still hot from the oven, it is poked with a skewer and the blended milks are poured over. The cake acts as a sponge, soaking up the milks and creating a moist (but not mushy), creamy dessert experience.
OK, Sounds Interesting. So What Is Mexican Chocolate?
Mexican chocolate is similar to regular chocolate, except for its texture and heat! It’s a bit grainier than normal chocolate, but grates and melts well, making it ideal for ganache, hot cocoa, and baked goods.
As for flavor, Mexican chocolate has a bit of spice to it thanks to the added cinnamon, the traditional kind.
Good news! You don’t have to go out and buy special chocolate for this chocolate tres leches cake recipe. You can easily create the taste and feel of Mexican chocolate using cocoa powder, ground cinnamon, and a bit of cayenne pepper (if you’re so inclined).
Making this Mexican Chocolate Tres Leches Cake should NOT intimidate anyone, even the most noice baker! It’s super easy to throw together (thanks to the boxed cake mix), and can be ready to eat in as little as 3 hours.
How To Make Tres Leches Cake
First things first – preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. Prep a 9×13 cake pan by greasing the inside with butter or baking spray.
Next, grab a large bowl and dump in all the ingredients – chocolate cake mix, hot coffee, vegetable oil, eggs, vanilla, cinnamon, and cayenne pepper (for a little extra kick). Beat it all together with an electric mixer (hand or stand) on low speed until it’s well combined, then pour it into the prepared pan. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean.
While the cake is baking, make the tres leches soaking liquid. Add condensed milk, evaporated milk, heavy cream, cocoa powder, and salt to a 2-quart saucepan and set it on a medium-low stovetop. Cook 3-5 minutes, stirring frequently, until the cocoa powder dissolves and the mixture begins to bubble around the edges. Remove the pan from the heat and transfer the milks to a large, heatproof measuring cup.
Now, remove the fully baked cake from the oven and, using a skewer or fork, poke holes all over the cake, all the way to the bottom. Pour the milk mixture slowly over the cake, starting at the edges and pausing to let it soak in before adding more. Cover the cake loosely with plastic wrap and refrigerate until it’s well chilled, at least 2 hours and up to 24 hours.
Finally, make the chocolate whipped cream! When you’re almost ready to serve the cake, beat some heavy cream in a large bowl with an electric mixer on medium speed. When it begins to thicken, add powdered sugar, cocoa powder, and vanilla. Continue to beat for 3 to 4 minutes, until firm peaks begin to form. Be careful not to over-beat the whipped cream!
Spread the whipped cream over the top of the cake. Dust it with cayenne pepper and cinnamon, if desired, or sprinkle with chocolate curls. Serve chilled, refrigerating leftovers in a sealed container.
LOOKING FOR MORE SPANISH DESSERT RECIPES?
- Ultimate Reese’s Tres Leches Cupcakes
- Churro Cheesecake Cookie Bars
- Orange Coconut Flan
- Paloma Citrus Cake with Tequila-Lime Glaze
- Sopapilla Cheesecake
- Mexican Chocolate Pots de Creme
HELPFUL KITCHEN TOOLS FOR MAKING TRES LECHES CAKE:
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Mexican Chocolate Tres Leches Cake
Mexican Chocolate Cake
- 1 (15 ounce) box chocolate fudge cake mix
- 1 ¼ cups hot coffee or water or milk
- ½ cup vegetable oil or canola or avocado oil
- 3 large eggs
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- ½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
Tres Leches Milk
- 1 (14 ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
- 1 (12 ounce) can evaporated milk
- ½ cup heavy whipping cream
- ½ cup cocoa powder
- Pinch kosher salt
Chocolate Whipped Cream
- 2 cups heavy whipping cream
- ¼ cup powdered sugar
- ¼ cup cocoa powder
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Mexican Chocolate Cake
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Coat the inside of a 9x13-inch pan with butter or baking spray and set aside.
- In a large bowl, beat cake mix, coffee, canola oil, eggs, vanilla, cinnamon, and cayenne pepper with an electric hand mixer on low speed until just combined. Increase speed to medium and continue beating 2 minutes until combined. Pour into prepared pan.
- Bake 30-35 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Remove from the oven and, using a skewer or fork, poke holes in the cake, all the way to the bottom.
Tres Leches Milk
- While cake is baking, heat a 2-quart saucepan over medium-low heat. Add condensed milk, evaporated milk, heavy cream, cocoa powder, and salt, stirring until well blended. Cook 3-5 minutes, stirring frequently, until the cocoa powder dissolves and the mixture begins to bubble around the edges.
- Remove from heat and transfer to a large heatproof measuring cup.
- While the cake is still hot, pour the milk mixture slowly over the cake, starting at the edges and pausing to let it soak in before adding more. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and refrigerate until the cake is well chilled, 2-24 hours (the longer, the better!).
Chocolate Whipped Cream
- In a large bowl, beat the heavy cream with an electric hand mixer on medium speed. When it begins to thicken, add the sugar, cocoa powder, and vanilla. Continue to beat 3-4 minutes, until firm peaks begin to form (being careful not to over-mix).
- Spread the whipped cream over the top of the cake. Dust with cayenne and cinnamon, if desired, or sprinkle with chocolate curls. Serve chilled, refrigerating leftovers in a sealed container.