Chocolate Tres Leches Cake

This cake. Oh, this cake. It was born out of an obsession that has lasted years, really. After the magic that was (and is) this coconut tres leches cake, I have been trying to decide if it was worth going down the road I wanted to travel: a chocolate version. I knew it could end badly (read: soggy, washed out cake and dull chocolate flavor) so I tested and tested and tested.

Chocolate Tres Leches Cake

And this is it, baby. The most glorious confection to pass my lips. This week. But still! It’s awesome. Instead of being soggy, the thick, decadent chocolate syrup melds this cake into a dense, rich pudding-like consistency. Lightened with the sweetened whipped cream, and I’m not kidding you, I was sneaking into the fridge all hours of the night to get Just to help you gain perspective on that statement – not eating after dinner is one of my hard fast rules that I hardly ever break (my only way to justify all the calorie intake during the day!) and this chocolate tres leches cake proved to be my undoing. I know it has to be out of this world when I’m willing to sacrifice after-dinner calories (and guilt) to have another bite.

Seriously. Just make it. Please. Like, run to your kitchen now and start. I don’t care if you have a life and a job and responsibilities and for real important things to do. Find a way. You won’t regret it.

Chocolate Tres Leches Cake

One Year Ago: Chocolate Nutella {2-Minute} Mug Cake
Two Years Ago: Split Pea Soup with Barley and Ham {Slow Cooker}
Three Years Ago: Hawaiian Haystacks: Chicken Sauce Reinvented

Chocolate Tres Leches Cake

Yield: Serves 12-16

Chocolate Tres Leches Cake

Note: I used one of my favorite (easy and egg-free) chocolate cakes for this recipe. But you could really use any 9X13-inch chocolate cake recipe, in fact, the beauty of this recipe is that because of the chocolate milk mixture poured on top of the cake, the cake part is especially forgiving (overbaked a little? No problem.). By the way, this cake can (and should) be made in advance - up to 24 hours. Sweet!


  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup natural cocoa powder
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2/3 cup vegetable or canola oil
  • 2 tablespoons distilled white vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 cups water
  • Chocolate Milk Mixture:
  • 1 (14-ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
  • 6 ounces semisweet or bittersweet chocolate, chopped (about 1 cup)
  • 1 (12-ounce) can evaporated milk
  • 1/3 cup whipping cream or half-and-half
  • Sweetened whipped cream
  • Cocoa powder for dusting


  1. For the cake, adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 350 degrees. Coat a 9X13-inch baking pan with nonstick cooking spray. Whisk flour, sugar, cocoa, baking soda, and salt together in the baking pan.
  2. Make 1 large and 2 small craters in dry ingredients. Add oil to large crater and vinegar and vanilla separately to remaining small craters. Pour water into pan and mix until just a few streaks of flour remain. Use a rubber spatula to spread the batter evenly in the pan if it isn’t level after mixing. Immediately put pan in oven.
  3. Bake until toothpick inserted in center of cake comes out with a few moist crumbs attached, about 23-25 minutes. Remove the cake from the oven and let it cool in the pan on a wire rack until cooled completely.
  4. Using a bamboo skewer or tines of a fork, poke holes all over the top of the cake. In a glass liquid measure or a microwave-safe bowl, combine the sweetened condensed milk and the chocolate. Microwave for one minute and stir. If not completely melted and smooth, microwave for an additional 30 seconds until melted and smooth. Whisk in the evaporated milk and heavy cream (or half-and-half). The mixture will start out very, very thick. Don't worry! It will thin out as you whisk in the other milks.
  5. Slowly pour or ladle spoonfuls of the chocolate mixture over the top of the cake. Let the liquid absorb before adding more. Ladle the liquid onto the cake until all the chocolate mixture has been used. It's ok if there is excess liquid pooled on top of the cake, it should absorb into the cake while it is refrigerated.
  6. Cover the cake with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 2 hours and up to 24 hours.
  7. Serve pieces of the cake with sweetened whipped cream and a dusting of cocoa powder.

Recipe Source: Mel’s Kitchen Cafe (cake adapted from this wacky cake recipe)

61 Responses to Chocolate Tres Leches Cake

  1. Weezie Fitzhugh says:

    This has been online for several years so I don’t expect a response. I made this on Christmas Eve for dessert on Christmas Day. I’m not a novice baker. When I took the cake out of the oven, it passed the toothpick test and was nicely puffed all over, dry and shrinking away from on the sides on the edges. But after cooling, like another commenter, it shrunk drastically in the middle and, after 24 hours, still hadn’t absorbed at least 1/3 of the liquid. I tasted a bit from the edge and, frankly, it just tasted like soggy cake. I followed the recipe exactly and used top-shelf ingredients. I looked at other Tres Leches recipes online to see where I went wrong and most reliable sources (including Cook’s Illustrated) make the cake using quite a bit less flour and some eggs or beaten egg whites. Luckily I had a spare cheesecake in my freezer for dessert yesterday.

  2. Courtney says:

    If I was given one piece of this cake, and the piece fell onto the floor, I would probably eat it off the floor.

  3. Lien says:

    It also reacts with the baking soda for lift.

  4. Moon says:

    I don’t bake from scratch too often, so I’m puzzled by the vinegar in your recipe. Could you explain what it does?

  5. wendy says:

    Thanks Mel! On another note ive been viewing your website for over a year now and it is my favorite. All of your other recipes are family favs. Don’t get me talking about the cinnamon roll coffee cake!! Take care.

  6. wendy says:

    Help!! Ive made the chocolate tres leche cake twice now and each time the cake comes out perfect but then sinks in the middle as it cools. I poke and pour and the milk mixture never absorbs all the way. I’m not a novice cook and this is really bugging me. All ingredients are fresh and I bake exactly as stated. Any advice????

    • Mel says:

      Hi Wendy – if the cake is sinking, it might need a few more minutes of baking time (each oven can vary slightly in temperature). How much liquid is not getting absorbed? Half or less than that? I think if the cake bakes fully and is fluffy throughout (instead of sunken in the middle) it should help the liquid absorb. Good luck! Let me know if you have other questions.

  7. Bethany says:

    We’ve made this a few times and love it! I must say that using a box cake doesn’t even hold a candle to the dump cake recipe you use. It’s worth the small amount of extra work, which really isn’t much extra work at all. And, for the record, adding crushed grasshopper cookies on top and using mint chocolate chips in the milk mixture will never be a bad idea. Seriously.

  8. Katherine says:

    So easy to make and soooo yummy! Thanks again Mel!

  9. Kim says:

    I made this for a potluck at work yesterday. Today, my co-worker came in asking for leftovers and telling me that she woke up thinking about this cake. It is AMAZING! Thanks for sharing the recipe. πŸ™‚

  10. Brittany C. says:

    I made this last night for our big family Cinco de Mayo dinner last. Oh. My. goodness. It was divine! I seriously blinked and it was gone! Thank you for creating this!!!

  11. Nancy says:

    Great recipe! It was one of the desserts for my Easter dinner and was more popular than my carrot cake. I served it with whipped cream and raspberries. Fortunately (for my waistline), my family took home the leftovers!

  12. Kensi says:

    Made it, loved it, devoured it, gained two pounds from it! Thanks for another AMAZING recipe Mel!! πŸ™‚

  13. Joyce says:

    This cake was absolutely amazing!! The flavor and texture turned out perfectly. I had no problems having all the liquid soak completely into the cake. And yes, I poked tons of holes into the cake with a bamboo skewer…all the way to the bottom of the cake. Seriously, this cake is definitely one of my all-time favorites! And it was SO easy, especially since the cake is made in the pan. No bowls required! By the way, I took a sip (or two) of the “chocolate milk.” Whoa. Liquid gold. Yum. Thanks Mel!

  14. Deb says:

    Oh…I just read through the comments and saw you already answered this question. Disregard, but know my plea for you to move back still stands. πŸ™‚

  15. Deb says:

    Okay dear friend. Make it. Loved it. BUT, I had a lot of liquid still pooled on top after a couple of hours in the fridge. What do you think I could of done different? LOVE your egg and nut free recipes!! Wish I could make them all for you…move back…please!

  16. Kristine says:

    Another egg-free dessert! I am so excited for this cake. πŸ™‚

  17. Mel says:

    *waned*…it’s been driving me crazy since I posted it and then realized I’d misspelled it. Now I come back only to discover I can’t edit my comment. So to put the preoccupation to rest, I’ll correct it here and move on. Thanks so much for all the recipes!

  18. oh mel, bless your soul for bringing the world CHOCOLATE tres leches cake!

  19. Deb says:

    SO excited whenever we come across an egg-less recipe! Okay, so the truth is my thighs are not excited but, who’s asking them these days anyway?

  20. Mel says:

    Well I thought this was delish. Mine didn’t absorb all the liquid either, but I just stopped when the absorption wained. It was dense and rich, but what’s not to like there?! I had to give it away to every person who came to my house or else I was afraid I’d consume the whole darn thing. I wish I’d had the problem PJ had at his or her house and couldn’t finish my portion, but apparently my powers of chocolate consumption have grown increasingly stronger with practice and dedication to the craft. Thanks!

  21. pj says:

    While your recipes are usually a bit hit in my house, this one was just meh. First, it’s not a Tres Leches cake. As others have noted, it’s far too dense, and though we poked many holes in it, the cake didn’t soak it all up. Tres Leches cake (and we’ve made it before) is more like a sponge cake, and it absorbs all the liquid. I thought the chocolate was almost overpowering, but the whipped cream tempered it a bit. And it’s very rich. Everyone here couldn’t even finish their portion. I would try it again, but make a different cake batter.

  22. Jennifer says:

    I made this using your Ultimate Chocolate cake recipes and the tres leche part. There were several things I loved. First, it wasn’t too sweet. It was very easy to make and the whipped cream was the perfect addition. Everyone gobbled it up and licked the plate. My youngest daughter begged to have it for her birthday! That’s good cake!

  23. Melissa Howell says:

    Made it. Devoured it. Loved it. Thank you!!!

  24. Erin says:

    I made this cake on Friday, and omg, does it have a chocolately flavor! However, I thought this cake recipe was really dense for a Tres Leches cake. I followed the recipe to a T, and it did not soak up most of the liquid after 4 hours. We let it sit another 8 hours in the fridge, and it was still very soupy and pretty dense. Its a good chocolate cake, but I don’t know if I’d use the tres leches sauce with it.

    • Mel says:

      Hi Erin – that’s part of the reason I liked this cake for a tres leches because it doesn’t turn ultra-soggy – it kind of retains a firm, pudding-like texture. But the cake base could easily be subbed for a lighter cake if you prefer that. Another key to helping it soak up the liquid is to poke as many holes as you can over the top of the cake. I poke a million – actually, my kids do it, but they go crazy so that there are plenty of holes to soak up the liquid.

  25. Jenn W. says:

    Made it for my family and some neighbors. It was fantastic.

    I will tell you that I accidentally left the cake, baking, in the over while I ran errands (get gas, ran to the store for the whipping cream, and to a friend’s house really quick), and I knew I’d have to bake another (and I did, just to be safe), but I really think that I would have been fine with the first one since it, miraculously, didn’t burn, and miraculously wasn’t throughly dried out. Although, I will not do it again, nor do I advise anyone taking this particular risk.

    Thanks for another great recipe!

  26. Melanie says:

    I made this tonight, and it is delicious!!! πŸ™‚

  27. This looks like the perfect thing to satisfy my chocolate craving right now πŸ™‚ Thanks, Mel!

  28. grace says:

    this is grand, mel, but let’s be honest–nothing can top the coconut version. πŸ™‚

  29. Pam says:

    Made this Thursday night and we ate it ALL day Friday. Rich and delicious!

  30. Jnl2211 says:

    For some reason, my milk never ever fully absorbs into the cake, I wonder what I’m doing wrong. Even if Iet it sit ever night. It’s delicious nonetheless.

  31. Katie says:

    Looks delicious!! I can’t decide to make this or the coconut one this weekend…I guess you’ll just have to tackle a chocolate coconut version next!

  32. Mel says:

    Kristen – yes! The same philosophy for the coconut tres leches cake. You could sub in almost any yellow cake because it’s transformed by the other ingredients/syrup.

  33. I’ve never heard of a chocolate tres leches cake before. Looks delicious!

  34. Kristen says:

    Hey Mel! You mentioned that the cake is forgiving on this recipe- is it equally forgiving on the Coconut Tres Leches Cake? Just wondering if I can substitute my own egg-free yellow cake recipe in that one without ruining it.

  35. Brittany C. says:

    Holy Cow, Mel! I literally CANNOT wait to make this cake!!! I fell in love with your coconut tres leches, mercy, and something tells me this one will have me falling just as hard. Yum yum Yum.

  36. TrishInFL says:

    I pinned this to try this weekend, thank you!!

  37. Renee says:

    I just pulled the cake out of the oven. I needed to make something tonight and I saw how easy this was and had all the ingredients so I am trying it. I am sure it will be awesome Mel. Thanks for the recipe!

  38. Michelle says:

    This looks fantastic and I can’t wait to try it this weekend. I’ve been meaning to ask you this question for a while…when a recipe calls for chopped chocolate, will it work to use chocolate chips? I can’t imagine why it wouldn’t but thought I’d see if you had experience using that substitution. I mean, I’ve always got chocolate chips laying around but if a chocolate bar graces my doorstep, it’s usually gone before I can chop it up and add it to a recipe! Love your blog, Mel. Thank you so much for the service and inspiration you provide to so many of us. (You’re famous in my house!)

    • Mel says:

      Hi Michelle – I use chocolate chips and baking chocolate (the bars of chocolate above the chocolate chips, usually) interchangeably when melting but there definitely are differences between chocolate chips and bar chocolate. Chocolate chips have less cocoa butter in order to hold their cute little shape. Both types of chocolate, but particularly chocolate chips, can scorch or even seize while melting if the temperature is too high so it is really important to use low heat to melt chocolate. Also, I hate to sound like a snob but brand of chocolate chips is important, at least to me. I only ever buy Guitard or Ghirardelli chocolate chip. Ghirardelli has large bags of bittersweet baking/chocolate chips at Sam’s Club that I go through like crazy and the chocolate melts extremely well. Generally speaking, you can usually melt chocolate chips for melted chocolate in a recipe but there’s always a bit of a risk they won’t melt as well as the bar chocolate. As a sidenote, white chocolate chips melt horribly and if a recipe calls for melting white chocolate, always, always buy the bar of white chocolate.

    • Jenny says:

      This is a late response, and you may not see it, but I used semi-sweet chocolate chips, and it worked just fine. The cake was delicious!

  39. Mel says:

    Melissa – yes! You could definitely bake in two separate 8X8 pans. I hope you love this one, I really do.

  40. Mel. Mel! Are you even kidding me? Your coconut tres leches cake is legendary in my book club, and now you are offering a chocolate version? I have no choice but to obey your command. Question: if I wanted to make this for my family and for another family, do you think it would work to bake it in two 8×8 pans instead of one 9×13? You are awesome. Hope the northern tundra is treating you well!

  41. Mary says:

    Oh my heck. I already have your coconut tres leches cake saved to try, but now I have to add this one to the list too. Way to go turning it into chocolate awesomeness!

  42. Sandra says:

    Okay,okay – UNCLE! Yes,I will reschedule all brain and open heart surgeries until I have made this cake. πŸ˜‰ But I promise to go back to working on world Peace as soon as the cake is made and in the frig! Take care and stay warm in Southern Canada πŸ™‚

  43. Jenn W. says:

    What the what? You know I’ll be on this–just as soon as we recover from the Oklahoma Blizzard of 2013!!

  44. I’ve never had Tres Leches cake before. I’m not even a huge chocolate cake fan, but this does look amazing!

  45. Lani says:

    Can’t wait to try this one! We love, love, love your Coconut Tres Leches Cake recipe!!

  46. Lori Jones says:

    Thanks for the recipe !! My husband and I just found this cake, but not in chocolate! Now I have to try my hand at making it.

  47. Jane says:

    Did you know that your cake is called Wacky Cake? It is the only chocolate cake we ever made in our house growing up because it was so much fun…what with the wackiness (craters) and all. It was easy enough for us kids to make without help (no eggs/no shells) and now my own kids make it. In fact, the last time they made it…the fork they used to stir it mysteriously got baked inside – truly wacky indeed. I’m very excited to try the ‘tres leches’ version and will do so for the Mexican Dinner fundraiser next month at my daughter’s school.

  48. Melanie says:

    I think I just drooled a little on your website. Sorry about that! πŸ˜‰ This sounds amazing!!

  49. A few days ago I wrote in my never-ending list of things to find a good recipe for, this exact title. Love your version Mel, and canΒ΄t wait to try it! One thing to check off my list, jaja!

  50. jaesi says:

    holy. crap. in a good way.

  51. You are really making me wish I wasn’t stuck at work so I could make this!! Pinning now so I can make this weekend. πŸ™‚

  52. Mercedes says:

    You know, I was just sitting here thinking of what kind of cake to make for my husband’s birthday next week, and boom!!! here it is!! I just happened to be talking to him on the phone when I opened my email and I said “Hey, how about this?” and now he’s all excited!! Thanks so much!!

  53. Jess in ND says:


  54. Tres leches is my all time favorite cake! This looks amazing!

  55. StephenC says:

    I only discovered tres leches cake a few months ago. I don’t make unless for guests because it’s too dangerous to have around the house. I use a box cake mix because the traditional recipes for this are not about the cake itself, it’s about what the milks do. Chocolate version is something to aspire to.

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