This delicious banana tres leches cake is made with a moist banana cake that’s soaked in sweet milk and topped with whipped cream. It’s so easy to make and is perfect for anytime of year, or any time you have ripe bananas you need to use up!
What is tres leches cake?
Also know as three-milk cake, tres leches is a vanilla sponge cake soaked in a combination of three different milks. Typically this is sweetened condensed, evaporated, and whole milk and/or heavy cream. After the sponge cake is baked, it’s poked with holes so that when the milk is poured on top, it sinks into ever crevasse of the cake.
The three milks create a sweet mixture, giving the cake some extra sweetness and TONS of moisture. It’s rich and moist, but not mushy so every bite just melts in your mouth.
There’s a debate on the origin of tres leches cake, but it’s very common in places such as Mexico, Puerto Rico, Cuba, and Nicaragua.
Tips for making banana tres leches cake batter
To add a bit of a twist to this traditional recipe, the sponge cake is made with mashed banana. It adds some natural sweetness and just enough banana flavor to make this cake extra moist and delicious. But sponge cake is made a bit different than traditional cake. Here are my tips to achieving a light and fluffy cake texture:
- Egg Whites – Sponge cake gets its name from being so light and airy. To get this consistency, we’re using egg whites. The cake calls for 5 eggs, separating the yolks from the whites. The yolks go straight in with the butter and sugar but the egg whites get their own special treatment. By whipping the egg whiles on their own, they turn into a fluffy texture almost like a cloud. Once the rest of the cake batter is mixed, the whipped egg whites are then gently folded in to lighten the batter. To fold, use a rubber spatula and run it around and through the batter. Slowly, it will come together. Just be careful not to mix too vigorously otherwise you will deflate the necessary air from the egg whites.
- Bananas – Make sure to measure the amount of bananas, and don’t go by the number of bananas you have. Baking must be exact, and bananas are no exception. If you’re a hair short, supplement the rest with some unsweetened applesauce.
- Flour – I say this in every post, and for good reason. It’s the number one reason why most recipes fail. If there’s too much flour, the cake will turn out dry and crumbly. If you can, measure the flour with a food scale. Otherwise, to ensure you use the exact amount needed, gently spoon the flour into your measuring cup and level if off with a flat edge. If you scoop directly into the flour container, it packs it down into the cup which could leave you with 1/4 cup or more of added dry ingredients.
- Mixing – Don’t over mix. Sponge cake can easily sink in the oven if it isn’t mixed properly. Over mixing develops the gluten strands which makes it difficult for the cake to rise. Take it slow after mixing in the flour, and your cake should rise beautifully.
The banana cake soaking process
When the cake is first pulled from the oven, the top will be slightly domed but smooth. As the cake settles and cools, that surface will begin to condense and wrinkle which is completely normal. When this happens, it’s time to poke the cake.
In order to ensure the milk mixture fully sinks in to every bit of this banana cake, use a toothpick or skewer to poke holes all throughout the cake. The more the better. The cake itself acts as a sponge, but the holes are what allow the cake to fully sink into every crumb.
For the milk mixture, a combination of sweetened condensed, evaporated, and whole milk are mixed together and poured on top of the porous cake. Pour it evenly over the entire surface of the cake and take it slow as you don’t want to overwhelm it. In the end, the cake should be fully submerged in milk.
But don’t worry, it will all absorb with time! Cover the cake and chill it overnight. In the morning, all of the milk will have disappeared and you’ll be left with a super moist banana cake that’s ready for topping.
How to top banana tres leches cake
There are a few different ways you can top your cake. The most traditional route is to spread on some whipped cream. Because the cake itself is so rich and moist from the milks, it doesn’t need much help up top.
To take things up a notch, there’s an option to add swirls of dulce de leche, banana slices, and chopped walnuts. But again, this is optional and mostly for decoration. Otherwise, I recommend a sprinkle a cinnamon atop the whipped cream.
How to serve banana tres leches cake
This cake is best served chilled, as milk is best served chilled. The cold cake holds its shape much better than at room temperature, so serve it right from the refrigerator.
Can this recipe be made gluten free?
I haven’t tested it, but I would suggest swapping the all purpose flour with a good quality gluten free baking flour with xanthan gum in the mix. I like Bob’s Red Mill 1-to-1. But weigh the flour instead of measuring as gluten free flour tends to be a bit more dense than traditional. Because of this, it’s very easy to unknowingly use WAY too much when making the swap.
How long will the cake keep?
This cake will keep for quite a while as the milk basically keeps this cake moist for days. After it has soaked overnight, the cake will keep for about 7 days as long as it is stored in an air tight container in the refrigerator.
For more banana recipes, check out my:
- Chocolate Chip Banana Bread
- BEST Banana Scones
- Vegan Banana Snack Cake
- Banana Coffee Cake
- Peanut Butter Banana Upside Down Cake
Make sure to tag me @butternutbakery on Instagram and comment below if you make this banana tres leches cake. To pin this recipe and save it for later, you can use the button on the recipe card or on any of the photos above. Happy baking!Print