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Best Tres Leches cake in Austin

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I'm looking to buy a cake to feed about 10-15 people for a barbecue this weekend. I know Habana and Chez Zee have good cakes as a dessert option, but am looking for a bakery or something similar that allows me to buy a whole cake. I had one a couple of years ago that was supposedly the best in Austin, from a bakery on the east side, but can't remember the name . . .
Thanks for your help :)

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  1. La Mexicana Bakery on S. 1st for the real deal. Also Mr. Natural has an amazing vegan version.

    1 Reply
    1. re: looper

      AGREE!

    2. While I'm a big La Mexicana fan, for the tres leches, I'd suggest La Victoria, a Mexican bakery up on Burnet (between 45th and 2222). A friend brought me a big tres leches cake from La Victoria a couple years ago and it was really sinfully fabulous.

      1. You can buy a whole cake at Habana Calle 6 for take out. They sell two sizes. I think the smaller was 12X9 for $30. I thought the best Tres Leches used to be at Juarez Bakery in Round Rock. They seemed to have changed the icing though. My guess is if you as for a non-shortening based icing, you'll get something rather delectable. Closer into austin, I would check the panaderia at 9616 N. Lamar (in the same plaza as Le Soleil and Lucky Bakery.) I can not comment on the Tres Leches there. I opted for the rice pudding which scored huge points with my taste buds. Nice thing is that they have very long hours. I think 8am to 10pm daily.

        1. You *can* buy a whole cake at Chez Zee. I love their coco leches cake --- the tradtional tres leches with coconut added. Can't help you with the east side bakery --- sorry.

          8 Replies
          1. re: CindyS

            Habana Calle has the best Tres Leches cake I've had in Austin or probably anywhere.

            1. re: Torckus

              Torckus,

              Do you remember what topping or frosting they use on the tres leches at Habana Calle? Is it whipped cream? Meringue? Cool Whip?

              Plus, if you could describe the cake in more detail, I'd appreciate it. I specifically am trying to avoid: the dry kind, which to me means any tres leches cake that is not drenched in three-milky goodness; the "light" kind that is made with skim milk and other low-fat varieties of the three “leches”; and the tres-leches-inspired kind, like a four-layer-version with raspberry jam used between the layers.

              Thanks!
              MPH

              1. re: MPH

                There is enough milk on it that when you are done, there will be a puddle of milk on the plate. That's what makes it so good to me. No dryness at all. No healthy version either. The frosting looks like a meringue, but has a much softer consistency. Almost cream like.

                1. re: Torckus

                  Not that I've had much experience with Tres Leches, but the Habana version is the one by which I currently measure others. Torckus isn't kidding-there's a substantial pool of sweet, milky goodness left after the cake is gone.

                  1. re: Twill

                    I recently tried the tres leches cake at Habana Calle. I think it may have been "off" that day, but I'm posting my impressions nonetheless because for all I know, what I had was close to the norm. I'm hoping that Torckus and Twill can compare their experiences with mine.

                    The slice was about 1 1/2 to 2" high and appeared to have been cut from a one-layer rectangular cake. It had a thick crust on the bottom and sides—like you'd want on cornbread—which suggested that too much grease (and/or no flour) had been used to prep the sheet pan, and that the cake was cooked at too high a temperature. The crispy edges were softened by the liquid, but that didn't make them taste better.

                    As Torckus and Twill described, Habana's cake was wet; this was not a dry version of tres leches. It also didn't seem to be soaked with skim milk, like a "light" or healthy version can be. However, I don't think they actually used the standard proportions of the traditional three milks: heavy or light cream, sometimes subbed with half-and-half; whole sweetened condensed milk; and evaporated whole milk, sometimes just whole milk. The liquid wasn't rich or thick enough to suggest the use of cream, either light or heavy, and I'm not even sure about the presence of (enough) sweetened condensed milk. I wonder if the shape of the cake contributed to this problem. Perhaps it lacked the depth and overall volume to hold the requisite richness and moisture for a good tres leches cake. One other thing that I noticed was a faint tropical-fruity flavor to the cake itself. I don't think it was the result of spiking the milk mixture with a rum or the like, which produces a different flavor. Pineapple juice was my first thought, but I ruled it out because there was no acidity. Mango, I wondered? Coconut milk and banana are common variants, but these were almost certainly not the cause of the mystery fruitiness. Maybe they just used a lot of evaporated milk, with its noticeable "cooked milk" or "canned" flavor.

                    The topping wasn't a true meringue (no body; no peaks, soft or stiff), pure whipped cream, or a white buttercream. By its texture and color—and the process of elimination—I'm guessing that it was an unsweetened Cool-Whip-type product that was dusted with red chile powder. I didn't like the chile-powder addition. By itself, though, the frosting was pretty flavorless.

                    Overall, what I tasted was like a badly-done yellow cake soaked in sweet milk, with a soft bland frosting that was sprinkled with chile powder.

                    1. re: MPH

                      MPH, we're on the same page for once! I do not understand the praise the tres leches gets at Habana, and I agree 100% with your assessment that it's "badly done yellow cake soaked in sweet milk." And the first (and last) time I had it, it tasted slightly burnt. Gack.

                      1. re: MPH

                        I dont' know, MPH. The last time I had the tres leches there (S. Congress) was pre-fire, and your description doesn't bear a strong resemblance to my memory. At that time, the mound of cake I had stood a good 3 inches tall (two of us couldn't finish it post-prandial), had a dense but spongy consistency, and the crust wasn't overbaked, as in your more recent experience. I did sense a bit of rum in the milk, but there was no chile powder dusting. Methinks I'll have to live with the memory since the reality has apparently shifted at Habana. Damn.

                        1. re: Twill

                          It does sound like things have changed since the fire. The tres leches that I tried wasn't a sponge cake at all. That spongy texture that you mention helps to hold in the liquid; you can't just soak a standard yellow cake and get the same results.

                          On the positive side, Habana's turn for the worse means that there is a new "best tres leches in Austin" out there somewhere, waiting to be discovered by us diligent chowhounds. I'll have to look forward to finding it in the future, instead of feeling bad that I never got to experience the particular deliciousness that you remember.

                          Of course, I always feel somewhat bad when I miss out on great chow. ;-)

                          Best,
                          MPH

            2. I had a meeting yesterday at Quacks and noticed as I was ordering my coffee that they were selling what was labeled as a Quatro Leches cake. It was a full cake (maybe 5"-7") that didn't look anything like any tres leches I had tried before. The price was somewhere around $16. I was in a hurry, there were no slices available that I could see, and was going to be stuck in my hot car all afternoon running to appointments, so sadly I was unable to try. Has anyone had this before? What about opinions on Quacks? I usually meet people there as it is outside my 'hood, but have had decent muffins there before....never ventured to try anything else though.

              1 Reply
              1. re: ashes

                I'm really curious about the Tres Leches at Sazon. I once read a review of Sazon here that stated that the diner witnessed a couple who were willing to wait an hour to get a piece of this cake. Someone please go try this and tell us about it!

              2. You can order the Tres Leches cake from El Chile catering. Hands down, best Tres-Leches. Super moist, light flavor, not hurt-your-teeth sweet. I think La Mexica is too sweet, too watery, and has a strange processed taste.

                1 Reply
                1. re: smarvis

                  i cannot believe you can recommend this sad fallen excuse for luscious tres leches! its an embarassment...i was truly embarassed for el chile.

                2. I often find myself craving the Tres Leches from the bakery counter at Fiesta. Individual pieces are probably big enough for 2, given how rich they are. They are the very sweet style of cake sitting in a pool of milk. It's not a sponge cake, it feels lighter in your mouth. Even though it is soaking in dairy, it isn't the least bit soggy, just wonderfully moist and (have I said this before?) rich. I remember the frosting as being closer to a traditional butter frosting than whipped cream.

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: Alan Sudo

                    Ok, so you have to try Marta's Tres Leches. I am not sure where it is all located, but I know for sure it is in the frozen section of Central Market. Despite its being frozen, it is extremely moist and I love the fluffy icing. I would have never considered it, until I tried a sample. Trust me, it is very good! YUM!

                    1. re: Alan Sudo

                      We live in Killeen, but we are Austinites at heart and we take trips to Austin once a month or so just for the groceries. The Tres Leches from Fiesta is one thing that I HAVE to buy on these trips. It really is big enough for 2. Luckily, my husband is not a fan of Tres Leches, so I get to have it 2 days in a row!

                    2. My gf took a Tres Leches from Costco to work for Diez y Seis, I believe; they only had them for a short time around the holiday. I never got a piece (no, I'm not bitter...), but she said that everyone raved about it, many people saying it was the best they ever had. It did LOOK pretty darn good, and most other baked goods I've had from Costco have actually been pretty good. For what it's worth...

                      1. Another great option is the quatro leches cake at Buenos Aires Cafe located on S. 1st street. It is very moist with a great flavor.

                        2 Replies
                        1. re: mergar

                          We used to get fantastic tres leches cakes from Russell's Bakery. They weren't always available, as I think they only made them a couple of days a week and they sold out fast.

                          1. re: Ashforth

                            Discussion about Russell's recently came up on another thread:

                            http://www.chowhound.com/topics/400052

                            Personally, I don't like their tres leches cake:

                            http://www.chowhound.com/topics/40005...

                        2. mr natural's 2 other non vegan versions are grrrreat too...but they close at 9pm and not open sundays,at all.....the vegan version is chocolate ...the other 2 are traditional and coconut,i believe. el chile's won a prize -but is distinctly horrible as well as unappetizing looking.

                          4 Replies
                          1. re: alysabeth

                            OK, it's been a while since this topic has been updated. Has anybody found a great tres leches cake in the last six months? I've tried and enjoyed the tres leches from Fiesta and from Whole Foods, but neither of them quite match my ideal (and Whole Foods has recently started using less liquid in their version--the slices used to be sitting in almost a half inch of leches, but they now look almost dry). I'm looking for a place that sells by-the-slice, because I can't possibly eat a whole cake.

                            I did sample the quatro leches at Buenos Aires Cafe, but I didn't love it. I'm excited to run out and try some new versions. Any ideas or recommendations?

                            1. re: angusb

                              I've always been happy with the T.L. cake from Hula Hut, weirdly enough.

                              1. re: angusb

                                i recently had the tres leches at cabana soco location. i usually am not a huge fan of tres leches, but this one was delicious!

                                1. re: yimay

                                  Best ever Tres Leches I''ve had in Central Texas is from Mangu in Pflugerville--meringue topping; it's to die for. You can get a huge cake to go, which is what I did last year for my birthday. Definitely worth the trip up I-35.

                            2. Russell's Bakery on Hancock has a delicious coconut tres leches cake. I also like the Chez Zee version (also coconut) which you can buy as a whole cake. They're fairly pricey ($40-50 for a 10" cake), but when I've tried to replicate these cakes at home I've failed miserably. They're both tall coconut-astic layer cakes.

                              4 Replies
                              1. re: geoquiz3000

                                Hi People,

                                New here....but austin 360 came out with an article recently about the best Tres Leches in the area :

                                http://www.austin360.com/food_drink/m...

                                Their Top Choices Are:

                                El Chile
                                Dona Emilia's
                                Habana SoCo
                                El Sol y La Luna
                                Las Palomas
                                Sazon
                                Bess
                                Zocalo
                                Santa Rita
                                Chez Zee

                                Personally though, I like my tres leches to be overly done and rich with the cake drowning in milk, so Pappasito's does it for me. Fiesta's good but I hate when only the bottom half is soaked and the top is sweet but dry and that's how theirs is. My mom loves the tres leches from Cuba Libre downtown, it's spongey with a whip cream topping and it's light but moist. Not my style, again, I'm a Pappasito's girl. BUT I am always willing and open to try new versions. Just looking at the article I think Zocalo's and Santa Rita and Habana's chocolate tres leches look good. I don't know though, has anyone tried of any of the ones from the restaurants listed above?

                                :)

                                1. re: caestates2004

                                  today i just tried the Tres Leches at Zocalo. yum! very moist, had the pool of milk. the texture of the cake itself was kind of pound cake-like. it was baked in an individual loaf pan. they frost it with sweetened whipped cream which is my preference and top it with a strawberry rosette. good stuff! i'm also a fan of habana's although i can't believe i've never known/tried the chocolate version.

                                  1. re: NirvRush

                                    Oh awesome! Thanks. That's a little different - the pound cake style, it's usually a sponge cake and I like it with a meringue topping....but theirs sounds delicious!

                                    And yeah, I also heard there is a chocolate pecan tres leches cake version at the Driskill Grill in the Driskill Hotel but the last time I went to try it they were out! :( But their breakfast is good.

                                    1. re: caestates2004

                                      Oh and if any one has ever tried Zax. Let me know how their tres leches is. Thanks!

                              2. Does anyone know if any of these tres leches that are being recommended include cajeta, specifically the sort that includes a measure of goats milk?

                                I'm Cuban, grew up in Miami, and the tres leches there had a little something nothing I've found (commercially) since has matched. I'm pretty positive it's the cajeta. My mom uses it, and while the first day it tastes a bit goaty, after it settles overnight it's RIGHT. It's how tres leches should taste.

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: wrenfern

                                  No I'm pretty sure they all include regular old condensed milk/evaporated/heavy cream, etc. I don't think they're authentic tres leches with the milk you're used to. I could be wrong though...

                                  And your mom's sounds delicious! Does she have a recipe? :)

                                2. The Hula Hut tres leches cake is my favorite also!!

                                  4 Replies
                                  1. re: mlin1

                                    Oooh...is it the really wet kind or moist/dry?

                                    1. re: caestates2004

                                      It's nice and moist, and they serve a wafer cookie and strawberries on top. Mmmm.

                                      1. re: addlepated

                                        Thanks! :)

                                        1. re: caestates2004

                                          So I tried the TL from Santa Rita...and I'm going to have to say no. It was moist throughout but only really milky on the bottom 1/3 and the whipped cream on top tasted unfresh and the Leches combination wasn't very sweet. Two bites and I was done and usually I eat a whole slice by myself in one sitting. I don't know....going to have to hit up Hula Hut/Zocalo's/El Chile next.

                                  2. I wonder if the Chuy's 183 Tres Leches is the same as Hula Hut's. It is so good, and I think better than Habana's. It doesn't have a whipped topping, but has whipped cream on the side, and is drizzled with caramel. Moist throughout, and a large enough portion to have two servings, one then, and one later.

                                    1. I believe you can still buy a whole cake at Chez Zee. They also offer a nice godiva chocolate liquor sauce to go with the tres leches if you desire.

                                      1. I've not sampled many tres leches cakes in the area, but the one at Whole Foods was AMAZING. Anyone who's never tried it needs to.

                                        5 Replies
                                        1. re: toripowell

                                          Mr. Natural, Mr. Natural, Mr. Natural!!!!!!!!! Don't be turned off by the name or the word "vegan". It is hands down the most delicious tres leches cake in town. They sell it by the (huge) slice or you can call ahead and get them to make you a cake. It's pretty reasonable - somewhere in the $30 or $35 range.

                                          1. re: italyvespa

                                            DISGUSTING! Please let me save you from the horrid cake I just had from Mr. Natural. I am not sure if it is the same cake I've seen recommended several times, because they offered 4 types of tres leches cake: vanilla, caramel, vegan chocolate, and vegan vanilla (if I remember correctly), and I chose the caramel. Maybe the vegan option is better, but this cake was so terrible that the bulk of it went directly into the garbage, and I'm not in the mood to give them another chance.

                                            This cake was nasty. I mean the level of horribleness that makes you want to curse, but I'll refrain. It was loose and mushy, with no structure whatsoever, and I don't think it was because it was soaked in milk. I don't think it had ever been cooked through! The entire "cake", with the exception of about the outer 1/2 inch (which did show the barest evidence of having once been in an oven), had the texture of cold Malt-O-Meal, and I don't mean after it has been left to set up like polenta. I mean it was wet and flabby. I thought it was odd when the person who cut it and boxed it for me chose to dump it upside down off the serving knife, instead of sliding it into the container, but now I can see why. It wasn't solid enough to slide. The slice was not very large (not that I wanted any more of it!), and it was $4.00. I purchased it at the Mr. Natural on South Lamar.

                                            1. re: angusb

                                              Wow, sorry about your experience, angusb. I would be tempted to say that you just came on an off day, but I've had Mr. Natural's tres leches half a dozen times and it is consistently top-quality. And all the tres leches that Mr. Natural sells come from the East side store, so regardless of location, the cake is all the same. I've never had the caramel, just the regular (vanilla), but probably the most likely answer I can think of is that you aren't such a big fan of the three milk cake as most. Seems like half the people I talk to lean towards the idea that a cake soaked in milk (and yes, it should be SOAKED, not just wet) is disgusting. And hey, there's nothing wrong with that. Either you like it or you don't.

                                              1. re: italyvespa

                                                On the contrary, I have actually posted several times on this thread and others about where to find the best tres leches cake in Austin. I am a huge fan and love it to be soaking. I've tried it from Fiesta, Whole Foods, Buenos Aires Cafe, and many other places, and I've made it myself many times. I promise you, this cake had not been cooked. The outer 1/2 inch was cake-y in texture, but the entire middle portion was wet doughy mush. I have seen you and other people recommend the tres leches cake here, and I can't believe that anybody would have given a recommendation to what I was served, so maybe I will venture in again and try the plain Vanilla cake. In a few months.

                                                1. re: angusb

                                                  So sorry, angusb. I haven't had the tres leches at Fiesta, but I've had it at Whole Foods, Buenos Aires Cafe, and plenty of others in town. The one at Mr. Natural was hands down my favorite and the favorite of so many others. It even had coworkers of mine who normally dislike tres leches changing their minds. Hopefully your experience was out of the ordinary.

                                        2. I had Tres Leches from Habana Calle 6 this weekend, and it was NOT yellow cake...it was a yummy white cake (maybe a bit heavier than sponge?) with thick white frosting (not whipped cream) sprinkled with cinnamon. Gooey milky goodness on the plate, my DH and I practically licked it!

                                          1. I know it's late, I just saw this, but IMHO Fonda San Miguel, hands down.

                                            1. A little late to the conversation, but the best tres leches cake in the Austin area is probably out at Juarez Mexican Restaurant and Bakery in Round Rock. Over time, this little family business has grown tremendously, expanding their product line as they draw from their family baking history going back to the mexican state of Guanajuato. They serve tres leches by the slice or by the cake. But if you go there during peak hours, prepare to wait because they get extremely busy. Oftne there is a line out the door. But the cake will make the wait worth the while.

                                              1 Reply
                                              1. re: sj78681

                                                On your suggestion I decided to check out Juarez for Pastel de Tres Leches. I found it to be an outstanding cake. The texture of cake was excellent - somewhere between a custard and a bread pudding, The crumb was light and full of bubbles and thus held onto the tres leches very well. The cake was moist throughout and had a very consistent texture. A very small amount of buttercream style frosting on top. Highly recommended.

                                              2. I tried three different tres leches cakes today-

                                                Zocalo: Moist poundcake-like cake in a small pool of milk topped with whipped cream, strawberries, and shredded coconut. It was pretty and had a great texture, but it was kind of bland.

                                                Fiesta: Very flavorful, but it tasted more like a birthday cake soaked in milk and topped with sweet icing than it did a traditional tres leches. I think their version is something that kids would really like.

                                                Mr. Natural: I had the vanilla non-vegan version at the the Cesar Chavez location and I thought it was absolutely disgusting. It had a weird flavor that was almost like cough syrup. I threw it in the trash.

                                                The search continues...

                                                1. If you have basic baking skills, the King Arthur Flour Tres Leches recipe makes a fabulous cake. I sometimes do a Quatros Leches and use coconut milk as well. No frosting and top with a splash of Kahlua. Mmmm.