Pumpkin Spice Tres Leches Cake with Salted Caramel Buttercream Frosting

by Kate on October 17, 2013

Pumpkin Tres Leches Cake with Salted Caramel Buttercream Frosting

Today it’s all about melding the classic autumn flavor of pumpkin with a not so traditional version of tres leches cake. This Pumpkin Spice Tres Leches Cake with Salted Caramel Buttercream Frosting is dangerously addictive and an incredible creation of autumn flavors. This tender cake soaks up 3 different milks, pumpkin and warm autumn spices. Topping this sweet pumpkin creation with salted caramel frosting is the perfect finishing touch.

Pumpkin Tres Leches Cake with Salted Caramel Buttercream Frosting

That frosting alone is worth making. I could eat it all by itself on a spoon or a finger. I may or may not have done just that. Repeatedly. This cake topped with frosting happens to be an amazing autumn creation for this month’s Improv Challenge. Our ingredients for the month were cake and frosting and I can’t think of a better display of those ingredients. Salty and sweet. Pumpkin and caramel. Ah-mazing! I split my cake and put frosting between the layers because well, what’s not to love about more frosting? Want to cut the sweetness a bit? Just frost the top. The saltiness of the frosting pairs nicely with the sweetness of the cake making this a wonderful autumn dessert.

Pumpkin Tres Leches Cake with Salted Caramel Buttercream Frosting



Pumpkin Spice Tres Leches Cake with Salted Caramel Buttercream Frosting

1 hour, 45 minutes

Yield: 10-12 servings

Pumpkin Spice Tres Leches Cake with Salted Caramel Buttercream Frosting

Classic tres leches cake gets an autumn spin with the addition of pumpkin, fall spices and salted caramel frosting.


  • 5 large eggs (separated)
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • Milks:
  • 7 ounces sweetened condensed milk
  • 5 ounces evaporated milk
  • 1/2 - 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1/8 cup pumpkin puree
  • 2 teaspoons rum
  • Frosting:
  • 3 large egg whites
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 sticks unsalted butter, diced and softened
  • 1/4-1/8 teaspoon salt, to personal taste
  • 1/2 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup thick caramel sauce


    Make Cake:
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a square 9x9-inch pan or 9-inch round cake pan with a baking spray containing flour. Set aside.
  2. Separate the egg yolks from the egg whites and place in separate bowls.
  3. Beat the egg whites on medium speed to soft peaks, about 3-5 minutes. Slowly add the sugar and continue whipping until stiff peaks form, about 5 minutes. Set aside.
  4. In a medium bowl beat egg yolks at medium-high speed until pale and fluffy, about 5 to 6 minutes. Stir in vanilla. Pour the yolks over the whites and gently fold in. Sift the flour over the egg mixture and gently fold again, just until incorporated. Be sure not to over mix.
  5. Gently scrape and then spread the batter into prepared pan. Bake in preheated oven for 25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Transfer cake to a cooling rack and cool completely.
  6. Make Milks:
  7. Place sweetened condensed milk, evaporated milk, 1/2 cup heavy cream, pumpkin pie spice and cinnamon stick into a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium high heat. Reduce heat and continue at a low boil for 5 minutes. Remove from heat. Cool completely. Remove cinnamon stick. Whisk in pumpkin puree and rum thoroughly. Mixture should be smooth and pourable. If needed, add remaining heavy cream.
  8. Split the cake in half, if desired. Poke holes all over the cake using a wooden skewer. Brush the milk syrup over the cake a little at a time until all the milk mixture has been absorbed. Place cake in fridge overnight.
  9. Frosting:
  10. In a medium heatproof bowl, whisk together egg whites and sugar just to combine. Place bowl over a pot of barely simmering water. Bring mixture to 150 degrees Fahrenheit while whisking constantly.
  11. Transfer mixture to the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment. Beat egg white mixture at medium speed until mixture has cooled, doubled in volume and stiff peaks form.
  12. With the mixer on low, add butter in one piece at a time, making sure each piece is fully incorporated before adding the next. Add salt and vanilla and beat again to combine. Add caramel sauce and beat one last time just to combine.
  13. Assembly:
  14. Remove milk soaked cake from refrigerator and allow to come to room temperature. Frost cake with salted caramel buttercream frosting. Serve drizzled with a bit of caramel and a light sprinkle of flaky sea salt, if desired.


*Time does not include overnight absorption in refrigerator.

**Store covered in refrigerator for up to 3 days. Allow cake to come to room temperature before serving.


{ 13 comments… read them below or add one }

Christiane ~ Taking On Magazines October 17, 2013 at 9:35 am

Yeah, I agree, this looks dangerously addictive. Very much so. I adore tres leches cake and the best part about this season is the over-abundance of pumpkin in the stores! This will be on my table soon.


ChristineM October 17, 2013 at 12:23 pm

oh…my….gaaaaaaa! this is awesome Kate! I love rum tres leches and now with pumpkin, oh ya


Ruthy @ Omeletta October 17, 2013 at 1:10 pm

Oooh, I’ll do just about anything for a tres leches cake- and this one with pumpkin and SALTED caramel frosting? Love it, and what a great way to take on the improv challenge this month!


Kristen October 17, 2013 at 2:11 pm

Oh, you soaked the whole thing in a pumpkin laced, spicy wonderful three milk concoction!! Heaven. That’s what you made.


Melody October 17, 2013 at 2:43 pm

Salted Caramel Buttercream? ~ I die!
I have been wanting to try a tres leches cake — I’ll just have to steal your recipe for Thanksgiving. Thanks!


Liz October 17, 2013 at 4:14 pm

Wow, I love that you incorporated caramel into a tres leches cake! Double yum!!!


The Ninja Baker October 17, 2013 at 7:14 pm

Your perfect for autumn pumpkin très leches does look amazing! And I’ve got all the ingredients minus the pumpkin puree. Guess what’s on my shopping list, now? Thank you Kate for the yummy recipes!


Brianne @ Cupcakes & Kale Chips October 17, 2013 at 9:50 pm

Oh wow, Kate, this sounds amazing!!


Karen - Cinnamon Freud October 18, 2013 at 1:02 am

Love this idea for a nontraditional tres leches. And it is never a bad idea to add caramel to a dessert- this looks great!


suzanne October 18, 2013 at 4:13 pm

OH MY!!! I love this, tres leches is one of my favorites and adding the spice and caramel is just plain brilliant!! Beautiful.


Dina October 18, 2013 at 5:15 pm

looks yummy!


Cookaholic Wife October 18, 2013 at 6:53 pm

Oooooo. Tres leches cake AND salted caramel?


Laura Dembowski (@piesandplots) October 19, 2013 at 8:43 am

I definitely fear the frosting would all get eaten before it made it on the cake :). Love the soaking liquid with pumpkin!


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