Gluten Free Vegan Tres Leches Cake Recipe

Tres Leches Cake is served all over the world using different accent ingredients ranging from rum to caramel, but always using three milks (hence the name!).

My gluten free vegan Tres Leches Cake recipe breaks the traditional mold, but does so deliciously, and remains true to the spirit of the confection.

gluten free vegan tres leches cake with fork | gfJules

The original recipe likely hailed from somewhere in Latin America … somewhere in the late 1800s. As with so many great recipes, it has lots of disputed history!

The basic recipe is something like a cross between a poke cake an old fashioned Hot Milk Cake — if you know what that is! It’s one of those — use what you’ve got! Let nothing go to waste! sorts of recipes our grandmothers would have appreciated. Like my Depression Era Gluten Free Wacky Cake (also vegan!).

vegan apple butter cake - gfJules
Gluten Free Wacky Cake made without dairy or eggs — yes, it’s possible!

Apparently the “tres leches” twist came about in large part because refrigerated milk was hard in short supply, so canned evaporated and condensed milks began to provide options as substitutes for more than just sustenance.

It seems hardly a coincidence that the recipe grew in fashionability around the time of Nestle’s investment in manufacturing in Mexico in the 1930s — also when Nestle began printing a recipe for tres leches cake on its cans of evaporated, condensed and cream milk cans. Hmmmm tres leches…. Handy.

This luscious cake is still made today all over the world with the three milks: sweetened condensed milk, evaporated milk and heavy cream. They combine to form a rich sauce poured over and largely — but not totally — absorbed into the moist, spongy cake. All of which is to say that this dessert is truly unique and not to be missed.

gluten free tres leches cake with almonds _ gfJules

Which brings us to the fact that many of us have missed out for far too long on gluten-full and dairy-full desserts. I think we deserve to enjoy treats like tres leches cake too, don’t you?

So how, exactly, does one make a gluten free vegan tres leches cake recipe? It’s easy enough to make your own evaporated and sweetened condensed vegan milks, but there are also great coconut versions on the market now – yay, us!

Be even more that just the fact that we have vegan substitutes, I would argue that these analogs are BETTER!

The flavor is deeper, richer and more robust than ordinary dairy milk when you’re using a combination of nut milks as accent flavors. And topped with homemade coconut whipped cream … the texture is as dreamy as the taste!

gluten free tres leches cake with homemade coconut whipped cream | gfJules

 

If you’d like to explore some of the new ready-made vegan “leches” available, I’ve given you lots of ingredient options in my review of my preferred dairy-free brands and varieties, and I’ve also highlighted my choices for this recipe in parentheses. When you make this cake, be sure to use the award-winning gfJules Flour I used to develop this recipe — you know, the most important part of the tres leches CAKE. You don’t want a gritty or crumbly cake, you want a soft, spongy, moist cake. So don’t skimp on ingredients and think subbing for those won’t affect the end result because it will (here’s why).

No excuses – it’s time to celebrate … just in time for Cinco de Mayo!

pinataTo hear more about this annual tradition and about other wonderful gluten free options for this day of food and festivities, tune into the free podcast of my radio show on Cinco de Mayo!

Yield: serves 8

Gluten Free Vegan Tres Leches Cake Recipe

gluten free tres leches cake

Three dairy free milks combine to form a rich sauce that is poured over and absorbed into the moist, spongy gluten free vegan tres leches cake, making this dessert truly unique.

Prep Time 40 minutes
Cook Time 40 minutes
Total Time 1 hour 20 minutes

Ingredients

Gluten Free Tres Leches Cake

Homemade Coconut Whipped Cream:

Instructions

To make the cake:

Preheat oven to 350°F (static) or 325°F (convection or for dark pans). Coat bottom and sides of 8×8 inch pan with oil or cooking spray (without flour).

In a small bowl, combine the gluten-free egg replacer powder with warm water and whisk together (or whisk eggs). Set aside.

In a large bowl, stir together oil, sugar, almond extract, and almond milk. Add the egg replacer mixture and mix well.

Whisk together the gfJules™ flour, non-dairy milk powder, baking powder and salt. Slowly stir these dry ingredients into the wet mixture bowl, then increase the mixer speed and beat for 3-4 minutes, until the mixture is lighter and well-mixed.

Pour batter into prepared pan and bake for approximately 40 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean and the sides of the cake are pulling away from the sides of the pan. The cake will be lightly browned on the top and sides.

Set aside to cool for 5 minutes while preparing the Tres Leches Sauce.

In a medium-sized sauce pot, whisk together the three “milks”: coconut, almond and kefir coconut milk. Add the untoasted coconut. Stir over medium heat on the stove until warmed — approximately 5 minutes.

Poke holes in the top of the cake with a toothpick or fork, every 1/2 to 1 inch. This perforation will help the Tres Leches sauce to seep into the cake itself. Once the sauce is warmed, pour slowly over entire cake, but do not allow it to pool in the center. Tilt the cake pan, if necessary, to help disperse the sauce, and reserve extra sauce if there appears to be too much for the cake to absorb (this may be served with the cake later, if desired).

Cover cake with plastic wrap and refrigerate until the sauce is mostly absorbed – usually 3- 4 hours or overnight.

To make the coconut whipped cream:

Plan ahead by putting the can of coconut milk in the refrigerator the day before, making it super easy to make insanely delicious coconut whipped cream in just minutes.

Chill coconut milk by putting the unopened can in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours – this will help the milk to separate.

Before preparing the cream, chill a metal mixing bowl and whisk attachment or beaters in the refrigerator or freezer.

Open coconut milk can by removing the lid. Using a spoon, skim the thick cream off the top of the coconut water and transfer to the chilled bowl. There should be approximately 1 cup of cream skimmed off, leaving approximately 1/2 cup coconut water in the can to save for other uses.

Beat the cream with the chilled whisk attachment or beaters until thick and fluffier – at least 3-5 minutes.

Meanwhile, sift confectioner’s sugar and mix with non-dairy milk powder. Stir in the sugar mixture with the cream and beat again until integrated.

Cover and chill until serving.

Notes

Serving Suggestion: Serve chilled Tres Leches Cake in sliced squares, topped with a dollop of fresh homemade coconut whipped cream or So Delicious® CocoWhip (found in the freezer section). Sprinkle toasted almond slices and toasted coconut on top.

I hope you love this recipe as much as we do!

Pin it for later!

My gluten free vegan Tres Leches Cake recipe breaks the traditional mold, but does so deliciously!

 

 

Vegan Gluten Free Tres Leches Cake gfJules.com

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    • Thanks Kortney! There are so many great options out now for non-dairy beverages – more options = more fun in baking!
      ~jules

      Reply
    • Hi Christy, the second listing of almond milk is for the tres leches sauce – sorry for the confusion! If you read through the directions hopefully it will become more clear! 🙂
      ~jules

      Reply
  1. Hi
    I used 1 and 1/2 teaspoons of baking soda, but it seemed to read TBSP. It seemed to turn out well. It is in the fridge waiting for dinner time.

    Reply
    • Hi Cindy, I’m so glad it turned out well! It’s baking powder, which would be fine at 1 1/2 Tablespoons, but you’re right that such a large amount of baking soda wouldn’t taste so good!
      ~jules

      Reply
    • Wow, June, I hadn’t thought about doing that! I suppose you absolutely could. You would need to offset the dry cocoa addition with equal parts liquid. Maybe try 1/4 cup cocoa and 2 Tbs. chocolate syrup plus 2 Tbs. extra milk. Let me know how it turns out!
      ~jules

      Reply
  2. Hello Jules! I was wondering if I could use some other milk instead of the Coconut Kefir which I cannot find anywhere in my town.

    Thank you !!! I cannot wait to make this recipe!!!!

    Reply
  3. Hi Jules this looks amazing!! i am really excited to try this and will be giving this a go in a couple of days and am hoping you can help me – I have sugar allergies and our kids dairy intolerant so this cake is perfect for them but not quite for me :) I want to use honey instead of sugar – what would you suggest I did as far as quantity and/or adding/changing any other ingredients to ensure similar consistency in end product?

    Reply
    • Hi Tawera – what other sugar subs can you tolerate? Any granulated options work for you? Let me know and I’ll see what I can do to help you work on some modifications.

      Reply
      • Hi Jules sorry I read your recipe again and I’m ok with coconut sugar, just price wise honey works better. Ill try it with coconut sugar first and see how I go should be ok – in the meantime if a honey version jumps out at you, please let me know :)

        Reply
        • Will do, Tawera! I understand the cost of coconut palm sugar — it’s pretty high! But it seems to work in nearly every recipe I’ve tried switching out regular sugar. The granulated sugars like coconut palm always work better for cookies, too, since they caramelize like regular sugar.

          Reply
  4. Jules – I was getting ready to make this and realized I do not have the coconut kefir, and we don’t have anything like that in the stores near me… do you have suggestions on what I can use instead?
    Thank you for all you do!

    Reply
    • Hi Melissa, if you can use dairy kefir, that will work just fine. If you can’t find any kefir, go with some kind of creamer: soy creamer; coconut creamer; half-and-half … just something a little thicker than regular milk. You could even whisk a little water into your favorite yogurt to get the consistency just right. Hope that helps!

      Reply
  5. The only substitution I would make is replacing the canola oil w/coconut oil which is far healthier and better for you. Canola oil is genetically-modified (GMO) and is a from the rapeseed plant which is used primarily as an industrial-grade machinery oil (lubricant). It has no business being used in a recipe or ingested. However, the manufacturers of canola oil often pay cookbook authors to list this ingredient in their recipes. I know because a friend of mine just published a cookbook and was approached by a canola oil manufacturer to use this inferior oil in her recipes. They were offering a significant sum of $$ to her, but she refused as she never cooks w/canola oil.

    Reply
    • Thanks for the information, Mary. Just so you know, I am not paid to put an ingredient in my recipes. I choose products and ingredients based upon what will work best in the recipe. I like the idea of the coconut oil in this recipe though, I might have to try that next time!

      Reply
    • Hi Nancy, you can use any other dairy-free milk. I love the coconut milks that are out now, but you could also use soy milk, or even hemp milk if you like the taste. :)

      Reply
  6. I appreciate that you made this recipe gluten, dairy and egg free. I bet that was a huge task. I could make this for my grandson. But I am not permitted to eat nuts (almond milk) or vegetable oils. If I substitute the alternate milks with regular milk and the vegetable oil with melted butter, will the cake still turn out alright?

    Reply
    • Hi Becky, yes, it was a huge task! ;) Substituting melted butter should work here, and dairy milks will also be fine for a substitute. Enjoy!

      Reply
  7. OMG I am so making this soon! This looks soooooooooo good! Love your blog! Check out my website for Gluten Free Tours, Parties, and other events! All in the NYC area!

    Reply
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