Decadent, sweet, and moist Gluten-Free Tres Leches Cake is easy to make and beautiful to serve for your next gathering or celebration. Tres leches cake is gluten-free and dairy-free making this a great go-to allergen-friendly dessert with fluffy dairy-free whipped cream atop the tender cake.
This post is sponsored by Nature's Charm. All text and opinions are my own.
Table of contents
- What is Tres Leches Cake?
- Why You’ll Love This Gluten-Free Tres Leches Cake Recipe
- How to Make Gluten-Free Tres Leches Cake
- Recipe Success Tips
- Recipe Variations
- Serving Suggestions
- Storage Directions
- More Cake Recipes
What is Tres Leches Cake?
Tres leches cake is a delicious and spongy cake that is soaked in a sweet mixture made of three milks and served with fresh vegan whipped cream. This gluten-free Mexican dessert gets its name from the milk mixture that is made with “tres leches,” Spanish for “three milks.” The three milks give the cake a custard-like texture and sweetness that melts in your mouth.
Why You’ll Love This Gluten-Free Tres Leches Cake Recipe
- Dairy-Free and Gluten-Free with No Adaptations: Non-dairy tres leches cake is made with gluten-free flour and is also vegan so it’s ideal for serving to friends or family that eat a plant-based diet or have food allergies or sensitivities.
- Creamy Goodness: The milk mixture soaks into the spongy cake for the perfect creamy texture with rich custard-like goodness.
- Serves Beautifully: This cake cuts and serves beautifully because it slices smoothly without crumbling. The added whipped cream topping is fluffy and tasty and is also the ideal backdrop for fun toppings such as fresh fruit or coconut.
- Make Ahead: Lactose-free tres leches cake can be refrigerated overnight, making it a great make-ahead dessert for parties. The tres leches mixture will continue to soak into the cake as it sits. Keep the whipped cream separate and add just before serving.
To make this gluten-free dairy-free cake recipe, you’ll need the following ingredients:
- Flour - Gluten-free 1-to-1 flour keeps this cake allergen-friendly.
- Almond Flour - For delicious nutty flavor. Fine ground almond flour will have the best texture and consistency. Bob's Red Mill Super-Fine Almond Flour is my go-to!
- Cornstarch - Improves the gluten-free cake texture and helps hold it together in the absence of gluten.
- Salt - Enhances flavors.
- Baking Powder - Creates lift in the cake batter for air pockets ready to soak in all that sweet milk.
- Sugar - White granulated sugar works best.
- Vegan Butter - Vegan butter adds richness and needed fat to the cake. Soften at room temperature for easy mixing.
- Non-Dairy Milk - Use your favorite non-dairy milk for added moisture that helps the batter combine smoothly. I like using almond milk, coconut milk, or oat milk.
- Vegan Mayo - Typically made with soy milk and oil, vegan mayo adds moisture and flavor while keeping this recipe vegan.
- Vanilla Extract - Warm flavors of vanilla extract add comforting and familiar notes to this cake.
Dairy-Free Milk Mixture Ingredients
- Dairy-Free Evaporated Milk - Evaporated milk has 50-60% of the water removed from it for a thicker consistency with a more concentrated flavor. For this recipe, I used Nature's Charm evaporated oat milk.
- Dairy-Free Sweetened Condensed Milk - Adds a sweet richness and thickness to the milk mixture. I love and used Nature's Charm sweetened condensed oat milk.
- Non-Dairy Milk - The third milk in the tres leches mix. Use your favorite non-dairy milk.
- Vanilla Extract - Use pure vanilla extract for added flavor.
- Salt - Enhances flavors of the vegan tres leches.
Whipped Topping Ingredients
- Dairy-Free Whipping Cream - Whipped cream tops off the cake for a beautiful finishing touch. Chill in the fridge overnight before whipping for fluffy peaks.
- Homemade Evaporated Milk - There’s just one step to make your own evaporated milk if you can’t find dairy-free evaporated milk, or prefer to make your own. In a saucepan over medium heat, boil 2¼ cups of your favorite dairy-free milk for 30-60 minutes until it has reduced to 1 cup.
How to Make Gluten-Free Tres Leches Cake
This vegan tres leches cake recipe is simple to make with three tasty components. The cake, milk mixture, and whipped cream topping are made with common kitchen equipment and combined for stunning and sweet results.
Here's how to make it:
How to Make the Gluten-Free Cake
Step 1: In a bowl, combine gluten-free flour, almond flour, cornstarch, salt, baking powder, and granulated sugar.
Step 2: Add softened vegan butter to the dry ingredients and work it in until the mixture looks like sand.
Step 3: In a separate bowl, combine non-dairy milk, mayonnaise, and vanilla. Pour it into the flour mixture and whisk together until you have a smooth batter. Let it rest for 30 minutes.
Step 4: Preheat the oven to 350°F (175°C). Grease and line an 8x8 square pan with parchment paper.
Step 5: Pour the batter into the pan and spread the batter so the surface is smooth. Bake in the preheated oven for 43-48 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean. Let the cake cool completely in the pan.
Step 6: Once the cake is cooled completely, prick the entire surface of the cake using a fork or a toothpick.
How to Make the Tres Leches Milk Mixture
Step 1: Add all the milk mixture ingredients into a bowl and whisk together until smooth.
Step 2: Pour the milk mixture over the cake and cover the pan. Let the cake soak up the milk mixture in the fridge for at least 1 hour, or up to overnight.
How to Make the Dairy-Free Whipped Cream Frosting & Assemble the Cake
Step 1: In a large bowl, add the vegan whipping cream and beat it with a hand mixer for about 3-5 minutes or until fluffy.
Step 2: Take the chilled cake out of the fridge and spread the whipped topping on top. Keep the cake chilled in the fridge until ready to eat.
Step 3: Optional: Sprinkle some ground cinnamon on top, or garnish with some fresh strawberries.
Recipe Success Tips
- Let the batter rest for 30 minutes before baking. This gives the flour adequate time to absorb the wet ingredients. This step is important for ideal texture when making gluten-free baked goods.
- Cool the cake in the pan. Allow the cake to cool completely in the pan on a wire rack. A cooled cake will absorb the milk mixture the best.
- Prick the cake well with a fork or toothpick. Doing this allows the milk mixture to soak in thoroughly. Lots of pricks will help the milk reach every part of the spongy cake.
- Plan for adequate time for the tres leches mixture to soak. The tres leches mixture needs at least one hour to soak into the cake layer and the cake can be soaked up to overnight. Allowing the cake to absorb the milk fully will not only make the cake delicious but also make it easier to serve.
- Start with cold whipping cream. Chill the dairy-free whipping cream in the fridge overnight for whipped cream that becomes fluffy when whipped.
Try gluten-free tres leches with one of these variations.
- Coconut Tres Leches Cake. Use sweetened condensed coconut milk, evaporated coconut milk, and top the whipped cream layer with shredded or flaked coconut.
- Cinnamon. Add ½ teaspoon of ground cinnamon to the cake batter and sprinkle cinnamon sugar on the whipped topping. Serve with cinnamon tea or garnish the finished cake with whole cinnamon sticks.
- Chocolate. After adding the whipped topping, top with shreds of your favorite non-dairy chocolate bar for the best dairy-free cake with an extra rich finish.
- Almond. Tres leches cake already has a comforting nutty flavor from the almond flour used in the cake. For extra almond flavor, add ½ teaspoon of almond extract to the cake batter and an additional ½ teaspoon of extract to the whipped cream before whipping. Finish the cake by adding slivered or sliced almonds.
This easy gluten-free dairy-free dessert is best served chilled and is made even more beautiful when finished with a dash of cinnamon or garnished with fresh fruit, such as strawberries.
Serve it with:
- Mexican hot chocolate
- Sliced fresh fruit
- Store: Tres leches cake keeps covered in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.
- Freeze: Freeze tres leches cake without the whipped cream topping in an airtight, freezer-safe, container for up to 3 months. Defrost in the refrigerator overnight before topping with whipped cream.
There are two primary reasons that a tres leches cake may not absorb milk: the cake is overcooked or it has not had enough time to absorb the milk.
For the best cake bursting with sweet and smooth tres leches, cook the cake just until done; an overbaked cake will not absorb milk adequately. The cake may also need additional time to absorb the milk, so return it to the fridge to soak for additional time if the milk is not fully absorbed after one hour.
If you don't have or can't find traditional sweetened condensed milk, sweetened condensed oat milk or sweetened condensed coconut milk are great substitutes. Nature's Charm is my favorite brand for both of the dairy-free sweetened condensed milks.
Dairy-free tres leches cake can be out of the fridge for up to 4 hours. Tres leches cake is best served cold, so return the cake to the refrigerator immediately after serving when possible.
Tools Needed to Make This Recipe
- Measuring Cups & Spoons
- Mixing Bowls
- 8x8 Square Baking Pan
- Fork or Toothpick
- Hand Mixer or Electric Stand Mixer
More Cake Recipes
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Gluten-Free & Dairy-Free Tres Leches Cake
- ½ cup dairy-free sweetened condensed milk
- ½ cup dairy-free evaporated milk
- 1 cup non-dairy milk
- ½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- pinch of salt
- 1 can dairy-free whipping cream chilled in the fridge overnight
- In a bowl, whisk together gluten-free flour, almond flour, cornstarch, salt, baking powder, and granulated sugar.
- Add the softened butter to the dry ingredients and work it in with your fingers or a pastry cutter until the mixture looks like sand.
- In a separate bowl, whisk together the non-dairy milk, mayo, and vanilla. Pour it into the flour mixture and whisk together until smooth. Let it rest for 30 minutes.
- Preheat the oven to 350°F (175°C). Grease and line an 8x8 inch square pan with parchment paper.
- Pour the batter into the pan and spread the batter so the surface is smooth. Bake the cake in the preheated oven for 45-48 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean. Place the cake on a wire cooling rack and let it cool completely in the pan.
- Once the cake is completely cooled, prick the entire surface of the cake using a fork or a toothpick.
- Add all the milk mixture ingredients into a bowl and whisk together until smooth.
- Pour the milk mixture over the cake to cover the top of the cake. Place the cake in the refrigerator and let it soak up the milk mixture for at least 1 hour, or up to overnight.
- Add the cold vegan whipping cream to a large bowl. Beat it with a hand mixer for about 3-5 minutes, or until fluffy.
- Spread the whipped cream on the chilled cake. Keep the cake chilled in the fridge until ready to eat.
- Optional: Garnish the cake with ground cinnamon or fresh sliced strawberries.
- Allow cake batter to sit for 30 minutes before baking.
- Dairy-free whipping cream is best when chilled before whipping
- Recipe variations
- Just Dairy-Free: To make just dairy-free tres leches cake, substitute all-purpose flour for gluten-free 1-to-1 flour and omit the batter resting step.
- Just Gluten-Free: If you'd like to just make gluten-free tres leche cake, use traditional unsalted butter, sweetened condensed milk, evaporated milk, whole milk, and whipping cream in place of the plant-based alternatives. Follow the rest of the recipe directions as instructed.
- Storage Directions
- Store: Tres leches cake keeps covered in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.
- Freeze: Freeze tres leches cake without the whipped cream topping in an airtight, freezer-safe, container for up to 3 months. Defrost in the refrigerator overnight before topping with whipped cream