Gluten-Free Tres Leches Cake

tres leches

Tres leches cake is not normally something I associate with this time of year. Around this time of year, I am usually focused on pecan pies, pumpkin everything, and soups of all kinds. Tres leches is usually the furthest thing from my mind.  

Of course, that all changed when we made last-minute plans to spend Hallowe’en evening with friends. They were planning a Mexican-themed dinner. (serving carnitas tacos, Mexican rice, and bacon-wrapped, cheese-and-jalapeno-stuffed shrimp. YUM.) I decided to bring along some homemade refried beans, a homemade salsa, and if I could pull it off, a gluten-free tres leches cake.

If you have never experienced the wonder that is tres leches cake, let me tell you, it’s amazing. Essentially, it is a sponge cake, baked and then poked full of holes, and soaked with three milks (hence the name) – whole milk (or cream – I used half-and-half), evaporated milk, and sweetened condensed milk. And then, to top it off, it’s frosted with sweetened whipped cream. It’s moist without being soggy, and ever-so-creamy, rich, and delightful. Set your diets aside, because this certainly isn’t a “healthy” treat. But sometimes, you just need a bit of decadence. And this cake is so worth it.

When I started to make this cake, I honestly wasn’t sure if it would turn out. I’m still somewhat of a novice when it comes to gluten-free baking, but recently, I’ve become a bit more confident in understanding how certain gluten-free flours behave, and the role that xanthan gum plays in binding. My confidence has allowed me to break free from strictly following a recipe, and instead “feel” my way through baking. (something I wasn’t even comfortable doing when baking before going gluten-free!) Of course, when something turns out, I’m still so astonished. After I made this cake, and ate a piece, I exclaimed “Wow, this doesn’t suck!”

Aah, such high hopes I have, for these experiments of mine.

But truly, it didn’t suck. In fact, the flavor is absolutely wonderful, and the cake is not soggy in the slightest. I think that next time, I’ll reduce the milks by about 1/2 cup (I’ve written the recipe below making this change for you), because it was almost too wet, but the cake held up just fine, in spite of the amount of milks it was holding. But honestly, I could stuff myself silly with this sweet treat. It’s that good.

Tres Leches Cake, adapted from Baking for John, No Recipes, and Masa Assassin

For the cake:

5 eggs, separated

1 c sugar

3 T butter

1 t vanilla extract

1 t orange zest

Pinch of cinnamon

 ½ c sorghum flour

½ c masa harina

1 ½ t baking powder

1 t xanthan gum

¼ c milk

½ t cream of tartar

Pinch salt

For the milks:

1/2 c half-and-half

12 oz can evaporated milk

14 oz can sweetened condensed milk

For the topping:

1 c whipping cream

¼ c sugar

1 t vanilla

Sliced strawberries and mint leaves

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Generously butter a 13X9 baking dish. In a large bowl, beat ¾ c sugar, egg yolks, and butter until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Fold in the vanilla extract, orange zest, cinnamon, sorghum flour, masa harina, baking powder, xanthan gum, and milk.

In another large bowl, beat egg whites to soft peaks, adding cream of tartar after about 20 seconds. Gradually add the remaining ¼ c sugar and continue beating until egg whites are glossy and firm, but not dry.

Gently fold the egg whites into the cake mixture. Pour this batter into the baking dish, spreading out evenly.  Bake until the cake is golden and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 25 minutes. Pierce cake all over with a toothpick.

Whisk together the milks, and pour evenly over cake. Allow to cool for a bit, and cover and place in refrigerator for 4 hours, up to overnight.

Before serving,  place the whipping cream, sugar, and vanilla in a mixer bowl and whisk to stiff peaks, and nice and thick. Spread over cake and top with strawberries and mint leaves.

Allow to chill in refrigerator until ready to serve.

tres leches2


  1. says

    What a great treat with three kinds of milk. You’re absolutely getting more confident in making gluten-free cakes and I salute you for that. Gluten-free baking could be challenging most especially when most ingredients are hard to find. This cakes looks amazing.

  2. Shelly Huang says

    This looks so delicious! I’ve certainly had tres leche before and experienced the wonder of it, and now you leave me craving for it again!

  3. says

    Ah, the tres leches cake at last! I don’t normally crave sweets just from a photo, but looking at this I can just taste it … I LOVE tres leches cake and you now have me jonesing for some. YUM!

    • tastyeatsathome says

      Cookin Canuck – if you enjoy bread pudding of any sort, this would definitely be right up your alley!

      Lori, Angie, lululu, Rochelle, Tasty Trix, alison, Shelly Huang, and Divina – Thank you! It is delicious, so much that I keep eating a large slice every night! Shame on me.

  4. says

    Mmmm…I haven’t had tres leches in such a long time. Looks so tasty.It’s funny i’ve never thought to make this myself when I always have it when someone else makes it.

  5. says

    I never heard of tres leches cake before moving to Texas, and now my hips wish I still hadn’t heard of tres leches. It’s one of my favorite desserts, and your recipe looks great!

  6. says

    That cake looks beautiful! Really, beautiful and delicious.

    Thanks for the heads up on the chicken broth, I didn’t thank that one through. I’ll add a note about using vegetable broth.

  7. nutmegnanny says

    First of all I love the final picture…so beautiful! I love how you made this gluten free too. Although I do not suffer from wheat allergies I know a lot of people who do. It’s great to have a yummy cake they can enjoy too:)

  8. says

    this is awesome, some of my friends are vegan and I always have trouble thinking of desserts that they are able to eat. I will try this one over the holidays!

  9. says

    Oooh, looks seductive. I would have never thought to use masa harina and sorghum flour together. I am journeying through gluten free baking myself. I had the highest hopes of making my very own fermented artisan bread, sans-recipe. Too bad the only things I produced were sweet smelling crusty balls of gooey infusion. Now I use other people’s recipes, trying hard not to play with the ingredients. I trust my husband to be the official taste judge. He always tells me straight up if it sucks. I might sulk, but that doesn’t hinder his honesty. It get’s me motivated to find the ‘good’ recipes. I am gaining ground in finding tasty GF things to bake. The proof is in the choice my kids make at dinner. They are neglecting the wheatie option and going for the GF gold.

    I’m always glad to find someone vouching for the GF goodness in their recipe. Thanks for posting this eye pleasing masterpiece.

    • tastyeatsathome says

      Chelsey – let me know if you ever get a successful fermented artisan bread going! I haven’t started down that road yet. It would be really cool – I miss sourdough bread! Thank you!

      Wasabi Prime, Mirinda, Diana, Jessie, ValleyWriter, meatlessmama, cheah, Marillyn, Iris, Eddie, Reeni, JoyZhang, Marsha, nutmegnanny, SqueakyGourmet, Linda, SimplyLife, Vegetable Matter, Jenn and Kelly – Thank you ALL so much! It’s wonderful to hear great feedback on what a few months’ ago would have seemed like an insurmountable task!

  10. says

    One of my coworkers used to talk about Tres Leches cake, but I’ve never tried it myself. I wish I had a piece of yours here right now! It looks so decadent!

  11. says

    Looks beautiful!! Brings back memories of living in Baja California… whenever there was a birthday, Tres Leches Cake was a MUST!!! I’ve tried so many different styles and very picky. Yours looks like something I would love! Good job girl!!

  12. says

    What a beautiful cake! I’ve been curious about Tres Leches cakes ever since I saw one on The Pioneer Woman Cooks. I need to give this a try!

  13. says

    This cake looks divine, I want to make this for Thanksgiving. I’m sure everyone will be surprised when I make this instead of the usual pumpkin pie.

  14. Mary Harris says

    Tres Leches Cake is a family favorite, I plan to bake this for my two grandsons that are gluten free and soy free. One of my grandsons can not
    tolerate xanthan gum can I substitute guar gum?

    • tastyeatsathome says

      Mary – You can substitute guar gum 1:1 for the xanthan gum without any issues. Hope you enjoy!


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