Desserts · Gluten-free · Holidays · Oil-free

Vegan Tres Leches Cake

Well, it’s Cinco de Mayo again!  Cinco de Mayo is a holiday that I normally don’t celebrate.  It’s in the same category as St. Patrick’s Day for me.  Growing up, my family and I would have themed dinners for these holidays.  When I got older, I came to know these two holidays as excuses to drink themed alcoholic beverages.  Although I do not partake in either of these traditions anymore, I still like to look at different themed recipes for the sake of inspiration.     This year, I decided to make a cake that I did not think I was going to like.  Tres Leches cake is something that I make during the day at work but not something I’ve ever wanted to actually eat.  The idea of soaking a cake in sweetened condensed milk, evaporated milk, and whole milk makes me a little queasy.  It seems incredibly rich and sweet, which are two things I do not enjoy very much in my desserts.  I like either one of them, but not both in one recipe.In order to broaden my baking horizons, I decided to create my own version of a tres leches cake that was gluten free, vegan, and less rich and sweet.  The result of my efforts was surprisingly delightful!  I absolutely loved the way that my cake turned out.  I’ve jumped on the aquafaba wave (egg white substitute made from chickpea brine).  I learned of the magical powers of chickpea brine from this Facebook group.  Ever since I became vegan, I’ve dreamed of creating something that mimicked angel food cake, sponge cake, castella, etc.  I loved the spongy, almost dry texture.  It’s something that I never wanted to eat a lot of, but I loved baking cakes that came out this way.  They’re beautiful, perfect for decorating, and lower in fats for perfectly light summer desserts.
When I went in search of a traditional tres leches cake recipe, I found a cake that seems sponge-like in its description.  The cake contained a lots of eggs and dry ingredients.  They did not call for fats or liquids of any kind.  I thought this was the perfect opportunity to try my first attempt at making vegan chickpea egg whites!

The rest of the tres leches recipe was quite simple when I found a way to make the cake.  There is a soaking liquid, which I just substituted non-dairy milk for (and some cinnamon for flavor).  😉
The whipped cream topping was a simple fix: coconut whipped cream!  Coconut whipped cream is the stuff dreams are made of.  I love eating it in the summer.  It’s basically the most delicious and simple dessert to make if you have nothing else on hand.  I always try to keep my pantry stocked with cans of coconut milk for last minute dessert ideas.
In the end, I made the cake successfully.  I soaked the cake in my milk and cinnamon mixture.  Then, I topped the entire thing with mounds of delicious coconut cream that I made in my Vitamix (no need for a mixer if you have this handy).  To top the cake off and add some acidity, I dropped some frozen raspberries into the cream.  I’m a changed vegan.  I do like tres leches cake and I’m going to eat it all.  ^_^

Vegan Tres Leches Cake

PictureThis cake has a delightful texture and is a bit dry…perfect for soaking!

Cake recipe adapted from Latina Magazine
Yields: 6-8 servings
Gluten-free, Dairy-Free, Egg-free, Oil-free


  • 1 c Gluten-free AP flour (I use Bob’s Red Mill)
  • 1/2 c tapioca flour
  • 1/2 c brown rice flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp xanthan gum
  • pinch salt
  • 1 recipe chickpea egg whites

Chickpea Egg Whites:

  • 1 can of chickpea’s liquid (save the chickpeas for hummus or another recipe!) ^_^
  • 1 c vegan sugar (I used Florida Crystals)
  • 1 tsp cream of tartar
  • 1 tsp Ener-G egg replacement powder
  • 1 tsp vanilla/almond extract

Soaking Liquid: 

  • 1/2 c unsweetened almond milk*
  • 1/2 c unsweetened rice milk*
  • 1/4 tsp ground cinnamon, opt.

* If you have dietary restrictions/allergies regarding these types of milk, feel free to use your preferred non-dairy milk!  It also does not have to be two types.  If you have only one, the cake will still come out fine. =)

Coconut Whipped Cream

  • solid cream from 1 can of coconut milk (place it in the fridge for a few hours so the cream separates to the top of the can; save the water on the bottom for smoothies/drinking!)
  • sweetener of choice, to taste (I used some vegan honey)
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla/almond extract, opt.


For the cake:

Mix all dry ingredients in a large mixing bowl together with a wooden spoon/whisk.
Place chickpea brine in a large food processor/mixing bowl fitted with a whip.  Whip chickpea brine and slowly add in the sugar.  Add cream of tartar and Ener-G powder slowly as well.  Continue to whip brine mixture until it turns into a meringue-type consistency, about 12 minutes.  Check periodically for firmness.  Different machines will take longer or shorter.  In my food processor it took approximately 12-14 minutes.
After the meringue is ready, add half of it to the bowl of dry ingredients and fold in gently.  Fold in the second half of the meringue gently, making sure not to over-work the batter.
Pour the batter into a greased 8×8 square cake pan.  Bake on 360 F for about 20 minutes or until a tester comes out clean.
Chill the cake in the fridge until completely cooled, about 1 hour.

For the soaking liquid:

Combine both non-dairy milks (or just 1 if using) with cinnamon in a blender.  Once the cinnamon is dissolved, set the milk aside and grab the cake from the fridge.  Poke some holes in the cake that should be completely cooled by now.  Pour the milk mixture over the cake, making sure to soak the entire cake.  Place the cake back in the fridge to soak while you make the coconut whipped cream.

For the coconut whipped cream:

Open the can of coconut cream that has been chilling in the fridge.  Scrape the cream from the top of the can with a spoon and place in a blender/mixer bowl, being careful not to get much liquid in the process.  Set the liquid aside for another use.  Add some sweetener to the coconut cream and extract, if using.  Blend the coconut cream until it is thick and spreadable, about 2 minutes.  If using a mixer, beat the coconut cream (preferably with a whip) mixture until desired whipped consistency is achieved.  When you are ready to serve the cake, remove it from the fridge and top it with the coconut cream.  Cut the cake into individual squares for serving and top with some fresh/frozen fruit for a deliciously refreshing dessert!  Enjoy! 

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