Coconut Tres Leches (Dairy-Free, Gluten-Free)

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Think that following a paleo diet means you have to give up tres leches? Not true, y’all! This gluten-free and dairy-free coconut tres leches is so good and tastes even better than the original!

Coconut Tres Leches Cake (paleo, gluten-free and dairy-free) by Ashley of MyHeartBeets.com

With Cinco de Mayo just a couple days away, my mind has been on all things Mexican food. When it comes to Mexican desserts, Tres Leches takes the cake! Seriously though, tres leches is without a doubt one of the best Mexican desserts that I’ve ever had. Think: a dense cake soaked with sweet, sweet milk and then topped with sweet cream. Does it get any better?

Yes, yes it does.

My gluten-free and dairy-free coconut tres leches is (in my totally not-so-humble opinion) better than its dairy-filled counterpart. Okay, that’s a bold statement. It is different because of the ingredients I use, but honestly – I like it better and so does my non-gluten-free husband, Roby. Oh and tres leches just so happens to be one of his favorite desserts.

Coconut Tres Leches Cake (paleo, gluten-free and dairy-free) by Ashley of MyHeartBeets.com

For my tres leches (three milks) cake I use coconut milk, homemade condensed coconut cream AND coconut whipped cream – which makes for one extremely decadent cake. While this gluten-free tres leches is very sweet, it’s not cloying. The coconut whipped cream is lightly sweetened and complements the cake. It’s light, but also rich. It’s basically awesome.

Coconut Tres Leches Cake (paleo, gluten-free and dairy-free) by Ashley of MyHeartBeets.com
Coconut Tres Leches Cake (paleo, gluten-free and dairy-free) by Ashley of MyHeartBeets.com

Mmmm, see how the condensed coconut cream seeps into the cake?

This is not a nut-free recipe but for those of you with nut allergies, try making one of my coconut flour cakes (plain or chocolate) and using that as a base. I’m really tempted to try this with my chocolate coconut flour cake – yummm chocolate tres leches!

Happy Cinco de Mayo, friends!

Coconut Tres Leches Cake (paleo, gluten-free and dairy-free) by Ashley of MyHeartBeets.com

Coconut Tres Leches (Dairy-Free, Gluten-Free)

Coconut Tres Leches Cake (paleo, gluten-free and dairy-free) by Ashley of MyHeartBeets.com

Coconut Tres Leches (Dairy-Free, Gluten-Free)

4.91 from 10 reviews
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Ingredients
 

Cake:

Homemade Condensed Coconut Milk:

Whipped Coconut Cream

  • 1 13.5 ounce can of coconut cream (or the cream from the top of a can of full-fat coconut milk)
  • Maple Syrup to taste

Optional Topping

Instructions
 

  • Preheat oven to 350F.
  • Mix the dry cake ingredients together in a large bowl using a hand mixer. Add the wet ingredients to the bowl and mix until well combined.
  • Pour into an 8x8 greased, parchment-lined dish.
  • Bake at 350F for 30 minutes.
  • Meanwhile, make the condensed coconut milk by bringing the coconut milk to a boil. Then, add the maple syrup and reduce to a simmer for 30 minutes or until the mixture thickens. Keep a close eye on this so it doesn’t boil over!
  • Once the cake is done, allow it to cool on a wire rack, then poke the top of the cake with a fork or wooden skewer. Make a lot of holes!
  • Slowly pour the condensed coconut mixture over the cake (take your time with this) so that the milk soaks into the holes in the cake.
  • Refrigerate the cake for at least 30 minutes before serving.
  • Spread coconut whipped cream on top if desired.

Whipped coconut cream:

  • Place a can of coconut milk in the refrigerator overnight. This will cause the cream to separate from the milk.
  • Place the cream and maple syrup into a bowl and whip with a hand-mixer until fluffy. If you have a stand mixer, you can also use that to whip the cream until fluffy.
  • Place the whipped cream in the fridge until you’re ready to frost the cake.

Optional Topping:

  • Bake the coconut flakes at 350F for 2-3 minutes or until lightly toasted.
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Comments

  1. Jo says

    Hello! I just had a few questions before I make this.
    ~Is the 1/2 cup coconut milk mixed in with the wet mixture for the cake?
    ~do you personally use can of coconut cream or coconut milk refrigerated for the whipped topping? I noticed you said you have to refrigerate the milk overnight for the cream to come to the top. So if I use coconut cream, would I just skip this step entirely? (Also which brand? I feel this can make a little bit of a difference in taste)

  2. Aexa says

    Can I just use almond flour without the others? I’m trying to make this for my friends daughter and am having a hard time finding all the ingredients.

  3. Dolce says

    Hi, this recipe sounds wonderful ! But when adding the coconut milk to the dry ingredients do I also add the fat with it?

  4. Jules says

    5 stars
    Great recipe and works well as cupcakes (baked for 18 mins) and rose well. My only problem is that the coconut cream I bought at Trader Joe’s was terrible. There are some coconut products that taste gross to me like petroleum or something. Some oils, creams, etc. The milk was fine but searching for a good coconut cream brand – does anyone have one that doesn’t taste gross? Perhaps it’s like cilantro where only a small % of us have taste incompatibility and you think I’m crazy! 🙂

    • My Heart Beets says

      Great to know that this worked well for cupcakes!! You can try the Native Forest brand that they sell at Whole Foods – I like it better than TJ’s but I do use both. Let me know what you think of that brand if you try it 🙂

  5. Sassy says

    Hi – clarifying question here. If you use store-bought coconut cream to make the Whipped Coconut Cream frosting, then you do NOT have to take the step of creating coconut cream from coconut milk, correct? Thanks!

  6. Isaiah says

    4 stars
    The frosting is excellent, creamy and mildly sweet. However, the cake itself isn’t nearly sweet enough. It tastes more like bread than like cake. Overall the recipe is pretty good though.

  7. Gisele says

    5 stars
    Delicious, not too sweet, and not hard to make. I used arrowroot powder instead of tapioca flour, which I couldn’t find. The recipe makes enough for a dozen people if you’ve had a proper meal first. It is quite rich, so a small piece is all one needs. A few blackberries on the side would be a nice accompaniment

  8. Carri says

    Going to make this for a friend’s birthday. She can’t have dairy or eggs so I will need to substitute the four eggs in the recipe for something different. What would you recommend?

  9. Vanessa says

    5 stars
    Hi. Love the recipe. I have a friend who’s vegan and can eat with eggs. Can you make w/o eggs or what can I substitute the the eggs with?

    Thank you for sharing.

  10. Shab says

    I made this and it was absolutely delicious! I substituted coconut sugar for maple syrup. The cake was very, very filling so I recommend not going crazy with it! Tastes coconuty and in my case it wasn’t as juicy as store-bought tres leches is. If I make it again I will probably add more condensed milk.
    I kept some of the whipped coconut cream and I put it in coffee; so good!

  11. Tammy Foreman says

    Ok, so in the whipped cream section the recipe is listing “coconut cream”….but in the directions it is reading as “coconut milk”. I bought Cream of Coconut for the whipped section and the cream that rose to the top was hard so I am thinking I totally missed the mark here and should have used coconut milk. So basically for this recipe you will need 2 13.5 cans of coconut milk plus another 1/2 cup, correct?

    • My Heart Beets says

      Hi Tammy, you can definitely use cream of coconut – place the “hard” part in a bowl with the maple syrup and blend it with a hand mixer. Let me know how this works for you!

  12. Nicole says

    I’m a little confused about making the whipped cream. It looks like I’m supposed to keep the cream and discard the separated liquid, right? How will I do that? I’ve never worked with coconut milk or cream before. Does the liquid come to the top so it can be poured off? Does the cream get hard so I can scoop it out?
    Thanks in advance!

    • My Heart Beets says

      Hi Nicole, if you keep the can of coconut milk in the fridge, the cream will rise to the top and you can scoop it right out 🙂 Hope that helps! Let me know how this turns out for you!

      • Shauna Long says

        Do you think the cake will dry out if I make it a day ahead of time? This looks fantastic!

        • My Heart Beets says

          Hi Shauna, it’ll still be good! You can poke holes in it, add half “condensed coconut cream” sauce and keep it in the fridge overnight – it will end up even more moist!

  13. Alli says

    I am so happy to have found your website! Lots of Paleo options AND delicious Indian recipes? A double win! I cannot wait to try this version of a former favorite dessert from my dairy and gluten-full past life 🙂

  14. Roslyn Mac says

    5 stars
    I did make this cake on Cinqo de Mayo and it was really, really yummy. Will be making this again sometime for sure.

  15. Poornima says

    Hi:
    I have SIBO and react badly to tapioca. Can I substitute with another flour other than tapioca? Thanks!

    Poornima

  16. Tina says

    If you can’t use nuts, I’ve had great success substituting sprouted sunflower seeds for almonds in any recipe I’ve tried. Just grind them as you would almonds to make flour and use. I’ve also used them just after soaking and sprouting while they are still wet. Hopefully it will work with this cake. I’ll try it and let you know!

  17. Holly says

    5 stars
    OhMyYum!!! Ashley you are brilliant!! Seriously. Your blog is the only one I need to satisfy all my foodie cravings. I cannot wait to make this! I also love the fact that there’s not cups and cups of sugar/sweeteners in it only a fair amount of maple syrup for the whole recipe. Yay!

    ps- I don’t know why but my iPad will not let me give five stars! It only lights up either 1 or 4 stars. UGH! I’ve had this problem before. I’m so sorry! Please change that if you can!

  18. Carol says

    My family absolutely loves my home-made tres leches cake! That was before I went to a paleo diet and lifestyle. So I am so going to make this for dessert when they come over next week and not tell them it is gluten free!! I will let you know how it went over! Thank you so much for sharing your recipe!

  19. Rebecca says

    5 stars
    I am so excited to try this cake! It looks delicious! We will try to make it on the weekend!

  20. Ananth says

    5 stars
    Taste: Definitely on point. The coconut milk imparts a delicate sweetness to the cake and avoid the cloying sweetness of typical condensed milk which befalls many tres leches cakes.

    Texture: The flour used in the recipe produces the perfect foundation of cake to absorb the coconut milk and gives the perfect density to the final tres leches cake. The crunch of the coconut on top was a nice complement to the soft and moist cake. The mouthfeel was excellent (shout out to my boy Charles Boyle from Brooklyn 99).

    Appearance: Gorgeous – especially with the coconut flakes on top.

    Overall: Absolutely sublime. Another winner and must-make dessert from #MHB.

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