Every bite is beyond delicious in this vegan tres leches cake! A simple yet tasty cake is soaked in a sweet plant-milk syrup and then topped with fluffy dairy-free whipped cream and fresh berries. This popular Mexican dessert comes together in just a few easy steps and with the simplest of ingredients.
Tres leches cake is formally called “pastel de tres leches” in Spanish, which means “three milk cake.”
Traditionally, a three-milk mixture soaks into an egg-based sponge cake with many holes poked into it. Of course, my recipe is an eggless and dairy-free version.
This sweet vegan treat is so great to enjoy for birthdays, celebrations, Cinco de Mayo, or really for no reason at all! It’s a unique creation with a perfect level of sweetness.
Tres leches is another one of those recipes that takes me back to my childhood.
One of my favorite parts is when the cake is finished and all that’s left is getting a spoon to scrape up any of the remaining milk syrup and cake crumbs at the bottom of the dish!
It's So Easy to Make!
This cake is actually incredibly easy to whip up! Literally just a few steps and nothing too crazy as far as the ingredients go. You’ll find that the process is very similar to a poke cake.
It should soak for at least an hour but in my experience, it’s best to prepare the cake the night before to allow an ample amount of time for it to absorb the milk mixture.
Then when you’re ready to enjoy it, simply spread whipped cream over the top, add a dusting of cinnamon, a few fresh berries, and enjoy!
Reasons To Love This Cake
- So easy to make
- No dairy or eggs
- Tastes light and airy
- It’s moist and delicious
- Has a perfect balance of sweetness
Ingredients and Substitutions
- Plant Milk - Use any full-fat plant-based milk such as soy, almond, or oat milk. Some of the milk is used to create vegan buttermilk while the rest is part of the three-milk syrup. It doesn’t matter if it’s sweetened and flavored or not.
- Apple Cider Vinegar - ACV curdles when mixed into plant milk to form "buttermilk." The same amount of lemon juice or white vinegar can be used instead.
- Flour - I use all-purpose flour, but a 1-to-1 gluten-free option such as Bob’s Red Mill or King Arthur’s would work as well.
- Cane Sugar - Just make sure to check that the packaging is labeled as "vegan" or "organic" to ensure that it wasn't processed with animal char.
- Leaveners - Baking soda and baking powder give rise to the cake.
- Salt - Just a bit to enhance all of the marvelous flavors.
- Cornstarch - Arrowroot powder can be used instead of cornstarch.
- Vanilla Extract - Almond extract would be a fun alternative in place of vanilla.
- Oil - Choose a light, neutral oil such as canola, vegetable, or light olive oil.
- Canned Milks - Canned dairy-free alternatives for evaporated milk and sweetened condensed milk can usually be found in the baking aisle of your grocery store or online. Any plant-based variety works such as soy or coconut.
- Vegan Whipped Topping- This can be found as a tub in the frozen section of the store or you can use the refrigerated non-dairy options. Some example brands include So Delicious Coco Whip, 365 Whole Foods, and Tru Whip Vegan.
- Toppings - Add a touch of cinnamon and your favorite fresh berries to the top.
How to Make Vegan Tres Leches Cake
Here are some quick visual steps. Find the full recipe with exact measurements on the recipe card below.
Bake the Cake
Prepare - Preheat your oven and grease an 8x8 dish. Glass or ceramic is best because you’ll be pouring milk syrup into it and slicing the cake in it. Make the vegan buttermilk by stirring the apple cider vinegar into the plant milk. Be sure to shake the plant milk before pouring it into the glass. You should see some curdling after a few minutes.
Bake the Cake - Whisk the dry cake ingredients, then add the wet ingredients, including the buttermilk. Gently stir the batter until it’s combined. It’s ready to go into the dish and oven when you don’t see any lumps. Small air bubbles are just fine. The cake is done when it turns to a light golden-brown color and a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean.
Make the Tres Leches (Three Milk Syrup)
Mix the Three Milks - While the cake is cooling down, combine the three milks to make a syrup. I think it’s easiest to warm the vegan sweetened condensed milk in the microwave so that it's more workable. Then, add it to a lidded glass jar along with the vegan evaporated milk and plant-based milk. Close the lid and shake vigorously for a few seconds.
Pour the Milk Mixture - Next, use a fork or toothpick to poke a bunch of holes into the cake. Press all the way down. Then, slowly pour the milk syrup all over the cake. Cover the dish and let it chill in the refrigerator for at least an hour. Truth be told, it is best if the cake is able to absorb the milk syrup overnight.
Add the Topping
Top and Serve - After the cake has absorbed all or most of the milk syrup, take it out of the refrigerator to top it with whip cream. Then, add a light dusting of cinnamon. Add the fresh berries at the time of serving and enjoy! Make sure to store the cake in the refrigerator anytime you are not eating it because of the vegan milks and to keep the whipped topping firm-ish.
Recipe Variation Ideas
- Add finely chopped nuts to the top.
- Sprinkle coconut shavings on top of the cake.
- Use almond extract instead of vanilla extract for a unique flavor.
Frequently Asked Questions
Yes! Simply make it, top it with vegan whipped cream, and then store it in the refrigerator (covered) for up to 4 days. Add the fresh berries right before you plan to serve it.
Yes! Prepare in or transfer the vegan tres leches cake to a freezer-safe dish. Cover the top tightly with plastic wrap and then foil. Move it to the refrigerator the night before you plan to eat it. Some of the milk syrup mixture may pool at the bottom of the cake, but not very much and it will still be just as good!
Recipes to Serve with Tres Leches
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Vegan Tres Leches Cake
For the Cake
- 1 cup plant-based milk, full fat
- 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
- 1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
- ¾ cup cane sugar
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- ½ teaspoon baking soda
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 1 tablespoon cornstarch
- ½ tablespoon vanilla extract
- ⅓ cup oil, (canola, vegetable, or light olive oil)
For the Three-Milk Mixture
- 1 can vegan sweetened condensed milk, (11-12 ounces)
- ½ cup plant-based milk
- ⅔ cup vegan evaporated milk
- 9-10 ounces vegan whipped topping
- ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
- ½ cup fresh berries, (strawberries, raspberries, etc.)
- Heat your oven to 350°F and grease an 8x8 dish.
Make the Cake
- Shake the plant milk before pouring 1 cup into a glass. Then add the apple cider vinegar and stir it to create a vegan buttermilk. You should see some curdling after a few minutes.
- Whisk the dry cake ingredients together in a large bowl. Pour in the wet cake ingredients, including the buttermilk. Gently stir the batter until it’s combined. It’s ready to go into the dish and then the oven when you don’t see any lumps. Small air bubbles are expected.
- Bake the cake for 30-35 minutes or until it's a light golden-brown color and a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean. Let it cool for about 10 minutes.
Make the Three Milk Syrup
- Meanwhile, warm the vegan sweetened condensed milk in the microwave for 15 seconds. Add it to a lidded glass jar along with the vegan evaporated milk and ½ cup of plant-based milk. Close the lid and shake it vigorously for a few seconds.
- Use a fork or toothpick to poke a bunch of holes into the cake. Press all the way down until you are stopped by the bottom of the dish. Slowly pour the milk syrup mixture all over the cake. Cover the dish and chill it in the refrigerator for at least an hour. Although, it's best if the cake is able to absorb the milk syrup overnight if you can.
- After the cake has absorbed all or most of the milk syrup, take it out of the refrigerator to top it with whip cream. Add a light dusting of cinnamon, fresh berries, and enjoy!
- Suggestion: Use a glass or ceramic dish rather than metal or nonstick since you’ll be pouring vegan milk into it and serving from it later.
- Make sure to store the cake in the refrigerator anytime you are not eating it because of the vegan milks and to keep the whipped topping firm-ish.
Make-AheadFully make the tres leches cake, but wait on adding the fruit on top. Store it in the refrigerator (covered) for up to 4 days. Add the fresh berries right before you plan to serve it.
The nutrition information is estimated and can vary depending on brands and measurements used.
Can you use G F as well and make it gluten free?
Yes! Just make sure your gluten-free flour is a 1:1 substitute for all-purpose flour. I like King Arthur's Measure for Measure and Bob's Red Mill 1-to-1 the best.