Tres Leches Cake, Gluten-Free

by Jeanne on May 6, 2010

(photo made possible by the kind women at the potluck today who allowed me to take one small piece home to photograph for this blog)

Happy Cinco de MayoCinco de Mayo (5th of May) commemorates the victory of the Mexican militia over the French occupational army at the Battle of Puebla in 1862.  It’s not the Mexican independence day as many people assume–that date is September 16th.  Because most people in the US really don’t know what this holiday is for, it is mainly used as excuse to have a party–one that usually includes Mexican food and drink, which is OK by me!

Today I attended a Cinco de Mayo potluck.  Originally I was going to bring some sort of cookie.  But I was on Twitter and Ree Drummond, The Pioneer Woman, posted a link to a recipe on her site for Tres Leches Cake.  Well, it looked so yummy and easy that I couldn’t resist adapting it right away and bringing it to the potluck instead.  It was a hit!  Everyone had 2 or more pieces–good thing this recipe makes a sheet cake’s worth!

One thing I really like about the recipes on Ree’s website and in her cookbook is that they are easy, extremely tasty, and appeal to lots of people.  So far I’ve adapted two of her other recipes, for French breakfast muffins and for her chocolate sheet cake with chocolate pecan frosting.  Both have been hits with my family and with my friends.

I mentioned a few weeks ago that she got together with the Seattle food bloggers when she came into town for her cookbook tour.  She took a couple of hours out of her crazy-busy day to meet and chat with us.  The event was hosted at a local restaurant, Anthony’s Pier 66–which also kindly provided some yummy appetizers and wine for all of us!   It was quite casual and Ree was super nice!  We all ate, had a glass of wine, and sat with her as she answered our questions.  I had gone to the restroom right before the Q and A session and when I came back, I found that my seat was right smack next to Ree.  I told her I would serve as her unofficial “peanut gallery” as she answered questions–she said that was fine (phew!).  She was so fun and we had a terrific chat with her.  At the end she asked each of us to tell her the name of our blogs and a little bit about them.  I have to say, I found that to be really kind and quite refreshing coming from someone as popular as she is in the blogging world!  Afterward, she allowed all of us to inundate her with requests for photos and to sign cookbooks.  And then she had to rush off to her next engagement.  I so very much appreciated the fact that she carved out the time to spend with the people who are some of her most ardent admirers!  Thanks, Ree!

The following is the recipe I adapted from Ree’s terrific web site.  It is delicious!  Another must-have recipe for my party repertoire!

Tres Leches Cake, Gluten-Free
-adapted from The Pioneer Woman website

Special Equipment Needed
-a stand mixer is handy, but a hand mixer will do
-9″x13″ baking pan

Note: This recipe uses my gluten-free flour mix:
Jeanne’s Gluten-Free All-Purpose Flour Mix (mix together and store in fridge):
1 1/4 C (6 oz) brown rice flour
1 1/4 C (7.25 oz) white rice flour
1 C (4.25 oz) tapioca flour
1 C (5.75 oz) sweet rice flour (also known as Mochiko)
2 scant tsp. xanthan gum

For the Cake
1 cups/140 g Jeanne’s Gluten-Free All-Purpose Flour Mix
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
5 large or extra large eggs, separated
1 cup/200 g granulated sugar, divided
1/3 cup/78 ml milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
extra tapioca flour and melted butter for pan

For the Three Milk (Tres Leches) Soak
1 (12 fl oz) can evaporated milk
1 (14 fl oz) can sweetened condensed milk
1/4 C (2 fl oz) heavy whipping cream

For the Frosting
1 pint (2 cups; 475 ml) heavy cream
3 tablespoons granulated sugar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F/180 degrees C.  Butter and flour your pan with extra melted butter and tapioca flour.

In a large bowl, mix together flour, baking powder and salt.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the beater attachment, beat the egg yolks on high with 3/4 cup/150 g of the sugar.  Beat until the mix is a pale yellow.  Add the milk and the vanilla extract and beat briefly, until just combined.

Pour the egg yolk mixture over the flour mixture and stir very gently to combine.

In a separate bowl with a mixer, beat the eggs whites until soft peaks form.  With the mixer on, slowly add the remaining 1/4 C (1.75 oz) granulated sugar, a tablespoon at a time.  Beat until egg whites are stiff but not dry.

Very gently fold the egg whites into the batter until just combined.  Scrape into your prepared pan.  Use a spatula to smooth the top of the cake batter.

Bake for 35 to 45 minutes or until a tester comes out clean.  Remove from oven and let cool in the pan for 5 minutes.  At this point, you can either turn out the cake onto a rimmed platter or keep it in the pan to cool further–until it is just slightly warm.

To Make the Three Milk Soak
While you are waiting for the cake to cool, prepare your three milk glaze.  In a pitcher (I use a 4 cup Pyrex glass measuring cup), whisk together your evaporated milk, your sweetened condensed milk, and your whipping cream.  Remove 1 1/3 cups (10.66 fl oz) of the milk mixture and use for something else.

Using a fork, pierce the top of your now slightly warm cake several times.  Slowly drizzle the remainder of the milk mixture over the cake, letting it drip down the sides, as well.  The milk will pool in places around the cake, but it will quickly soak in.

To Make the Frosting:
In a large bowl with a mixer, beat together the heavy whipping cream and sugar.  Use this to frost the top (and sides if you took the cake out of the pan) of the cake.

Prepare for ooohs and aaahs from everyone who eats this cake!



{ 27 comments… read them below or add one }

Nancy July 6, 2014 at 10:17 am

Can these be made ahead and frozen for an event? My daughter has asked for these for her baby shower, she is GF as well as other family members, and expecting twin daughters. We will be having around 50 guests for an outdoor event. THank you.


Jeanne August 4, 2014 at 11:15 am

Nancy: Sure! Just wrap the unsoaked/unfrosted cakes well (once they are completely cool) and then freeze. To defrost, put in the refrigerator for 24 hours. Soak and frost after defrosting.


Abbie March 6, 2014 at 11:28 am

Any grand ideas on what to do with that leftover milky deliciousness?


amarilis January 31, 2014 at 8:32 pm

This was my daughters favorite cake when she was little, before she was diagnosed with Celiac. Tomorrow is her 21st I will be making this cake for her. Can’t wait to see her reaction. Thank you for sharing!


Jeanne February 3, 2014 at 12:50 pm

Amarillis: Yay! Happy birthday to your daughter!


Soni June 21, 2013 at 9:05 am

Jeanne, I just came across your blog when I googled GF tres leches cake. I’m really excited to try this out for my husband’s birthday. We are also egg free, any suggestions for the substitution?


Jeanne June 21, 2013 at 2:42 pm

Soni: Welcome! And check out my Substitions post for info on eggs.


Shirley @ gfe & All Gluten-Free Desserts May 2, 2013 at 8:27 pm

Hi Jeanne!–I was searching for the perfect Cinco de Mayo dessert for All Gluten-Free Desserts … All the Time and found this recipe, so I just shared it there. I am sure that everyone reading AGFD will love this cake just as much as your readers here have. :-)

Thanks so much for always creating such excellent recipes!


Jeanne May 2, 2013 at 9:06 pm

Shirley: Yay! And thank you so much! I really appreciate it (and you)!


Angelica April 23, 2013 at 4:44 pm

I just made this, haven’t tasted it yet, but the cake dropped the instant I took it out of the oven… any thoughts as to why or how to fix this?


Jeanne April 24, 2013 at 3:23 pm

Angelica: How much did it drop? It sounds like it rose too high in the oven. Are you baking at high altitude?


Angelica May 31, 2013 at 10:22 am

No, I am not baking at high altitude. I did notice that my baking powder is expired, can this be the issue?


Jeanne May 31, 2013 at 7:46 pm

Angelica: Yes, that is probably the problem. Get some new baking powder and try again.


Jane November 18, 2012 at 3:47 pm

This is our favorite dessert – EVER. So when I saw a GF recipe for it, I had to try it. I have to say….the cake was so much better than I expected! Not quite the usual sponge-almost grainy-type of cake associated with tres leches cake…more of a study yellow cake. The taste – everything was delicious. I have to say, I used my own milk soak – I like mine much better – but then it requires more work, too, and I am often a glutton for punishment :)


Jeanne November 18, 2012 at 5:54 pm

Jane: I’m so glad!


Carrie November 3, 2012 at 1:42 pm

Thank- You, so much for this recipe, it is my daughters favorite! I had never had Tres Leches Cake prior to having to go GF, but this cake is amazing! Thanks Again!!


admin November 4, 2012 at 1:18 pm

Carrie: Yay! I’m so glad!


Chris August 25, 2012 at 4:45 am

This was very good – incredible actually. Made it for my wife who is GF and took it to some friends for a Mexican dinner. Nobody could tell the difference! My wife made sure the servings were small enough that there would be some to bring home. I used Bob’s Red Mill GF AP Baking Flour + 1/4 t xanthan. Batter is very fluffy after encorporating the egg whites – was a little concerned as usually Tres Leches cakes are dense (to hold up to the liquid). When adding the soak, I held a little back (1/3 C) and added it to the 1 1/3 C that was originally removed and used as a drizzle when serving.

Thanks for sharing!


admin August 25, 2012 at 9:08 am

Chris: Thank you so much for letting me know–I’m so glad everyone liked it!


Tiffany August 23, 2012 at 11:17 pm

My little guy is allergic to rice, wheat, corn and potatoes. We are doing a 4-day rotation diet with him. This will be great to use on a rice day. Any thoughts on using oat flour? Thanks.


admin August 24, 2012 at 1:53 pm

Tiffany: Many people who are gluten intolerant also cannot eat oats (not due to cross contamination, but due to oats themselves). See my post about Oats.


Patty May 6, 2012 at 8:29 am

I just made this yesterday to take to a party. WHAT A HIT!!! No one could tell it was a gluten free recipe. I have made a gluten version in the past and people couldn’t tell I switched to gluten free. I’m in LOVE with your site. Please keep it up. My goal to change everyones mind about gluten free around me with the help of your site. Thank you!! Can’t wait to try your bread recipe tomorrow.


admin May 9, 2012 at 8:43 pm

Patty: Yay!! I’m so glad. And I’m so glad this site is helpful for you!!


Nichole January 22, 2012 at 9:37 pm

Gave this a try tonight for my husbands birthday cake and it was a real hit! I used Arrowhead Mills All-purpose flour and skipped the step of dusting the pan with tapioca flour. It came out of the pan very easily and the texture and flavor were excellant.



admin January 23, 2012 at 11:13 am

Nichole: Yay! I’m so glad!


Tasha November 4, 2011 at 11:57 am

What are your thoughts on how this would work with sorghum flour? Since I already have it on hand, it would be simpler. :)


admin November 4, 2011 at 12:23 pm

Tasha: do you mean using only sorghum flour? Or using it in the mix? GF baked goods are best with a mix–each component of the mix adds a necessary element to the final product. You can certainly use all sorghum, but it will have a mouth-free that is more like a whole-wheat cake. Be sure to add 1/4 of xanthan gum per cup of flour. Happy baking!


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