This Vegan Tres Leches cake is nothing short of a dream. A dream come true!! A sweet vanilla cake is soaked in almond, macadamia, and oat milk, covered in silky coconut whipped cream, then topped with strawberries.
I had avoided veganizing this recipe for so long, thinking that I couldn't possibly get it right or that I had to make vegan condensed milk, and who has time to make vegan condensed milk?? I don't know why, but inspiration finally hit and this vegan version of homemade tres leches cake was born.
What is Tres Leches Cake?
Tres leches (three milks) cake is traditionally a vanilla sponge cake soaked in condensed milk, evaporated milk, and cream (media crema). It is topped with whipped cream and berries or assorted fruit, and sometimes cinnamon. On occasion, rum or rompope (a sort of Mexican eggnog) is added to the milk mixture. To make this vegan I decided to use almond, macadamia nut, and oat milk. The combination proved to be ridiculously good!
Tres Leches Cake History
This is a tricky one. Some say that tres leches cake originated in Nicaragua, but Mexico certainly claims it as its own, and Cuba and Puerto Rico have their own versions of well. Tres leches cake became popular in Latin America in the 19th century, possibly due to Nestle publishing a recipe in the back of its cans of condensed milk. They, however, did not invent it, even before then you can find various versions of milk-soaked cakes way before the 19th century. Without a doubt, there is some influence of European colonization, thus there are some who believe tres leches is a new world version of European milk soaked cakes topped with cream, like tiramisu.
The Challenges of Making an Authentic Tres Leches Cake Vegan
It wasn't as difficult as I had imagined, because I decided to completely leave out the condensed milk. Instead, I combined three plant-based milks with sugar and reduce the liquid by 1/3. The cake itself was the biggest challenge. The cake needed to be dry or maybe not dry, but at least not overly moist. The omnivore version is made without oil and mostly eggs which presented a huge problem in the vegan version. After 4 tries I came up with a cake that is dry enough to absorb the milk, but strong enough to not become mush instantly.
I tried 2 types of coconut whipped cream. I decided not to make my own but go with a store-bought option. First I tried So Delicious Coco Whip which turned out too sweet and heavy for my taste for this cake. I settled with Reddi-whip's Coconut Whipped Topping which is light and airy, and not too sweet.
The Recipe: Vegan Tres Leches Cake
- It's very important to make the cake the day before so you can let it sit out and dry out a little bit.
- I used almond, macadamia nut, and oat milk, but you can use any combination you prefer. If you like coconut, I suggest coconut milk.
- Top with strawberries or assorted berries. The acid in the berries cut the sweetness of the cake.
- If you want to make your own whipped topping I recommend this recipe.
Vegan Tres Leches Cake
- 1 ½ cups All-purpose flour
- 1 cup Sugar
- 1 tsp. Baking soda
- 1/2 tsp. Salt
- 1 tsp. White vinegar
- 5 tbsp Vegetable oil
- 1 1/2 tsp. Vanilla extract
- 1 cup Water
- 1 cup Almond milk, unsweetened
- 1 cup Macadamia nut milk, unsweetened
- 1 cup Oat milk, unsweetened
- ½ cup Sugar, granulated
- 2 cans Reddi-whip Coconut Whipped Topping
- 1 pint Strawberries, hulled and sliced
To make the cake
- Preheat oven to 350°F. Line the bottom of a 8 x 13” baking dish with parchment paper and lightly grease with vegetable oil.
- In a medium bowl combine the all-purpose flour, sugar, baking soda, and salt. Mix well.
- Form three depressions (small holes) in the flour. In the first depression add the vanilla, in the second one the vinegar, and in the last one the oil.
- Pour the water over the top and using a whisk, mix until combined.
- Pour the batter into the baking dish and bake in the middle rack of the oven, for 25-30 minutes or until an inserted toothpick comes out clean.
- Remove from oven. Let cake cool in pan for 10 min, and remove from baking dish. Remove parchment paper and let cake cool completely on a rack. Leave it out at room temperature without covering it, overnight.
To make the milk syrup
- While your cake is baking. Combine the three milks and sugar in a medium sauce pot. Bring to a simmer and let cook for 20 min. Remove from heat and let cool in the refrigerator until ready to use. You should have about 2 cups of milk syrup.
- The following day, using a serrated knife, gently cut the dome off the top of your cake. Poke the surface of the cake several times with a fork or a steak knife.
- Place your cake inside of the baking dish and pour enough milk syrup over to soak the cake. (You might have some syrup left.) Place in your fridge and let cake soak for 30 min.
- When you’re ready to serve, top the cake with the coconut whipped topping and spread with a spatula. (Don’t add the whipped topping to the cake unless you’re ready to serve it.)
- Arrange the sliced strawberries on top of the whipped topping and serve.