Grain-free, refined sugar-free, dairy-free paleo-friendly Tres Leches Cake – a creamy, decadent dessert.

Today’s a special day on the blog! The lovely Sarah, Ashley, and Marcie rounded up a group of bloggers to throw a virtual baby shower for our friend, Izzy, who is having a baby boy soon! 


Surprise, Izzy! A million congrats to you and your husband on the upcoming addition to your family! Given the fact that Cinco de Mayo is tomorrow, I figured I would make a Mexican-inspired treat to share while we bebop around doing baby shower-ly things.

For those of you who haven’t checked out Izzy’s blog She Likes Food, I highly suggest you hop over there right now (and then come back for dessert)! She comes up with all sorts of clever healthful recipes that are packed with nutrients and straight-forward to prepare any night of the week. Her blog is a most excellent resource for anyone who loves a healthy meal.

Paleo Tres Leches Cake - a grain-free take on the classic dessert!


Let’s have words about this cake. And then let’s eat the cuh-rap out of it.

Prior to developing this recipe, I experienced a bout of cognitive dissonance because there are some recipes that you just don’t paleo-ify without changing the name. Like ice cream flambé, tiramisu, or rice crispy treats. You can’t call a rice crispy treat a rice crispy treat unless it has puffed rice and mallows in it…Just like you can’t call a tres leches cake tres leches unless it has three milks in it, catch my drift? Nevertheless, I’m doing just that.

Traditional Tres Leches cake contains not one, but three types of milk: condensed milk, evaporated milk, and heavy cream. It’s a dairy lover’s dream come true, and it makes my mouth water just thinking about it. The jist of it is you bake a yellow (or vanilla) cake, poke holes in it, pour milk over it and let it sit to absorb said milk to become ultra spongy, then frost it with delicious frosting. There really is nothing like it. Except for maybe this recipe.

We follow the same basic principles here, but the cake is grain-free and refined sugar-free, and instead of using tres leches, we’re using uno: coconut milk. BUT we’re using THREE cans of coconut milk, so that’s why I’m comfortable calling this a tres leches cake. How’s that for reasoning? It’s a riot.

So we whip up the cake batter in a blender, bake it, poke it with holes, pour coconut milk and honey over it, allow it to sit, then top it with whipped coconut cream.

Paleo Tres Leches Cake - grain-free and naturally sweetened | #healthy #dessert #recipe #glutenfree

Paleo Tres Leches Cake - grain-free and naturally sweetened | #healthy #dessert #recipe #glutenfree

Paleo Tres Leches Cake - grain-free and naturally sweetened | #healthy #dessert #recipe #glutenfree

PHEW! For a lazy lover of one-bowl wonder desserts, I admit, this is a bit of a task, but it’s so worth it. Because what you get is a super rich, decadent and moist sponge cake with thick creamy frosting that has amazing texture. And you guys…this thing is sticky. It’s such a mess to consume if you’re a hands eater like me. Please tell me you’ll eat this with your hands and face, pretty please.

Moving right along.

Notes on preparing this recipe:

  • If you want to make the cake a single layer, use a small cake pan, such as a 6 to 8-inch round spring form pan, or an 8” x 8” square pan. I wanted to do a layer situation, so I used a 13” x 9” baking sheet, then cut the cake in half (vertically, not horizontally) in order to smear frosting in the middle for the stacking.
  • When making this a layer cake, it will be a little bit easier to slice the edges off, as they rise a little bit higher than the rest of the cake – I did this and simply ate the edges as I cut them off.
  • Don’t skip the parchment paper – it will make removing the cake from the pan much easier for frosting. If you’re not concerned about the way the cake is presented, you can skip the parchment.
  • You’ll technically need two and a half cans of coconut milk for the recipe. One whole one for the cake, half of one for the soaking, and the cream from one can for the frosting. So you’ll still need to purchase 3 cans and will have some coconut milk and coconut water leftover.


Paleo Tres Leches Cake made with coconut flour and honey - a healthy take on the classic!

Annnnd…Lettuce eat cake!


Paleo Tres Leches Cake - a grain-free take on the classic dessert!

Paleo Tres Leches Cake

4.60 from 10 votes
If you're following this recipe for the coconut whipped cream frosting, be sure to read the instructions first, as you'll need to refrigerate the coconut milk overnight prior to making the recipe.
Prep Time 3 hours 20 minutes
Cook Time 40 minutes
Total Time 4 hours
Servings: 1 8-inch cake


For the Grain-Free Cake

For Soaking:

For the Frosting:


Prepare the Cake:

  • Preheat the oven to 350 and line a small (9” x 9” square, 6 to 8-inch round, or 9” x 13” baking sheet) cake pan or baking sheet with parchment paper.
  • Add all of the ingredients for the cake to a blender and blend until smooth. Transfer the cake batter to the prepared baking dish and place on the center rack of the preheated oven. Bake for 40 minutes, or until the center is set up and edges are golden-brown.
  • Remove from the oven and allow the cake to cool 10 minutes.

Soak the Cake:

  • In a small bowl or blender, combine 1 cup of full-fat coconut milk and 2 tablespoons of honey.
  • Poke the cake using a fork or wooden skewer multiple times (I poked holes about ½-inch to 1 inch apart).
  • Pour the coconut milk-honey mixture evenly over the whole cake, including the sides. Refrigerate at least 3 hours, overnight is better. If keeping the cake in a single layer, you can frost it after it has sat and soaked in the refrigerator. If making a layer cake, cut the cake in half to form two layers. Follow the instructions above for preparing the frosting.

Frost the Cake:

  • Place one (or two if extra frosting is desired) 14-ounce cans of coconut milk in the refrigerator and refrigerate overnight. When ready to make the frosting, open the cans and scoop out just the coconut cream (the super thick fleshy part at the top), reserving the coconut water for other recipes such as smoothies or oatmeal. Transfer the coconut cream to a mixing bowl.
  • Add the remaining ingredients for the coconut frosting to the mixing bowl and use a hand mixer to beat until well-combined and fluffy. If the coconut cream is hard, add a small amount (2 to 3 tablespoons to start) of the coconut water in order to soften it up a bit. Add a small amount more as necessary, until a thick whipped cream forms. Refrigerate until ready to use - ideally, you'll prepare the frosting just before frosting the cake so that it doesn't become liquidy in the refrigerator.
  • Spread the frosting over the cake, cut large hunks, and serve (Note: if making a layer cake, use half of the frosting to adhere the two layers and the remainder of the frosting to frost the top of the cake).


Serving: 1grams
Author: Julia
Course: Desserts & Treats
Cuisine: American, Mexican
Keyword: dairy free desserts, dairy-free cake recipe, gluten free desserts, tres leches cake
Did You Make This Recipe?I want to see it! Tag @the.roasted.root on social media!

Now let’s check out what the other lovely ladies brought to the shower:

Hoecakes with Blueberry Lemon Compote from Making Thyme for Health
Mini Phyllo Strawberry Brie Bites from Flavor the Moments
Veggie and Pesto Flatbread Pizza from Cook Nourish Bliss
GF Blackberry Greek Yogurt Cake from Whisk & Shout
Chocolate Hazelnut Butter Brownies from Foodie Loves Fitness
Rosemary Lemonade Popsicles from Vanilla and Bean
Roasted Cauliflower with Yogurt Sauce (Zahra) from Fox and Briar
Mini Berry Tarts (Paleo, Gluten Free & Vegan) from Bakerita
Healthy Potato Nachos from Nourished the Blog

Julia Mueller
Meet the Author

Julia Mueller

Julia Mueller is a recipe developer, cookbook author, and founder of The Roasted Root. She has authored three bestselling cookbooks, – Paleo Power Powers, Delicious Probiotic Drinks, and The Quintessential Kale Cookbook. Her recipes have been featured in several national publications such as BuzzFeed, Self, Tasty, Country Living,, etc.

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Questions and Reviews

  1. WHY have I never had tres leches cake before?!?! This is a tragedy that must be fixed! And I love that you made a dairy free version!

  2. LOL – three cans of coconut milk! That qualifies, Julia and I’m with ya! I’ve been dreaming up a vegan tres leches for so long… and like you, using copious amounts of coconut milk. It is my favorite cake of all time and I love what you’ve done with it here! .. So fun partyin with you in celebration of Izzy’s little man!

    1. I know, right?! All the coconut milk makes the cake sooooo tender, rich and tasty! I just love it. It’s been marvelous showering with you, too 😉

  3. I’ve been drooling over this for DAYS since I saw your email with the link…totally tried to click it when obvs. nothing was here yet 🙁 but I’ve GOT to make this! It looks beyond delicious and I know Izzy would LOVE it. Why can’t be just be having a big healthy treat fest together to celebrate?!

  4. This post made me realize that I’ve never had tres leches cake…regular.. or paleo version haha

  5. Thank you so much, Julia!!! For the cake and for the sweet words! And, I wholeheartedly approve of a Mexican themed dessert fort his baby shower! Tres leches cake is one of my favorites but I’ve never actually made it at home. Looks like I need to get busy this weekend because now I have a big craving! Thanks so much, lady! 🙂

  6. I love tres leches cake and I am so happy that you made a paleo version, I didn’t even know that was possible!!! This looks so good 🙂

  7. Love that you’ve shared a baby shower AND Mexican themed recipe! 🙂 Ya know, I don’t think I’ve ever had tres leches cake… It sounds so interesting!

  8. This is making my mouth water just looking at it — I so wish we were celebrating in person so I could eat the heck out of this! You’re brilliant for coming up with this and it’s a coconut milk lover’s dream (that’s me). 🙂 I love this cake!

  9. Three cans of coconut milk totally justifies the name tres leches, lol!

    I love that you thought to paleofy this recipe because, to be honest, I am not a fan of all that dairy. Um hello, heart attack waiting to happen. This version looks way better to me. I wish we were celebrating IRL so I could stuff this in my face!!

  10. I love that you used all coconut milk!! 🙂 And how fun for both Cinco de Mayo AND a baby shower!!! Now if only we could all have some cake together in person!

  11. Yes, 3 cans of coconut milk TOTALLY qualifies as tres leches 🙂 I love that you were able to paleo-ify this cake! To be honest I have never had a tres leches cake. How is that possible? Pinning right away so that I can give this one a try 🙂 It was so fun celebrating with you ladies for Izzy!

  12. This looks incredible delicious! I have to try making this because I’ve never had that before. My mouth is watering. Great job, Ju!

  13. I am loving all the coconut here! Such a awesome twist on a classic. This looks so good, Julia. And I am so just wanting to get at the coconut cream frosting with a spoon!

  14. I was thinking “I wonder if there is a dairy-free tres leches cake online” and minutes later, I kid you not, your email update with this recipe showed up in my inbox! Fate, I tell you. Now I have to make it!

    1. Haha! How’s that for timing! I was thinking of you while I was baking the cake, actually, since you’re the dairy-free guru! I was even thinking of using a combo of coconut, almond, and cashew milks just to have more justification for calling this “tres leches,” ha! Anyhoo, cheers to delicious cake, and I hope you had a fabulous Cinco de Mayo!

  15. Thank you so much!. Just recently (anout 2 or so years ago) begin to have sensitivities to most grains, some nuts, dairy, and in general aesthetic fragrances/products. My fiance and i originally wanted a 3 leches wedding cake. I knew one could make regular plain cake but I had never heard or seen a 3 leches version untill now! Im so going to try this this July. I want to see if it will tolerate the hot summer heat. Or maybe you may already know? 🙂 Also, do you know how adding fruit to the filling holds? Thank you much in advance!!!


    1. Hi Elizabeth! Congratulations on your upcoming wedding!! Very exciting!

      It’s so tough being sensitive to grains, when soooo many foods (especially yummy baked treats!) contain them. I’d say the cake itself should do pretty well – just be sure to refrigerate it overnight so that the coconut milk/frosting really sets up. I’ve never tried adding fruit to the filling, although that sounds suuuuper delicious! I imagine it would work as well, but I’d probably give it a test run before the big day, just in case! Hope you enjoy and huge congrats again!

  16. I was really looking forward to this but I think there is a typo in the cake part. It says “1 oz can full fat coconut milk 14- “
    I put one ounce and then added 1/2 cup more because I thought it was too little. The cake turned out pretty stiff and hard. Nothing like a real tres leche. I was so disappointed. I think I will try again since I have enough flour but this was a sad disappointment.

    1. I noticed that also when I printed this recipe a while back. I looked it up again today to try to figure out what that meant and noticed that the recipe has been updated to say one 14 ounce can of coconut milk on the cake part of the recipe.

  17. Me gusta tres leches! This sounds wonderful but I have IBS and can’t eat honey. Any suggestions for substitutes? One of the few sweeteners allowed with IBS is maple syrup. Do you think that would significantly alter the taste?

  18. I made this for my husband’s birthday on Christmas eve, and now my 8 year old son is requesting it for his birthday! They loved it! Thank you!