Bourbon Chocolate Tres Leches with Caramel and Toasted Coconut (Gluten-free!)

(Geez, I think this may be my longest post ever. I really hope you enjoy this recipe as much as I did. I put this in my show stopper category ;-))

So Monkey Man and I are over at our friends’ house (Chef Tony and Yvonne) for Sunday gravy. Yvonne’s friend Flo brings with her this amazing Tres Leches with toasted coconut brittle and a meringue top. Omg. But it was not gluten-free so basically I stared and drooled while everyone else ate this amazing cake. From that evening forward, I was bound and determined to make a gluten-free (and grain-free) Tres Leches cake.

After looking at a few recipes (I always start with a non-gluten-free recipe as my reference), I found one for chocolate Tres Leches. And so this post begins.

Now, before I list all of the ingredients and go through the steps let me give you an idea about how long this takes to make – a while! Making the cake is not the long part, but you have to soak the cake in the Tres Leches mixture (either 1.5-2 hours or overnight depending on how you do it). So on the short end, we’re talking 4 hours. On the long end, we’re talking 12 hours. But don’t fret – this cake is worth every second spent making it! 🙂 Definitely a cake worthy of a special occasion (or just wowing your friends) 😉

What’s different about this Tres Leches cake compared to traditional recipes? Well, first, it’s gluten-free. Second, it’s chocolate. Third, I use bourbon instead of rum. And fourth, I add toasted coconut and caramel sauce.

For this recipe, you will need:

Toasted coconut topping:
1/2 c. unsweetened shredded coconut
coconut oil spray

Cake batter:
2 t. instant coffee + 3/4 c. water
1/2 c. unsweetened cocoa powder
3/4 c. coconut flour
1/2 c. tapioca four
1/4 c. almond flour
2 T. ground chia seed
2 t. baking powder
1/2 t. baking soda
1/2 t. salt + 1 pinch of salt
1/2 c. canola oil (or grapeseed oil)
1 T. vanilla extract
5 egg yolks
8 egg whites
3/4 t. cream of tartar
1/2 c. + 2 T. cane sugar

Caramel Sauce:
1 c. brown sugar + 3/4 c. water
1 T. butter

Tres Leches Mixture:
1 c. half and half or cream
4 oz. semisweet chocolate chips (or 65% or greater dark chocolate)
14 oz. can sweetened, condensed milk
12 oz. can evaporated milk
1/2 c. bourbon

Whipped Topping:
2 1/2 c. very cold whipping cream
1 t. vanilla extract
1 c. powdered sugar

First thing is first – prepare the cake pans. Grease two 9 inch cake pans (I used coconut oil spray).

Greased cake pan - Chocolate Flourless Chocolate Cake

Then, line the bottom of the cake pans with parchment paper. To do this, trace a circle on the parchment paper with the bottom of your cake pan. Cut out the circle and line the bottom of the cake pan. Spray the bottom with a bit of extra oil spray, just for good measure.

Lined Cake Pan - Chocolate Flourless Cake

Next, flour the cake pans and set aside.

Preparing the cake pans - Boozy Tres Leches

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.

Now, in a small saucepan, heat 3/4 c. water. Add the instant coffee. Once dissolved, add 1/2 c. of unsweetened baking cocoa. Whisk until there are no lumps and set aside to cool.

Coffee and cocoa mixture - Boozy Tres Leches

In a medium bowl, combine the dry ingredients – coconut flour, tapioca flour, almond flour, ground chia seed, salt (1/2 t.), cane sugar, baking powder, and baking soda.

Dry Ingredients - Boozy Tres Leches

In a large mixing bowl, gently whisk the canola oil, vanilla extract and egg yolks.

Wet ingredients 1 - Boozy Tres Leches

Wet ingredients 2 - Boozy Tres Leches

Next, make sure that the coffee/cocoa mixture is cooled, and if so, add to the oil/yolk mixture. If it is not cooled, go ahead and put it in the fridge for a bit. If the coffee/cocoa mixture is not cooled, it could curdle the oil/yolk mixture – yuck.

Wet Ingredients 3 - Boozy Tres Leches

Add the dry ingredients to the coffee/cocoa/oil/yolk mixture – this is the base of your cake batter.

Making the batter 1 - Boozy Tres Leches

Now, in another large mixing bowl, whip the egg whites with a pinch of salt and the cream of tartar. The cream of tartar helps the whipped egg whites retain their shape. Once the eggs whites become finely foamy, add the cane sugar in a fine stream while whisking. Continue to whisk until the whites become glossy and the soft peaks hold their shape. Finally, folding gently, add the flour mixture to the egg whites in three additions.

Whipping the whites - Boozy Tres Leches

Folding in the whites - Boozy Tres Leches

Once the egg whites and batter are uniformly combined, evenly fill the cake pans.

Filling the cake pans - Boozy Tres Leches

Bake for approximately 45 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the pan comes out clean.

Cool the cakes on a wire rack for about 10 minutes. Here I used a piece of wax paper over the top of the cake pan to catch my cake when flipped the cake pan upside down.

Catching the cake - Boozy Tres Leches

Trim a fine layer off the top of the cake. I used a long serrated knife. Don’t worry, it doesn’t have to be perfect 😉

Trimming the cakes - Boozy Tres Leches

Why are you cutting off the tops of the cakes? This will allow you to pour the Tres Leches mixture over the cake and be absorbed. This step is critical for Tres Leches cake.

Now, clean out the cake pans (i.e. wash them) and place the cakes back into the cake pans – this is the set up for soaking the cakes. This is where laying the cakes on wax paper comes in handy – use it to slide the cake back into the pans.

Set the trimmed cakes in the cake pans aside and make the Tres Leches mixture.

For the Tres Leches sauce, pour the half and half into a medium saucepan. Add the semisweet chips.

Three milks 1 - Boozy Tres Leches

Heat until the chocolate is melted. Then add the condensed and evaporated milks and the bourbon. Using a whisk, mix until smooth.

Three milks 2 - Boozy Tres Leches

I poured this mixture into a large measuring cup (holds about 4 cups of liquid) and eyed the level – it’s about 4 cups. Carefully pour half of the mixture, a bit at a time, over one of the cakes. Give the cake enough time to absorb the liquid before you pour more on top. Try pour the Tres Leches mixture evenly over the surface of the cake. Once the liquid starts to rise up the sides of the cake, they won’t take on much more liquid. It’s okay if you don’t use all of the Tres Leches mixture – though I should note that I basically did. But if you do have extra Tres Leches mixture, save it for the caramel sauce!

Soaking the cakes - Boozy Tres Leches

Now, if you have the luxury of time, place the cakes in their pans in the refrigerator overnight. I did not have the luxury of time, so I placed my cakes in their pans in the freezer for almost 2 hours. Either will suffice. The longer you give the cakes to absorb the liquid, however, the less liquid will spill out from the cakes when you assemble them. Less time = more mess 😉

Before you’re ready to assemble the cake, you’ll need to make whipped cream, caramel sauce, toasted coconut, and chocolate shavings. The caramel sauce requires a little finesse.

In preparation for the whipped cream, the cream needs to be very cold. Go ahead and place it in the freezer while you toast the coconut and make the caramel sauce.

For the toasted coconut, lightly grease a cookie sheet or tray (I used coconut oil spray). Spread the shredded coconut evenly over the sheet or tray and place in a preheated oven (325 degrees F) for about 5 minutes. It should be nicely golden. Set aside.

Toasted Coconut Flakes - Boozy Tres Leches

For the caramel sauce, combine the brown sugar and water in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil for 5-8 minutes. The mixture will darken in color and become glossy.

Caramel Sauce 1 - Boozy Tres Leches

Caramel Sauce - Boozy Tres Leches

Add 1 T. of butter and mix well. Now, here’s the fun part. Add a bit of milk, or half and half, or leftover Tres Leches mixture to the caramel sauce until you’ve achieved the right consistency. If you don’t, the caramel will seize, making it completely unpourable. Add the liquid bit by bit until the mixture is thick and pourable and does not harden. I then filled a clean squeeze bottle I keep around – it makes drizzling the caramel sauce over the cake super easy 🙂

For the whipped cream, in a large bowl, whip the cold cream with 1 t. of vanilla extract. Once the cream starts to increase in volume, add the powdered sugar. Continue to whip until you have achieved typical whipped cream consistency. The mixture will be softly firm.

Whipped Cream 1 - Boozy Tres Leches

Whipped Cream 2 - Boozy Tres Leches

Finally, I normally have some sort of dark chocolate lying around. If you do, go ahead and make fine shavings with about 2 ounces of the chocolate.

Time to dress the cake!

When you take the cakes out of their pan, you may want to do it by the sink – if there’s a fair bit of unabsorbed liquid it’ll make quite the mess.

Start with one of the cakes.

Dressing the cake 1 - Boozy Tres Leches

Add a generous layer of whipped cream.

Dressing the cake 2 - Boozy Tres Leches

Then drizzle with caramel sauce.

Dressing the cake 3 - Boozy Tres Leches

Then sprinkle with toasted coconut and chocolate shavings.

Dressing the cake 4 - Boozy Tres Leches

Add the next cake and repeat. Then serve and enjoy!

– Nicole

Let’s talk quickly about substitutions.

If you have a nut allergy, you can probably just use a gluten-free all purpose baking flour of your choice (I like King Arthur’s personally).

If you can’t have dairy, well…..substitute coconut milk for the half and half and evaporated and condensed milks, but you’ll have to add sugar (probably about 1/2 c.). You can also make your own whipped coconut milk cream instead of actual whipped cream. Use 1 T. of coconut oil when making the caramel sauce (instead of butter), and again use coconut milk or almond milk instead of dairy.

Finally, if you’re not a bourbon person, use rum, or amaretto, or Frangelico, or Kahlua…..you get the idea 😉

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