Tres Leches Cupcakes are drenched in a three milk mixture, just like classic Tres Leches Cake, but in the handheld form! Topped with whipped cream, cinnamon, and strawberries, these make a wonderful finish to any Mexican dinner!
Celebrate Cinco de Mayo or plan a Mexican-inspired feast with these tres leches cupcakes as the perfect dessert! Make a complete meal with these Fajitas or Chimichangas and creamy Horchata (a delicious Mexican cinnamon rice drink).
Homemade Tres Leches Cupcakes
These light and fluffy cupcakes that are soaked in a decadent three milk mixture! Tres Leche cupcakes are a combination of easy but impressive and fun! These cupcakes always stand out at parties. Plus, they can be made ahead for stress-free planning!
While we love tres leches cake in its classic form, this cupcake version is just too much fun! They would be great for bake sales or backyard cookouts because you don’t know forks and plates to enjoy them.
Ingredients You’ll Need
You might think there is an ingredient missing in this recipe: butter or oil. But actually no! This cupcake is made without any added fat. This gives the tres leches cupcakes the proper texture to absorb all of the deliciously sweet “three kinds of milk” that tres leches are named for.
- Flour: All-purpose flour works great for these cupcakes. It is best to measure the flour by spooning it in and leveling it off the top.
- Sugar: The cake itself isn’t overly sweet since it gets soaked in a sweet milk mixture. There is just enough sugar to keep things balanced.
- Eggs: Separate the egg whites from the yolks and beat them to stiff peaks. This helps lighten the cupcakes so they are light and fluffy.
- Vanilla extract: This ingredient gives a wonderful vanilla flavor. Use Mexican vanilla if you have some for the most authentic flavor.
- Baking powder & baking soda: These two leavening agents work in tandem to provide lift so the cupcakes rise beautifully.
- “Three kinds of milk”: This trio plays a starring role in the recipe. Sweetened condensed milk, evaporated milk, and whole milk makes for a creamy, moist bite that is just right!
- Heavy cream: Instead of overly sweet frosting, tres leches cupcakes are topped with lightly sweetened whipped cream.
- Strawberries or Maraschino Cherries: Strawberries on our tres leches cupcakes are our favorite. You can even use maraschino cherries will add the same pop of color and burst of flavor.
- Cinnamon: Just a tiny amount for dusting.
How to Make Tres Leches Cupcakes
These cupcakes are easy to make but take a little time and patience. The cupcakes need time to get all of the milk mixtures to soak in.
- Prepare the batter: This is batter gets a lot of its lift from stiffly beaten egg whites. This will ensure a light and airy cake.
- Drench the cupcakes in a 3 milk mixture: Combine the milk then poke holes in the cupcakes with a fork.
- Refrigerate: Place the soaked cupcakes in the fridge for at least 2 hours or overnight. This helps the milk mixture have time to fully soak the cupcakes and disperse. If not, it will all be concentrated in the bottom.
- Top with Whipped Cream: Before serving, whip the heavy cream with a little powdered sugar and vanilla extract. Do this until the stiff peaks form.
Must-Read Tips for the Best Tres Leche Cupcakes
Go slow and just add a little of the three milk mixture to each cupcake at a time rather than trying to force it. Going over each cupcake 2-3 times lets the milk soak in better.
- Batter: Folding the egg whites into the batter creates a fluffy cake batter that breaks up into cupcakes with a structure that can soak in the milk mixture.
- Milk Mixture: Slowly drizzle the milk mixture over the top of the cake. You can spoon or slowly pour the milk mixture on top, but we found it easiest to do using a squeeze bottle and going slow so there is time for each cupcake to soak up 2 to 3 tablespoons fo liquid until it is all used up.
- Refrigerate: You will be surprised at how you can unwrap these cupcakes and the milk mixture won’t gush out thanks to the cupcake structure that absorbs it all.
- Toppings: Pipe or spoon the whipped cream on top of each cupcake, then lightly dust with cinnamon and top with a couple of slices of strawberries or a maraschino cherry.
What Milks are Used in Tres Leches Cupcakes?
We used sweetened condensed milk, evaporated milk, and regular whole milk (can be whole milk or 2%) in this tres leches cupcakes recipe. If you want to add a little coconut flavor to your tres leches cupcakes, you could replace the regular milk in both the cupcake batter and the 3 milk mixture with coconut milk instead.
Will the Milk Soak through the Cupcake Liners?
No, actually! Even paper cupcake liners hold up to the milk mixture because the cake does its job of soaking all that deliciously sweet tres leches milk up. But just to be on the safe side, we like to use foil liners which give double protection. Plus, they always make cupcakes seem extra fancy!
Make-Ahead and Storage Instructions
While the cake part of these cupcakes can be made in advance and even frozen for 3 months, we don’t recommend soaking the cupcakes in the 3 milk mixture more than 48 hours before serving. They are really best eaten within 2-3 days of making them and should always be kept in the fridge because of the milk involved.
Tres Leches Cupcakes
- 1 and 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1 cup granulated sugar, divided
- 5 large eggs, separated
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1/3 cup whole milk
Tres Leches Soak
- 1 (14-ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
- 1 (12-ounce) can evaporated milk
- 1/2 cup whole milk
- 2 cups heavy cream
- 1/2 cup powdered sugar
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- ground cinnamon, for sprinkling
- strawberries or maraschino cherries, for garnish
- In a large bowl, beat the egg yolks and ¾ cup of the sugar on medium-high speed for 2-3 minutes until creamy and light in color. Add the milk and vanilla, beating and scraping down the sides and bottom of the bowl to combine.
- Add the flour mixture, mixing just to combine. The batter will be thick.
- Beat the egg whites on medium-high speed using an electric mixer until frothy, about 1 minute. Gradually add the remaining ¼ cup of sugar and beat until stiff peaks form.
- Gently fold the egg whites into the cake batter so as not to deflate the egg whites. Use an ice cream scoop to evenly divide the batter between the cupcake liners.
- Bake for 15-16 minutes until golden brown on top and the cupcakes bounce back to the touch or a toothpick inserted into the center of the cupcakes comes out clean. Cool completely.
- Pierce the tops of each cupcake several times with the tines of a fork to create holes down into the cupcakes. Whisk the sweetened condensed milk, evaporated milk, and whole milk, then transfer to a squeeze bottle.
- Soak each cupcake with the milk mixture, a little at a time, until all of the milk has been soaked up. It may seem like too much at first, but if you do a little on each cupcake, then let it soak in while you move on to the others, you can return to the first ones and repeat the process a couple of times until all of the milk mixture has been soaked up. Refrigerate for two hours.
- Beat the heavy cream, powdered sugar, and vanilla in a bowl until stiff peaks form. Pipe or spoon onto the tops of the soaked cupcakes, then sprinkle with a dusting of ground cinnamon. Top with sliced strawberries or maraschino cherries, then serve.
- You can make the cupcakes in advance and freeze them without soaking for up to 3 months. Just thaw on the counter, poke the whole, and add the milk mixture when you are ready to serve.
- Don’t top with the whipped cream until just before serving. The cupcakes can be made and soaked up to 2 days in advance and refrigerated until ready for topping.