Tres Leches Cupcakes
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Tres Leches Cupcakes — Homemade vanilla cupcakes with three kinds of milk soaked in giving you the moistest cupcakes ever! EASY to make and the buttercream frosting adds the perfect light touch to these AUTHENTIC tasting cupcakes! Put them on the menu for your next event, birthday or graduation party, or of course a Cinco de Mayo fiesta!
Best Tres Leches Cupcakes Recipe
One of my favorite cakes in the whole world is Tres Leches Cake. I prefer it to almost any other kind of cake because it’s so moist, tender, and practically juicy without being heavy.
These homemade vanilla tres leches cupcakes are exactly the same.
Whether you are looking for a fabulous cupcake recipe for an upcoming event, birthday or graduation party, or want to make the most out of your Cinco de Mayo fiesta, these easy three milks cupcakes are absolutely irresistible.
The cupcakes themselves have a three milk mixture made with evaporated milk, sweetened condensed milk, and heavy cream soaked right in. As you can imagine, this keeps them scrumptiously moist.
They’re not overly sweet at all. In fact, more of the sweetness comes from the homemade buttercream frosting.
Although it’s not uncommon for homemade whipped cream or store-bought whipped topping to be used in tres leches cake or tres leches cupcakes. You just can’t pipe it on and need to spread it instead.
Whatever frosting route you go, everyone is going to go crazy for these very authentic tasting individual tres leches cupcakes!
Ingredients in Tres Leches Cupcakes
For these ultra moist tres leches cupcakes, you’ll need the following easy-to-find and very common fridge and pantry ingredients.
- Unsalted butter
- Granulated sugar
- Light brown sugar
- Eggs, separated
- 2% or whole milk
- Vanilla extract
- All-purpose flour
- Baking powder
- Baking soda
Three Milks Mixture:
- Evaporated milk
- Sweetened condensed milk
- Heavy cream
- Unsalted butter
- Confectioners’s sugar
- Vanilla extract
- Heavy cream
- Strawberries or other fruit for garnishing, optional
How to Make Tres Leches Cupcakes
To make tres leches cupcakes that everyone will swoon over at your next event, summer barbecue, Cinco de Mayo party, or birthday party, follow these basic steps:
Step 1: Beat together the butter, sugars, and egg yolks until whipped and yellow.
Step 2: Add the milk, vanilla, and beat until combined.
Step 3: Combine the dry ingredients and then gently beat them in.
Step 4: In a separate bowl, beat the egg whites until stiff peaks form.
Step 5: Gently fold the egg whites into the batter.
Step 6: Fill your lined cupcake pan with the batter and bake.
Step 7: Stir together the three milks mixture.
Step 8: Poke holes in the cupcakes after they have baked and slowly pour the three milk mixture over the top.
Step 9: Beat together the frosting ingredients and then pipe, dollop, or spread on the frosting.
Step 10: Optionally garnish with strawberries and serve!
Can I Make Substitutions to Any of the Milks?
Although tres leches cake implies that there are three types of milk in the recipe, there are actually four types of milk:
- 2% or whole milk in the cupcake batter
- Evaporated milk in the 3 milk mixture
- Sweetened condensed milk in the 3 milk mixture
- Heavy cream in the 3 milk mixture
I have never tried substituting any of the milks with a plant-based or non-dairy milk such as almond or cashew milk.
If you were to make substitutions, I think reduced fat coconut milk in a can (not in a refrigerated carton) would be a decent swap for the 1 cup combined of evaporated milk and heavy cream.
However, you will be missing the sweetness you get with sweetened condensed milk so you have to compensate for that somehow — either just use it OR add another half-cup of coconut milk and a half cup of sugar.
Bottom line though, I recommend sticking to the recipe as written for optimal results.
Do I Have to Add Frosting to Tres Leches Cupcakes?
Tres leches cupcakes ought to be frosted for both taste and appearance. Those little holes you poked into the cupcakes, which allow the three milk mixture to seep in, aren’t the prettiest and frosting covers them up.
For these tres leches cupcakes I use a very simple buttercream frosting that I pipe on. However, you can dollop it on with a spoon instead to save time.
Or, you can just make whipped cream and spread that on with a knife life I do in my Tres Leches Cake with Whipped Cream. In a pinch, whipped topping like Cool Whip will also work just fine.
Can I Make This Recipe as a Tres Leches Cake Instead?
While you probably could simply bake this exact recipe in an 8×8-inch pan and make a cake out of it, I haven’t tested the recipe that way.
However, I do have the most amazing tried and true recipe for The Best Tres Leches Cake which you can make in a 9×13-inch pan. It’s a different cake base than this one. It doesn’t use any butter and it uses all white sugar and no brown sugar.
It is truly a winning tres leches cake recipe so just make that recipe if you want to make a tres leches cake!
Can I Make the Cupcakes in Advance?
Yes! In fact, I recommend doing so!
These easy tres leches cupcakes will continue to absorb the three milks mixture for a few hours after it’s added. Therefore, it’s best to make your cupcakes at least a few hours in advance. For an afternoon or evening gathering, make them in the morning.
There is no harm, and in fact I prefer it, to making tres leches cupcakes the night before. Let the milk mixture soak in overnight at room temp with the cupcakes covered or airtight on your countertop.
Then, frost them before serving.
How to Store Tres Leches Cupcakes
Individual tres leches cupcakes will keep airtight for about a day at room temp. After that, make sure to store them in the fridge where they will keep airtight for up to 5 days.
Note: Some people are more fanatical about not storing anything with butter or milk at room temp, but I am fine with it. If you’re not fine with it, then store your cupcakes in the fridge from the outset to avoid any worry.
Tips for Separating Egg Whites and Yolks for Tres Leches Cupcakes
When you’re mixing up the cake batter for the tres leches cupcakes, you will need to separate the eggs and white the whites separately.
However, make sure that you don’t get any egg yolks in the egg whites. Egg whites won’t beat well or whip up into stiff peaks if there is yolk in them.
To guard against this, I always crack eggs when I need to separate them into a small bowl. I then pluck the yolk out with my fingers and set it aside where it needs to be. In this case, the main mixing bowl.
Then I repeat the process with the remaining eggs, always cracking into a small separate bowl and not the main mixing bowl in case you get a yolk that breaks.
I find it easier to just grab the yolk with my fingers and pull it out than try to be fancy and “pass” back and forth the yolk between two neatly broken eggshells like you would see on a cooking show. Because I am never that lucky! That way, you won’t accidentally get whites or yolks where they shouldn’t be.
Tips for the Best Tres Leches Cupcakes
Making the best tres leches cupcakes of your life isn’t hard at all! I have a few extra tips and tricks to set you up for extra success though.
- Make sure you whip the egg whites to stiff peaks, but not so so beaten that they are dry.
- Folding in means gently incorporating the egg whites into the cupcake batter. That doesn’t mean stirring like crazy or over-mixing. That would just deflate all your hard work and will make the cupcakes denser and less apt to rise.
- Poke the holes into the top of the tres leches cupcakes when they are still warm and fresh from the oven. The three milks mixture will soak in better if they are warm.
- Use a toothpick to poke the holes and poke about halfway down, and make about 10 holes per cupcake.
- As I mentioned before when talking about frosting these fabulous moist cupcakes, you don’t have to frost them with a piping bag and tip. I used a Wilton 1M tip but use whatever you like.
- Or conversely, just spoon or spread on the frosting and skip the piping bag! Cool Whip works too for anyone who needs a shortcut!
- I garnished with strawberries but any type of fresh berry like raspberries, blackberries, or blueberries are a nice touch although optional.
- 3/4 cup unsalted butter
- 2/3 cup granulated sugar
- 1/3 cup light brown sugar, packed
- 3 large eggs, separated
- 1 cup of 2% or whole milk
- 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 1 cup all-purpose flour, sifted
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
Three Milks Mixture:
- 1/2 cup evaporated milk
- 1/2 cup sweetened condensed milk
- 1/2 cup heavy cream
- 1 1/2 cups unsalted butter, softened
- 6 cups confectioners' sugar, sifted
- 1 teaspoon vanilla exract
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 3 tablespoons heavy cream
- Strawberries (or raspberries, blackberries, blueberries) optional for garnishing
- Preheat oven to 350F and line a 12-count cupcake pan with liners; set aside.
- To the bowl of a stand mixer, or large bowl and handheld electric mixer, add the butter, sugars, and egg yolks on high speed until whipped and yellow. Scrape down the sides of the bowl.
- Add the 2% or whole milk, vanilla, and beat to combine. Scrape down the sides of the bowl; set aside.
- In a separate medium bowl whisk together the flour, baking soda, salt, and then add the dry ingredients mixture to the wet mixture, and beat to incorporate but don't overmix; set aside.
- To a separate large bowl, add the egg whites* (See Notes for Tips on Separating Eggs), and using clean and dry beaters, beat the whites on high speed until stiff peaks form, but they aren't dry. Tips - Make sure that NO egg yolks are in the whites or they won't whip up well. And make sure to use clean, dry beaters and bowl.
- Gently fold in the egg whites into the cupcake batter using a large rubber spatula. Do not stir aggressively, this is a gently folding in, turning over the batter with your spatula, over and over, until the whites have folded in.
- Fill each cupcake liner 3/4-full with batter and bake for about 20 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean or with a few moist crumbs. Rotate pan midway through baking for even cooking.
- Poke the cupcakes with a toothpick after they come out of the oven, going down about halfway, and poking them in about 10 spots each; set aside.
- Three Milks - To a large measuring cup or bowl, add the 3 milks, and stir to combine.
- Gently, slowly, and evenly pour the milk mixture over the cupcakes, allowing a bit of time for it to soak in, and going back and repeating as necessary until it's all been used. Note - The mixture will continue to absorb for a few hours after it's been poured in so it's best to make these cupcakes at least a few hours in advance. Make sure the cupcakes have completely cooled before frosting them.
- To the bowl of a stand mixer, or large bowl and handheld electric mixer, add the butter and beat on high speed until light and fluffy. Scrape down the sides of the bowl.
- Add the confectioners' sugar, vanilla, salt, and slowly drizzle in the heavy cream, stopping after 2 tablespoons. Beat on low speed and gradually increase the speed to high, and beat for a few minutes. Scrape down the sides of the bowl.
- Add the remaining tablespoon of cream, and continue to beat until the frosting is light and fluffy. If necessary for consistency, add a bit more cream as needed.
- If desired, you can simply spoon on or dollop on the frosting. I transferred the frosting into a piping bag and with a 1M tip, piped it on to each cupcake.
- Optionally garnish with strawberries or other berries before serving.
*Make sure that you don't get any egg yolks in the egg whites. Egg whites won't beat well or whip up into stiff peaks if there is yolk in them. To guard against this, I always crack eggs when I need to separate them into a small bowl. I then pluck the yolk out with my fingers and set it aside where it needs to be. In this case, the main mixing bowl.
Then I repeat the process with the remaining eggs, always cracking into a small separate bowl and not the main mixing bowl in case you get a yolk that breaks. I find it easier to just grab the yolk with my fingers and pull it out than try to be fancy and "pass" back and forth the yolk between two neatly broken eggshells like you would see on a cooking show.
Storage: Cupcakes will keep airtight at room temp for up to 24 hours or airtight in the fridge for up to 5 days.
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 754Total Fat: 43gSaturated Fat: 27gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 14gCholesterol: 163mgSodium: 308mgCarbohydrates: 89gFiber: 0gSugar: 79gProtein: 6g
**The nutritional stats are computer generated and while I don't think these cupcakes are "light" I do believe the stats are skewing heavier than they really are. Some of the buttercream frosting is lost to the mixing bowl, beaters, and piping bag which accounts for the artificially inflated stats in my opinion.
More Favorite Vanilla Cake and Cupcake Recipes:
The BEST Tres Leches Cake — This easy tres leches cake melts in your mouth and requires just 15 minutes of hands-on prep!! This is an authentic three milk cake your family will love! Perfect for Cinco de Mayo!!
Sweet Cream Vanilla Coffee Cake – You’ll never guess what special ingredient keeps this fast and easy cake so soft and moist!
Vanilla Cake with Vanilla Bean Browned Butter Glaze – You won’t miss chocolate at all after trying this cake! The glaze is just heavenly!
Easy Yellow Cake with Buttercream Frosting – If you’ve never made a scratch cake, try this one!! Fast, easy, foolproof, one bowl, and tastes so good! It’s a keeper!
Easy Homemade Funfetti Cake – Move over, store-bought cake mix!! This easy cake only takes minutes to make and tastes wayyyy better!!
Lemon Buttermilk Cake with Lemon Glaze – An easy little cake with big lemon flavor! Soft, fluffy, and foolproof if you like puckering up!
The Best Pineapple Upside-Down Cake – So soft, moist and really is The Best! A cheery, happy cake that’s sure to put a smile on anyone’s face!
Pineapple Poke Cake with Pineapple Glaze — Fast, easy, one-bowl, no mixer, from-scratch cake that’s easier than a mix! The glaze soaks into every inch and you’ll be in juicy pineapple heaven!
Yellow Cupcakes with Chocolate Buttercream Frosting — These from-scratch yellow cupcakes with chocolate buttercream frosting taste just like the kind you grew up eating at childhood birthday parties!
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