A fun cupcake recipe perfect for parties! These tres leches cupcakes with pipettes are a playful way to present a classic cake. Moist tres leches cake cupcakes, soaked with the traditional three milk mixture, topped with whipped cream and cinnamon, plus a pipette of extra milk!
A bit about the recipe
So, I'm on a bit of a cupcake kick at the moment. Following my cinnamon peach poundcake cupcakes, I found myself having a rekindled appreciation for the basic cupcake. They are, after all, easy single serving cakes. What's not to love? The opportunity came recently (courtesy of a friend on social media), to travel through food to Mexico. As a baker, the first thing that came to mind as a Mexican-inspired dessert was tres leches cake. Tres leches is one of my favourites - such a simple but decadent dessert, filled to the brim with milk, condensed milk and evaporated milk. The problem I always have with the full size cake, is that I naturally try to eat it all. So, this time, I decided to re-invent the classic cake into a small batch of tres leches cupcakes!
Why you'll love these cupcakes
- Light and airy meringue cake batter. My meringue based cake batter bakes up super light and will give you plenty of room for soaking the delicious three milk mixture that is traditional for tres leches.
- A touch of ground cinnamon. Just a bit of spice gives these cupcakes that extra boost of flavour, without being overpowering. There's a little cinnamon straight in the batter and then an option for dusting more on top.
- Fun pipettes full of tres leches! Who doesn't love a little bit of fun with presentation? Using pipettes of tres leches is the perfect accompaniment to these cupcakes - letting you include even more of the flavourful three milk mixture with your cakes than just by soaking. It's a simple, but playful, way to accessorize the bake.
These ingredients are what you'll need for Tres Leches Cupcakes:
- Eggs - in this recipe you'll need two eggs, separated into whites and yolks.
- Sugar - either superfine granulated sugar or caster sugar will work best in this recipe.
- Flour - either all purpose flour or plain flour.
- Baking powder
- Ground cinnamon
- Vanilla extract - this is the vanilla I use, but you can use any good quality vanilla extract in your bake vanilla extract.
- The three milks - milk, condensed milk and evaporated milk. I always use full-fat whole milk in my baking. Years ago I read about how the health benefits of dairy tend to be undermined in the skim versions. Since I don't particularly like plain milk to drink anyway, I switched over to whole milk instead of reduced fat versions. For the limited amount of milk I use daily, I might as well reap as much benefit as I can. The full-fat version is certainly superior for enriching cakes.
How to Make Tres Leches Cupcakes
The measurements in my recipe will be sufficient for 9 cupcakes. You could fill your cupcake cases further and make only 6, but I opted for fairly small cakes. They will rise in the oven, so I would caution against overfilling!
The process for these cakes is essentially in two parts: the cake batter and the milk mixture. This is because you'll be soaking the baked cakes in the milks.
The Cake Batter
- Start by preheating your oven to 350F (175C/160C Fan) and line your cupcake tray.
- In a medium bowl, use a handheld electric whisk to beat your egg whites. You will want to beat these for a couple of minutes on high until soft foamy peaks begin to form. Start to add your ⅓ cup of sugar a small bit at a time. I find that adding by half a tablespoon increments works well. This is to ensure it is evenly incorporated. Your mixture should start to become glossy and you are looking for stiffer peaks to form.
- In a separate larger bowl, using the same whisk (no need to replace the beaters), beat your egg yolks, vanilla and 2 tablespoons of sugar until light and frothy.
- Add your dry ingredients (flour, baking powder, salt and cinnamon) along with ¼ cup of milk.
- Fold this together with a spatula until well combined.
- Then, add a large spoonful of the egg white mixture and stir to combine. This will help to loosen up the mixture in preparation for the rest of the egg white meringue. Now, add the remaining egg white mixture and gently fold through.
- Spoon your mixture into your prepared cupcake cases until about half to ¾ full. Bake in your pre-heated oven for about 20 minutes, until a skewer inserted in the centre comes out clean.
The Milk Mixture
While your cupcakes bake, mix together you evaporated milk, condensed milk and 1 ½ tablespoons of cream. Set this aside.
How to 'Feed' the Cakes
Once your cupcakes are done, remove from the oven and allow to cool for about 5 minutes in the pan. Now it's time to soak or 'feed' the cakes.
- Poke each cupcake with a toothpick several times and then start to feed them your milk mixture by carefully spooning the milks on top.
- This can get a bit messy - for the sake of structure, I would leave the cupcakes in the tin, and use a tablespoon to gently glaze the tops with the milk mixture.
- As you go through doing this to each cupcake, they will begin to absorb the mixture. Repeat the process 3 or 4 times, until they stop soaking in quickly.
- Leave them to soak in a bit. You can add more liquid directly to the tops later on in the hopes more will sink in.
If you're in more of a rush, you can just serve the excess milk mixture on the side or use little pipettes filled with the milk mixture. This allows you to finish off the making of the cupcakes quickly, but also provides a fun and easy way to add more milk when ready to serve.
To finish off the cupcakes, I add a whipped cream, sprinkle of cinnamon and finally my pipette. You'll need:
- Heavy cream - sometimes called double cream. Essentially, you're looking for any cream that you would use to make homemade whipped creams.
- Powdered sugar - or icing sugar. This doesn't need to be sifted for this recipe, though you may wish to sift if your powdered sugar has any unyielding lumps.
- Vanilla extract - a touch of vanilla goes a long way here to add a nice finish for your cream.
- Ground cinnamon - a bit for sprinkling.
- Any leftover tres leches mixture - for your pipettes.
The process here is the same as my standard Stabilized Whipped Cream.
- Whip about ½ cup of heavy cream, ½ tablespoon of powdered sugar (no need to sift) and ½ teaspoon of vanilla. I used a stand mixer but your handheld electric beater will work as well!
- Once this comes together into a thick cream, dollop or pipe onto the tops of the cupcakes.
- As a final touch, dust with cinnamon.
- Serve your cupcakes with any leftover milk mixture - use some pipettes to make a cute addition to your cupcakes. They're now ready to enjoy!
- When making the meringue, be sure that you reach soft peaks before your start adding the sugar. Starting to add the sugar too soon will mean that the meringue will not thicken properly and you won't get nice glossy stiff peaks.
- Adding a small dollop of your meringue to the cake batter and stirring will help loosen this up and will make incorporating the rest of the meringue an easier and smoother process.
- These cupcakes can be baked in various size trays, just ensure that you don't fill your cupcake cases more than three-quarters full. The cakes rise and should develop a nice domed top while baking. These will shrink back, because of the meringue, and give you space to soak them with milk.
- When poking holes into the cakes, try to avoid skewering through the base of the cupcake (especially avoid poking holes in the cupcake case itself). This can result in the milk mixture leaking out of the cake and cause a bit of a sticky mess. That said, you do want to poke as many holes as possible and as deep as you can without puncturing the case to ensure the milk soaks down deep.
- The pipettes here are completely optional - they're purely an aesthetic choice, but they are super fun! You can find food safe, disposable dessert pipettes in specialty stores or on Amazon.
Yes! This is a recipe for a cupcake tres leches. This version of the classic uses all the traditional techniques and flavours - transforming tres leches into a quick and fun individual serving size cake.
These tres leches cupcakes are best eaten fresh. Due to the milk mixture and whipped cream topping, they will need to be stored in the refrigerator if made in advance and the refrigerator does tend to cause the staling of cake more quickly. Storing in a sealed container in the refrigerator may assist here for leftovers, but I wouldn't make these too far in advance for an event.
That said, my family has happily kept and eaten leftovers up to three days.
So, tres leches should be moist, but shouldn't be soggy. Soggy tres leches cupcakes can occur if your cakes aren't soaking up the liquid. This can happen for a few reasons. The two most common are:
1. If you've not poked sufficient holes in the cake for this to soak into. If this is the case, it is fairly easy to resolve by poking more holes.
2. If your meringue hasn't been beaten enough during the batter making process. Some signs of this would be if you didn't reach stiff peaks with your meringue or if the cupcakes didn't rise nicely in the oven while baking. If this is the case then there won't be enough air in the cake to give room for soaking up the liquid. You can still serve the cupcakes with tres leches milk on the side, but you may not be able to get them to 'feed' well.
Looking for some more fun and playful dessert ideas? Try:
Tres Leches Cupcakes
- 2 eggs separated into whites and yolks
- ½ cup sugar divided into ⅓ cup and approximately 2 tablespoons
- 1½ teaspoon vanilla extract divided into 1 teaspoon for the cupcakes and ½ teaspoon for the decoration
- ½ teaspoon baking powder
- ⅔ cup all purpose flour or plain flour
- pinch salt
- pinch ground cinnamon
- ¼ cup full fat milk or whole milk
- ¼ cup condensed milk
- ½ cup evaporated milk
- ½ cup heavy cream (+1½ tablespoons for milk mixture) or double cream
- ½ tablespoon powdered sugar
- Preheat the oven to 350°F (175C/160C Fan) and prepare a cupcake tray with 9 cupcake cases.
- In a medium bowl, using a handheld electric whisk, beat the egg whites on high for a couple of minutes until soft peaks form. Begin to slowly add ⅓ cup of sugar (adding about a half tablespoon at a time). Continue to beat on high until glossy stiff peaks form. Set aside.
- In a separate large bowl, using the same whisk (no need to change the beaters), beat the egg yolks, vanilla and remaining (approximately 2 tablespoons) sugar. Beat for a minute or two until light and frothy. Add the flour, baking powder, cinnamon, salt and milk. Mix together with a spatula to combine.
- Add a large spoonful of the egg white mixture to the egg yolk mixture and mix together - this will help to loosen the heavier egg yolk mixture in preparation for adding the rest of the egg white meringue. Now add the remaining egg whites in and fold gently to incorporate. Try not to knock out all of the air - this will help make for cakes that soak up a good amount of the milk later.
- Spoon your batter into the prepared cupcake tray, filling the cases to half or three quarters full. Place in the centre of the oven and bake for about 20 minutes until a skewer inserted in the centre comes out clean.
- While baking, mix your evaporated milk, condensed milk and 1½ tablespoon of heavy cream together and set aside.
- Remove the baked cakes from the oven, but leave in the tin. Wait about five minutes, then poke with a toothpick all over and start to add the milk mixture. Using a spoon gently add a little to the tops of the cakes, spreading over the surface to allow this to soak in. Only a little will soak in at a time, so repeat the process three or four times adding just a little of the milk each time until the cakes stop soaking this up. You can now opt to wait and repeat again in half an hour or an hour (at which point the cake may take a bit more liquid), or you can reserve the remaining milk mixture to be served alongside the cupcakes.
- Whip your remaining heavy cream with your powdered sugar and ½ teaspoon of vanilla. Dollop or pipe on top of your cupcakes and dust with some additional cinnamon. You can add a pipette of the milk mixture or serve this alongside.