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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!
What You'll Need for Tres Leches Cupcakes
- 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.
- Eggs: in this recipe you'll need two eggs, separated into whites and yolks.
- Dry ingredients: plain flour, baking powder, salt and ground cinnamon.
- Vanilla extract
- Heavy cream
Making the 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!
Preheat 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.
While your cupcakes bake, mix together you evaporated milk, condensed milk and 1 ½ tablespoons of cream. Set this aside.
Feeding the Cakes
Once your cupcakes are done, remove from the oven and allow to cool for about 5 minutes in the pan. Poke them with a toothpick and then start to feed them your milk mixture. 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. I opted for little pipettes filled with the milk mixture. This allowed me to finish off the making of the cupcakes quickly, but provided an easy way to add more milk when ready to serve.
Topping Off Your Tres Leches Cupcakes
To finish off the cupcakes, 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 with any leftover milk mixture. They're now ready to enjoy!
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 plain flour
- pinch salt
- pinch cinnamon
- ¼ cup whole milk
- ¼ cup condensed milk
- ½ cup evaporated milk
- ½ cup heavy cream (+1½ tablespoons for milk mixture)
- 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.