Tres Leches Cupcakes

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My amazing tres leches cupcakes take a classic, traditional tres leches cake recipe and make it perfect for parties and snacking!

Close up of a tres leches cupcake with a couple other cupcakes in the background

Tres leches cake is popular in Mexico and all across Latin America. It is translated as three milks cake as it is made with evaporated milk, sweetened condensed milk, and heavy whipping cream (or whole milk).

Tres leches cupcakes are the cupcake version of that cake.

Tres leches cupcakes are airy, like angel food cupcakes (another one of my cake-to-cupcake transformations), as they are made by incorporating whipped egg whites.

Most tres leches cakes are made in a single layer topped with whipped cream or toasted marshmallow frosting. In my cupcake version, I switch up my frosting between both. I’m showing it here with whipped cream frosting as it’s the easier option (and it’s totally delicious).

Ingredients

A group of three tres leches cupcakes

While you’ll need a number of kitchen staples, the important ingredients here are the three milks (tres leches) you need to make the cupcakes: heavy whipping cream, sweetened condensed milk, and evaporated milk.

After baking the cupcakes, you’ll mix these three milks and pour them into the cupcakes so they can soak overnight. This is what makes the dessert so amazing!

How It’s Made

Cupcakes

First, preheat your oven to 350 F.

Start making the cupcakes by whipping egg whites until soft peaks form. Soft peaks just barely hold their shape. They fall over shortly after you lift the beater.

egg whites in soft peak phase

Then, add sugar to the egg whites and keep beating until stiff peaks form. Stiff peaks are glossy and hold their shape when the beater is lifted.

A bowl of egg whites beaten to stiff peaks

Next, beat egg yolks and sugar. As you beat them, they will double in volume and become a pale yellow color.

Beaten egg yolks in a mixing bowl

Add milk, vanilla, flour, baking powder, and salt, and mix until combined. I recommend using whole milk, but any milk will work here.

Adding dry ingredients to tres leches cake batter

Next, gently fold the stiff egg whites into the batter.

Tip: Always fold in stiff egg whites by hand rather than using an electric or stand mixer. The speed of an electric mixer can remove the air from the fluffy egg whites and cause your dessert not to rise.

folding egg whites into tres leches cake batter

Fill cupcake liners 3/4 full. The recipe should yield 24 cupcakes if you are using standard sized liners.

Bake for 20 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the center of a cupcake comes out clean. Remove from the oven and set on a cooling rack for the next step.

Soaking

Use a skewer or toothpick to poke lots of little holes in the cupcakes. These will help the cakes absorb the three milk mixture.

Poking holes into tres leches cupcakes

Mix heavy whipping cream, sweetened condensed milk, and evaporated milk and slowly pour over the cupcakes. Pour just a little at a time onto each cupcake. Then, go back for a second pass after some of the liquid has been absorbed.

Pouring three milks into tres leches cupcakes

Cover and refrigerate overnight.

Top with Chantilly cream or marshmallow frosting and dust with cinnamon. Serve immediately or refrigerate for up to three days.

Topping tres leches cupcakes with whipped cream

Expert Tips and FAQs

Should I have liquid leftover after pouring it into the cupcakes?

You may have a little leftover liquid after pouring it into the cupcakes. That’s normal. Don’t try to use it all if it isn’t being absorbed.

What do I do if my cupcakes sank after removing them from the oven?

This is totally normal for this recipe. It doesn’t matter since you are topping them with whipped cream or marshmallow frosting!

Do I need a specific type of liner for this recipe since I’m pouring in a lot of liquid?

I initially thought that the liquid would soak through normal paper cupcake liners, but I found that the liners stayed totally dry. So, feel free to use whichever liners you prefer.

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Tres leches cupcakes
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4.64 from 11 votes

Tres Leches Cupcakes

Tres leches cupcakes are the cupcake version of tres leches cake. They’re ever so moist and topped with fresh whipped cream and cinnamon.
Course Dessert
Cuisine American
Prep Time 40 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Chilling Time 4 hours
Total Time 1 hour
Servings 24
Calories 104kcal
Author Stefani

Ingredients

Cake Ingredients

  • 5 large eggs separated
  • 1 cup sugar divided
  • 1/3 cup whole milk
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup cake flour not self-rising
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 1/2 cup sweetened condensed milk
  • 1/2 cup evaporated milk
  • whipped cream to taste, as frosting for the cupcakes
  • cinnamon to taste

Instructions

  • Preheat oven to 350 F.
  • In a medium-sized mixing bowl, whip egg whites at medium speed with an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment until soft peaks form.
  • Add 1/4 cup of sugar and continue whipping at high speed until stiff peaks form.
  • In another mixing bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat egg yolks and 3/4 cup sugar until pale yellow and doubled in volume.
  • Mix in milk, vanilla, cake flour, baking powder, and salt on low speed until fully combined.
  • Gently fold in beaten egg whites/sugar with a spatula.
  • Fill cupcake liners 3/4 full and bake for 20 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the center of a cupcake comes out clean.
  • Set cupcakes onto a cooling rack. Use a skewer or a toothpick to poke lots of holes in the cupcakes.
  • In a small mixing bowl, combine heavy whipping cream, sweetened condensed milk, and evaporated milk.
  • Pour a little of the liquid over each cupcake making a small puddle on top of the cupcakes. Wait a few minutes for the liquid to absorb. Then, pour more liquid onto each cupcake. You may not use all of the liquid. 
  • Place the cupcakes in the refrigerator in a covered container overnight.
  • Pipe or spread whipped cream on top of the cupcakes and optionally dust with cinnamon.
  • Serve immediately or store in the refrigerator for up to three days.

Notes

You may have a little leftover liquid and that’s OK. Don’t try to use it all if it isn’t being absorbed.
The cupcakes may sink a little bit after being removed from the oven. This is normal. Don’t worry, you are topping them with whipped cream!
At first I thought that the liquid would soak through normal paper cupcake liners, but I found that the liners stayed totally dry. So, feel free to use whichever liners you prefer.

Nutrition

Calories: 104kcal | Carbohydrates: 16g | Protein: 2g | Fat: 2g | Saturated Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 41mg | Sodium: 53mg | Potassium: 89mg | Sugar: 12g | Vitamin A: 120IU | Vitamin C: 0.2mg | Calcium: 54mg | Iron: 0.3mg
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Tres Leches Cupcakes