Tres Leches Cake (and Cupcakes)

I am generally not a lucky person; I remember when I was a little kid, the children’s chorister at church had each kid’s name on a tongue depressor and she needed a helper, she would pull out a stick and that kid would help her. Each time she went to pull out a stick, I hoped it would have my name on it. It never did. Somehow my name didn’t make it into the jar.

In middle school, if you were caught doing something good, you’d get a little slip of paper and could stick it in a box and each Friday, they’d pull names out and give each person whose name was drawn a dollar. Being a goody-goody, I had LOTS of slips in there and I never won. Not once.

At tennis and debate camp (quiet, allof you–I have very happy memories of debate camp!), I was the kid who wound up without a roommate. My husband won an iPod for buying his books at the school bookstore and all I got was an IOU for a book that hadn’t arrived yet.

But there was one time…one magical time that I ordered take out from our favorite Mexican restaurant. When I got home, I discovered a little foil pan of sweet goodness–this cake had luckily, MAGICALLY wound up in my bag. At that point in my life, I’d never eaten tres leches before, but I can guarantee you that it wasn’t the last time!

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This recipe is great because I’ve included instructions for both a regular 9×13″ cake and cupcakes. They both have their pros and cons–the cake is easier and faster, but the cupcakes are easier to serve to a crowd. Also, if you need or want to make the whipped cream ahead of time, be sure to use this stabilized whipped cream!

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Tres Leches Cake (and Cupcakes)

  • Author: kate jones

Description

When tres leches cake is made right, it’s perfectly decadent! This tres leches cake is topped with caramel whipped cream and fresh fruit and we promise, it doesn’t get better than this.


Ingredients

1 15.25-ounce box yellow cake mix
1 3.4-ounce package instant vanilla pudding
1 cup sour cream (full fat or reduced fat, but not fat free)
¾ cup cooking oil (canola or peanut)
3 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon almond extract
8 ounces evaporated milk
1 14-ounce can sweetened condensed milk
1 pint whipping cream, divided
¼ cup caramel sauce
sliced fresh fruit (strawberries are a traditional choice, but we love serving it with a variety of tropical fruit like strawberries, mangoes, and kiwi)
juice of 1 lime


Instructions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Spray a 9×13” pan with non-stick cooking spray and set aside.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (or with a hand mixer in a large bowl), beat together the cake mix, pudding mix, sour cream, oil, eggs, and vanilla and almond extracts for 2 minutes on medium speed.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 30-40 minutes (or until a pick inserted into the center comes out clean). Allow to cool for about 20 minutes, then, use a bamboo skewer to poke several holes in the cake. Set aside.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the evaporated milk, sweetened condensed milk, and 3/4 cup of whipping cream. Evenly pour the mixture over the cake. Cover and place the cake in the refrigerator until ready to serve.

When ready to serve, toss the sliced fruit with the lime juice and set aside. Beat the remaining 1 1/4 cup of whipping cream until medium peaks form. Gently fold in the caramel syrup. Top individual slices of cake with the caramel whipped cream and fruit slices.

If you want or need to make the whipped cream ahead of time, definitely make this stabilized whipped cream.


Notes

cupcake instructions

Line 2 12-cup muffin tins with FOIL cupcake liners (the foil is important to contain the milk mixture). Divide the batter evenly among the liners and then bake according to the directions on the box. 

After cupcakes have cooled, use a bamboo skewer to poke several holes in each cupcake. Set aside.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the evaporated milk, sweetened condensed milk, and 3/4 cup of whipping cream. Use a ladle to pour the milk mixture over each cupcake. There might be some runover. Such is life with tres leches cupcakes. Place the cupcakes in the refrigerator until ready to serve.

When ready to serve, beat the remaining 1 1/4 c. of whipping cream until medium peaks form. Gently fold in the caramel syrup and pipe or dollop the whipped cream on each of the cupcakes. If desired, toss the sliced fruit with the lime juice and top the cupcakes with the sliced fruit. Serve on a small plate with a dessert spoon.

 

39 comments

  1. I had my first Tres Leches last night at a Mexican restaurant. I have been wanting to make the cake myself, but I think that this would be an even better way to go! Thanks for the post.

    p.s. I put some blueberries with my left over cake and cream, and it was delicious!

  2. Wow… I am impressed. I made Pineer Woman's tres leche for Christmas this year… and it was deeelightful! Thinking it will be a Christmas tradition. These little cupcakes have me intrigued… I may have to try it…..

  3. So happy to see this recipe, a friend of mine ordered me one from a certian Mexican resturant and I have craved it since! These are on my must make list!

  4. I agree, I've tried way to many poopie tres leches! And…guess where my favorite tres leches is served?!? Oh, Costa Vida. Yum. I can't wait to try yours, I'm liking the small, un-mushy idea. Thanks 🙂

  5. I love you! Those sound awesome and a practical alternative to the LARGE and slightly over priced tres leches from that one mexican restaurant. Thank You!

  6. Oh my gosh! These sounds so-o good! I live on the Mexico/US border and have never even tried Tres Leches! I'm certainly going to try these! Thanks so much for sharing this one!

  7. I love Tres Leches, and these look SO good! I know I sound like a culinary idiot, but those foil cupcake liners have always confused me– are you supposed to leave the white liner in when you bake them, or is it just to keep them separated, or what?

  8. I was just wondering last night about making tres leches in cupcake form because I thought it would make it easier to give some away so that i don't eat it all myself. Thanks for trying it first. It looks delicious!

  9. Mmmmmm. . . I have always wondered how to make that. I had the best slice of tres leches cake at a wedding last summer and I've been dreaming about it ever since.

  10. I LOVE this! I bake tres leches cake, is one of our favorite recipes at home. I never thought about doing it in a cupcake. LOve it. The caramel must give it a delicious taste. Great job!

  11. I was working at a popular Mexican restaurant (Pappasitos in Dallas, TX) when I first encountered Tres Leches. Six years later, I've still not found recipe that tops theirs and many just end up a soggy mess. Your adaptation is something I will be giving a try soon.

  12. I have a ton of the milk mixture left over after pouring it over the 24 cupcakes. Am I really supposed to pour the whole batch? It seems like way too much. Excited to try the recipe.

  13. Thanks so much for the speedy reply! Did as you suggested and I'm probably close to about a cup left over. Thanks again! Sia

  14. Just wanted to let you know that everyone LOVED the cupcakes. They were a huge hit. I look forward to trying out more of your recipe's. Thanks again. Sia

    1. Ohhhhh, I don’t know, haha! 🙂 I’ve never made them more than a few hours in advance. But maybe if they chilled for 24 hours, it would set up a little. But I honestly don’t know, I wish I did! 🙂

  15. Yum! I’m planning on making these for my friends birthday but I have cupcake liners that are foil with laminated paper inside. Would those work or would the milk mixture seep through?

  16. We are having a Mexican themed dinner tonight for New Years. I was so excited to find this perfect recipe that goes along with our theme! Did you know that Duncan Hines makes a Tres Leches cake mix? I still got the white mix just to be safe. 🙂 Thanks for all you terrific recipes!

  17. Is there a trick to make the cupcakes evenly flat? I didn’t use the recipe you mentioned because I didn’t need to many cupcakes since I’m only experimenting and not even the ones I filled half way are flat… Do I ended up cutting them to make them even but I don’t know if they will turn out as pretty add yours… Hopefully they will at least turn out decent

  18. Hi I am a journalism student and I was wondering if you would give me permission to use your Tres Leches Cupcake picture in my project. Thanks!

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