Tres Leches Cupcakes

We need to get right down to business today because I have so (so!!) much to tell you about these cupcakes. Should we just number a list? Yes, I think we should.

1) This vanilla cupcake recipe has quickly become my go-to after working on it for a while. It’s incredible. Light and fluffy and so wonderfully easy (no electric mixer needed, no fussy ingredients). Even if tres leches cupcakes don’t seem like they fit in your wheelhouse (hint: I’ll try to change your mind about that in a minute), the plain cupcake recipe is a winner.

2) The tres leches cupcakes as a whole, I swear, are going to win me something big. Extra hugs? High fives from strangers? Not sure exactly, but it’s going to be big, I can feel it. People go crazy for these cupcakes. Crazy! Like, it’s almost scary. At a church function last month, after making 50 of these, I was kind of worried I might get mobbed for the recipe by a group of 40-something moms on my way out to the car.

The next week, I made a single batch to serve to my in-laws when they came into town. Judging by the fact that my husband and his dad ate an unspecified amount of these in one sitting, I think they were well-received. And, this week, I’m making 100 of them for a lunch I’m serving on Thursday (hello, perfect Cinco de Mayo dessert!). Pretty and delicious, these cupcakes are quite magical in their power to make everyone fall in love (with the cupcakes, not each other).

Tres Leches Cupcakes

3) Here’s my disclaimer (sorry, but we have to talk about it): yes, the cupcakes are a cinch to whip up and bake. Yes, the milk mixture takes about three seconds in the blender. Yes, the topping is as easy as making lightly sweetened whipped cream and plunking a berry on top. It’s all so simple! Almost embarrassingly so. Except that I want to tell you now, because we are friends, that it is a leeeetle bit tedious poking holes in the cupcakes and administering the milk mixture. It just is. I’ve made them enough times that I’ve tried about seven different methods to drizzle, spoon, pour on the milk mixture. It’s been messy and annoying, but I finally settled on a way that works perfectly. It just takes a little patience.

3a) I’ve explained it in the recipe (spoiler alert: it involves a squeeze bottle – link goes to Amazon for a visual but I’ve found these locally at craft supply stores and also a larger kitchen supply store – and a small offset spatula, FYI) and included a little picture blurb below the recipe. It’s not hard! Just a little time-consuming.

3b) And, this thought just now came to me, I’ve used a pretty thin bamboo skewer to poke the holes (thinner than a kebab skewer), so I’m guessing if you use something that makes slightly bigger holes, the milk mixture will absorb better and more quickly (just take care not to make holes so big that the cupcake falls apart). In fact, I’ll try that out tomorrow, kicking myself I wasn’t brainy enough to think of it before now, when I make 100 of them and let you know how it goes. For a visual, this is the size of skewer I’ve been using.

Tres Leches Cupcakes

4) All disclaimers aside, these cupcakes are out of this world. Even having made them over and over, I’m still looking for reasons to serve them because they make everyone so insufferably happy.

5) One huge advantage of these lovely little cupcakes is they can be made ahead of time. In fact, they should be made ahead of time. And you know how I feel about make-ahead desserts, right? They make life worth living.

Now go. Read through the recipe. Let me know if you have questions. And don’t stress about #3 up there. Turn on Netflix, grab a stool, and go to town (invite me over! I’ll sit and talk to you while you work). It will be so worth it, I promise.

One Year Ago: Whole Grain Pumpkin Blueberry Muffins
Two Years Ago: Cheesy Spinach Stuffed Pasta Shells
Three Years Ago: Chipotle Chicken Skewers with Creamy Dipping Sauce

Tres Leches Cupcakes

Yield: Makes about 16 cupcakes

Tres Leches Cupcakes

Just a heads up that there will be left over milk mixture. There's no way around it since the ingredients aren't sold in smaller cans, but since many of you have been irked about leftover components in recipes before, I thought I'd let you know that in advance. You can definitely halve the milk mixture recipe and then decide what to do with the half leftover cans of sweetened condensed and evaporated milk (of course you could just double or triple the cupcake recipe and then, problem solved).

I know the milk mixture part of the recipe (spooning it onto the cupcakes) seems a bit labor intensive, but these cupcakes are so worth it. Turn on Netflix or have your kids tell you entertaining stories to pass the time. The method I outline in the recipe (and pictured below) really is the fastest way I've found to do it. I use a really thin bamboo skewer to poke the holes but I'm guessing if you use something thicker, the milk mixture will soak in more quickly (just take care not to poke holes so big that the cupcake falls apart).


  • 1 1/2 cups (7.5 ounces) all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick, 4 ounces) butter
  • 1 cup (7.5 ounces) granulated sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • Milk Mixture:
  • 14-ounce can sweetened condensed milk
  • 12-ounce can evaporated milk
  • 1 cup heavy whipping cream
  • Topping:
  • 1 1/2 cups heavy whipping cream
  • 1/3 cup powdered sugar
  • Dash of vanilla extract
  • Fresh berries, for topping


  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line a standard muffin tin with foil liners (don't use standard paper liners; the milk mixture will soak through). This recipe makes about 16 cupcakes so you can line another 4 muffin cups in a second pan as well or bake a second batch.
  2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, soda and salt. Set aside.
  3. In a microwave-safe bowl (you can also do this in a pan on the stovetop), melt the butter. Whisk in the sugar and continue whisking until the mixture is no longer warm to the touch. Whisk in the egg, buttermilk and vanilla until well-combined.
  4. Add the dry ingredients to the wet mixture and whisk until the batter is mostly lump-free without overmixing (maybe 20-30 strokes of the whisk total).
  5. Portion the cupcake batter evenly in the tins. Don't overfill! For this recipe, in particular, it is best to have the baked muffins sit slightly below the rim of the muffin cup to help when adding the tres leches mixture. I use my #20 cookie scoop to portion the cupcake batter - about 3 tablespoons batter, or slightly less, per muffin cup.
  6. Bake the cupcakes for 14-16 minutes until the tops spring back lightly to the touch.
  7. Remove the cupcakes to a wire rack to cool completely. When cool, use a thin skewer to poke holes all over (and I mean, all over) the cupcake. Go crazy, but don't poke all the way through the cupcake liner.
  8. For the milk mixture, in a large liquid measuring cup or in a blender, whisk together or blend the sweetened condensed milk, evaporated milk and heavy cream. The milk mixture needs to be drizzled or spooned over the top of each cupcake one at a time. I find it works best to pour the milk mixture in batches into a squeeze bottle (pictured below) and slowly squeeze the milk mixture onto the top of the cupcake while simultaneously pressing the milk mixture into the top of the cupcake with an small offset spatula. This tedious step can probably be sped up by using a thicker skewer to poke the holes. I use a fairly thin skewer which means the milk mixture doesn't soak in quite as quickly. You'll want to use about 2-3 tablespoons of milk mixture per cupcake (depending how soft and soaky you want them).
  9. Refrigerate the cupcakes for at least an hour, or cover lightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate up to 12 hours.
  10. When ready to serve (up to two hours ahead of time but not before that), prepare the topping by whipping the heavy cream, powdered sugar and vanilla extract together until stiff peaks form. Dollop
  11. the sweetened whipped cream on top of each cupcake and finish it off with a fresh berry. Serve immediately or refrigerate for 1-2 hours until serving.

Recipe Source: inspired by a tres leches cupcake I had at a book group several months ago (Heather, lovely book group hostess, gave me the milk mixture recipe); the cupcake recipe is one I’ve been working on for a while

Tres Leches Cupcakes

71 Responses to Divine Tres Leches Cupcakes

  1. Katie says:

    Made these once before and they are delicious!!! Making them again this week and was wondering if they could be made 24-30 hours in advance??

  2. Melissa N says:

    These turned out so delicious!! And the cupcakes by themselves before the milk were outstanding too – reminded me of what a really good homemade sugar cookie tastes like, except in cake form. 🙂 Thanks for the recipe!

  3. Karen says:

    Hi! I’ve tried these cupcakes last month it was delicious! I’ve never been a fan of tres leches cake before – and made this for my sis in law and we both fell in love.

    Today I want to make this cupcake recipe (without the milk) in a giant cupcake mold – any tips or suggestions??

  4. Erin says:

    These sound amazing. I am hoping to make them for my daughter’s first birthday party in 2 weeks. Could I add a few drops of gel food coloring to the topping? Just wondering if it would incorporate evenly…

  5. Cammee says:

    Oh my gosh, Mel! These were such a hit in my house! My husband, who is usually not the big sweets eater, complained for an hour when he had 2 left in the fridge and my daughter ate one. They are so delicious! I used one commenter’s tip about sticking the tip of the squeeze bottle right in the cupcake and it worked perfectly. Thanks for another stellar recipe.

  6. Lisa says:

    How did it go making 100 of these? By any chance do you have the measurements for how you multiplied the recipe? I was thinking of making them for a church function. Any tips would be helpful!

    • Mel says:

      Hi Lisa – it went great! I simplified the milk mixture part and used the squeeze bottle to squeeze directly into the cupcake (instead of poking all the little holes). I probably did 5-6 squeezes in the middle and around the cupcake and it seemed to work. I don’t think the milk mixture was quite as evenly distributed inside the cupcake but it wasn’t a deal breaker, especially since, hello, 100 cupcakes. I needed to simplify. I 7X the cupcake recipe and doubled the milk mixture. Hope that helps!

  7. Shelly says:

    Just made these and had lots of the milk mixture leftover (3 cups worth). So I poured it all in my ice cream maker and….. YUM!!!!! Seriously. Thank you for this recipe so that we could discover this amazing and easy ice cream! 🙂 I’m sure the cupcakes are amazing too, they’re in the fridge overnight and we’ll eat them tomorrow for my daughter’s 1st birthday with our new favorite ice cream! 😉

  8. Ashley says:

    These were AMAZING! My husband said it was the best dessert I have ever made. And because we are a family of 4 2 of us under the age of 3, I gave most of them away, to the dismay of my husband. Haha. I had given some to my next door neighbor and not even 3 m I nutes later she was pounding on my door for the recipe. So when I pulled your page up, she goes, it’s a Mel recipe?!? That’s why it’s so good! Thanks for all of your great recipes! We are trying your chili lime tacos tonight!

  9. Amber says:

    We made these, and YUM!!! So good. It was a little tricky getting enough of the milk mixture into the cupcakes (as you said it would be) so the lazy girl in me is going to try this in a 9×13 next time and see how it goes. Seriously was SO DELICIOUS!!! thanks for the recipe!

  10. audrey says:

    Can’t wait to make these:) YUM!!!!

    What book did you read for book group??? Always looking for a good book for our book group:)

  11. Kris says:

    Soooo awesome, Mel! We all absolutely loved this treat tonight. Perfect end to a day:).

  12. Wendy says:

    I haven’t made these yet, but I couldn’t help but think of using a flower arranging spike to poke the holes. Have you seen those round disks with spike sticking up all over? Here is one from amazon….

  13. Kristi says:

    Delicious and so moist! I will be using this cupcake recipe again. The leftover milk mix is perfect for a coffee creamer. So good!

  14. Laura says:

    Hi, Mel. I’m wondering what the texture of the cupcakes is supposed to be⏤before the holes are poked and tres leches mixture is poured on. I made the cakes tonight and mine are fairly dense and almost gummy (that sounds more unappetizing than they are). They aren’t light and fluffy, which may be correct so they stand up to the mixture. The flavor is great! Thank you!

    • Mel says:

      Hmmm, the cupcakes should be rather fluffy. They are slightly more dense than a cake mix, I think, but I’m not sure they should be overly dense and gummy. Any chance the batter was overmixed or the cupcakes under baked a little?

  15. Julianne says:

    Do you think the extra milk mixture would freeze well?

    • Mel says:

      Hmmm, good question. I’m not sure but I’d say it’s definitely worth a shot.

      • Julianne says:

        I made these today and they are so amazing! We couldn’t wait for dessert to try them, so they turned into an after school snack! I will definitely be making them again. I am freezing the leftover milk mixture…I’ll let you know how that turns out! Thanks again for another great recipe!!

  16. Julie says:

    I am so excited to try these, but also a little torn… I was all set to make your Magic Chocoflan for Cinco de Mayo this year, but now I am wavering between the two. Any recommendation for a work-event showstopper? Thanks so much for every single recipe you provide. Your site is my go-to, and I am never ever disappointed – you rock!

  17. Joy says:

    If anyone is interested in the nutritional info, here ya go! Cal: 232, Carbs: 31, Fat: 14, Protein: 4. This was using half of the milk mixture to account for the excess. These were absolutely phenomenal! This will be on the menu for Mother’s Day! Thank you Mel!

  18. Shelly E. says:

    Made these last night….then got up today and made the whip cream topping. I added a few tablespoons of sour cream to my whipped cream to help it hold up, as I knew these would not be eaten until around 11am…so I wanted the cream to stay firm and not melt. So far, so good. It’s noon…..4 hours later and the whip cream is still standing strong! I just ate one and wow….these are divine. I used about 3 tablespoons of milk mixture per cupcake and that was perfect. Not dry, but not too moist. Such a great recipe!

  19. Celine says:

    I was just wondering how long can you store the cupcakes for? Can I just make the muffins earlier and refrigerate them and make the milk mixture on a later date? and then,,, serve them on another date? If you get what I mean? Because I’m making this for a school assignment, and we’re planning an event which will be on the 2nd of June. Can I make the muffins on the 27th and the milk mixture on 30th and refrigerate them until the day? Is that too long? Thanks sooo much <3

    • Mel says:

      I think that might be a bit too long, Celine – but I haven’t tried it. I usually make the cupcakes one day, saturate them with the milk the next and serve them that same day (after refrigeration) or the next day.

  20. Rebecca says:

    Oh good heavens, Mel! Those look like little pillows of true heaven. I might actually die if I don’t make these pretty much immediately. I’ve only tried Tres Leches once in my life; it was homemade by a woman in my religious congregation who hails from Mexico. And that thing was a revelatory experience for my taste buds.

  21. Jennifer Sandholtz says:

    What if you just poked the top of the cupcake with the plastic tip of the squeeze bottle
    in a few places and squirted a bit of the milk mixture in the cupcake like you would a filling to speed up the process?

    • Mel says:

      I’ll test that out – I’m making 100 of them today!

      • Julie says:

        How did poking with the squeeze bottle go? Making these tomorrow and can’t wait.

        • Mel says:

          It worked great! I think I oversaturated a few cupcakes because I was a little zealous but that’s probably how I’ll do it from now on.

        • Julie says:

          new family favorite! I used a 60ml syringe. I poked the holes and then squeezed the milk mixture in. It worked awesome and only took me mere minutes. I actually figured out at the end that I should have poked the hole, pulled the tip out and then squirted the mixture in so that it could fill the hole. I think I just squirted it all into the bottom. I also think 44ml (3TB) was a little much. I think more like 25 would be a little better. We just had to eat them with a fork instead of like a cupcake. My kids couldn’t get over how fabulous they were and begged me to make them again tomorrow for my 2 year olds birthday instead of the monkey cake I had planned. Thank you!!

        • Julie says:

          Oh! I also used coconut milk instead of the cream like others commented to do and they were fabulous!

  22. Amy L. says:

    I just made these last night and they were delicious!! Before I refrigerated them I put the milk mixture on the way you said and after they had been refrigerated for an hour we snitched one without topping to see how they were and we hadn’t gotten enough milk mixture in them. I was going to try to do more milk on them and it dawned on me that we had a syringe (with a little bit longer tip) which might work. I tried it and it worked awesomely!! No mess and saturated cupcakes. You have to make sure to measure out how much liquid you want in each cupcake first and then suck it up or some may end up too saturated (oops). They were amazing though!! Thank you for all of your wonderful recipes!! Yours is my absolute favorite site to come to when I want to make something yummy!

  23. emily says:

    That is off-the-charts creamy yummy deliciousness, right there! My husband is planning to play golf on Wednesday afternoon, and that should give me just enough time to catch a few Gilmore Girls episodes and crank out a batch of these beauties. Thanks for the sweet Cinco de Mayo inspiration! (And I happen to be local, so feel free to stop by! )

    • emily says:

      These tasted as delicious as the photos looked. The only thing that I’ll do differently next time is to make a double-batch–between my family and my son’s ravenous high school friends, these were gone before you could say “Feliz Cinco de Mayo!”

  24. Susan says:

    I love Tres Leche in any form. I have been making cupcakes for a quite a few years now with my recipe and I use a syringe like the kind they sell for injecting marinades into turkey or other meats, works like a charm and so much faster. It is the best thing that I found. Poke the holes and inject the fluid in at the same time. You way looks pretty decent and non messy too.
    Also I use a can of coconut milk or cream instead of the heavy cream for my 3rd milk. I learned that trick from my Guatemalan friend whose recipe I use. You should try it. It’s delicious (if you like coconut milk that is)! It ups the flavor of the cake just a bit. YUM!

    • Cindy Hansen says:

      Wow, the coconut milk option sounds delicious!

    • Veronica says:

      Susan – I was going to suggest this idea. I do the exact same thing!! You are right – it does work like a charm and certainly makes that task go a lot faster!!!

  25. Lori says:

    Thinking about making these for a BBQ. Anyone know if the whipped topping will hold up outside (not refrigerated)?

    • Susan says:

      If you keep them chilled until the event and use stabilizer in the cream it should help, depending on how hot it is outside.

    • Mel says:

      The powdered sugar helps stabilize the whipped cream – it will hold up quite well for a few hours but if it’s overly warm, you might want to wait to take them out of the refrigerator until right before serving.

  26. Mickie says:

    How in the world did you know I was making Tres Leches Cupcakes for a pre Cinco de Mayo Fiesta on Wednesday night and I was WISHING my dear Mel would have a recipe for them? TOTALLY making these! Last time I did Tres Leches I botched it. The cake was really dense and almost hard and the sog factor was gag worthy. Bleck, you know I how I feel about the soggy bread factor. Cant wait to make these little gems. Thank you! As always, you’re the best!

  27. I’m so excited to try these, Mel! I use a large serving fork with three tines to poke holes in cakes when needed, and it seems to go pretty fast, with three big-ish holes at a time.

  28. Beverly says:

    I have a Tres Leches recipe that is causes the same effect as your cupcakes. People are always wanting the recipe right away. I had been thinking to try this in a cupcake form and you just did it for me! Can’t wait to try the recipe!

    • Beverly says:

      They are a bit different, but using either one for the whipped topping or the filling itself won’t make a difference. Heavy cream has more fat in it than heavy whipping cream. The more fat, the stiffer your whipped cream will be. Heavy whipping cream has a bit less fat than heavy cream, giving you a softer whipped cream. If you whip the heavy cream, it will be more dense, that’s all. I hope this helps!

  29. Rachael K says:

    This may be a silly question, but is there a difference between the heavy cream in the milk mixture and the heavy whipping cream in the topping? I want to make sure I buy the right ingredients. Thank you! I am looking forward to trying this recipe!

  30. Moriah says:

    Yum! These look delicious! What altitude are you making these cupcakes at? I may need to make some adjustments depending on how different we are. Thanks!!

  31. Shelly E. says:

    THANK YOU THANK YOU!!! I have been looking for a new dessert recipe to bring to my girls Elementary School this week. It’s Teacher Appreciation week and I wanted something new and fun. These will be percect! Can’t wait to try them!!!

  32. Nicole H says:

    I have never made anything Tres Leches, but you had me at “Turn on Netflix…” Haha. That is how a lot of tedious things get done at my house. Dishes, laundry, sometimes dinner. Love the idea of making these for Cinco de Mayo. We don’t usually celebrate it, but this is reason enough to start!

  33. Tami says:

    Now I know what dessert I want for Mother’s Day! Thank YOU!

  34. Melina says:

    Perfect timing! I signed up to bring dessert to my church activity tomorrow night so I’ll definitely be making these lovely treats! Thanks Mel, you always come through for me!!

  35. Shery Yost says:

    Can this just be made in a 9 x 13″ cake pan?

    • Mel says:

      Not sure how the quantities would work but I have another tres leches cake here if you’d rather go that route.

      • Catherine says:

        Mel, here is a great Tres Leches Cake recipe. My husband grew up in Mexico and I make it for him all the time. He doesn’t like any other tres leches cake after trying this one. The best part is that it’s not from a cake mix, but it’s super easy and a no fail. It’s supposed to be dry, so you basically can’t mess it up.

        • Angie says:

          Catherine, do you put the whole 8 ounces of sugar in the whip cream for the topping? That seems like a lot… I do have a sweet tooth though, so maybe it will be okay…

      • Connie Yonkers says:

        That would be great, I will try and find it.

        • Catherine says:

          Angie, I never actually measure out my sugar for the whipped cream. I just do it by taste. The recipe doesn’t specify if it is granulated sugar or powdered sugar, but I’ve only ever gotten crunchy whipped cream when I follow recipes that call for it.

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