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Refresh your celebrations with a sweet and simple tres leches cupcake recipe

These easy, delicious treats are perfect for the upcoming end-of-the-year festivities

The whipped topping — another crucial component of the dessert —  is light, airy and delicious. It makes for the perfect finishing touch to the rich cupcake base.
The whipped topping — another crucial component of the dessert — is light, airy and delicious. It makes for the perfect finishing touch to the rich cupcake base.

With the end of the school year comes summer festivities and emotional farewells to fourth-years. Therefore, to celebrate the season, it’s time to find that perfect, crowd-pleasing dessert that you can quickly whip up and share with your fellow hard working University students, graduates, friends and family — nothing too time-consuming, too complex or too messy to serve. After modifying a traditional tres leches cake recipe, I’ve crafted the ideal treat for these end-of-the-year occasions — tres leches cupcakes. 

In the 19th century, the original tres leches dessert emerged in Latin America, from either Nicaragua or Mexico. Many believe traditional English trifles or Italian tiramisus, which require soaking sponge cakes in heavy cream and some type of alcohol, inspired the tres leches cake. Similarly, a tres leches cake involves soaking sponge cake in — as the name implies — three different types of milk. After becoming a staple in many Latin American households, Nestle further popularized the dessert, and today, tres leches cakes remain a well-known part of Mexican and Latin American food culture, often referred to as a “celebration cake.” With the graduation season upon us, this sweet dessert is a perfect way to commemorate the occasion.

After hearing my mom rave about simplifying a tres leches cake recipe by using boxed yellow cake mix, I wanted to try it out myself. Instead of making the dessert as a sheet cake, however, I decided to create tres leches cupcakes — a finger-food alternative. 

Bake time: 12 minutes (as specified on the boxed cake mix)

Cool time: 12 hours (or overnight)

Servings: 24 cupcakes


  • Cake
    • Betty Crocker Super Moist Yellow Cake Mix (1 box)
    • 1 cup water
    • ½ cup vegetable oil
    • 3 eggs
  • Milk mixture
    • 12-ounce can evaporated milk
    • 14-ounce can sweetened condensed milk
    • ¼ cup whole milk
  • Whipped topping
    • 1 cup heavy whipping cream
    • 2 tablespoons powdered sugar
    • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • For garnish (optional)
    • Cinnamon
    • Strawberries, sliced


  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. In a medium-sized mixing bowl, mix together the cake mix, water, oil and eggs until the mixture is smooth. 
  3. Line a cupcake tin with cupcake liners before pouring the batter into the liners — around ⅔ of the way full.
  4. Once the oven is preheated, place the cupcake tin into the oven and bake for 12-17 minutes. To check if the cupcakes are fully cooked, insert a toothpick into the center of a cupcake — the toothpick should exit cleanly. 
  5. Allow the cupcakes to cool for around 10 minutes. 
  6. While the cupcakes are cooling, whisk the evaporated milk, sweetened condensed milk and whole milk together in a medium-sized mixing bowl for approximately a minute.
  7. Once the cupcakes have fully cooled, remove the cupcake liners and transfer them to a casserole dish. Then, poke multiple holes into each cupcake, using a toothpick or, if you want to speed up the process, a fork.
  8. Pour the milk mixture over the cupcakes. Then, cover the casserole dish with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.
  9. For the whipped topping, combine the heavy whipping cream, powdered sugar and vanilla extract in a medium-sized bowl. Whisk together until the mixture has thickened, reaching the consistency of whipped cream. Refrigerate until the cupcakes are ready to be iced. 
  10. Once the cupcakes have been refrigerated overnight, ice them with the whipped topping, dust cinnamon on top and add a piece of sliced strawberry. 

Simply put, these cupcakes are delectable. They have a slightly spongy texture, perfectly complemented by the creamy, luscious three-milk mixture. In addition to adding moisture to the cake, the milk mixture also sweetens them, incorporating an extra layer of flavor. Additionally, the whipped topping — another crucial component of the dessert —  is light, airy and delicious. It makes for the perfect finishing touch to the rich cupcake base. 

The relatively simple process ensures that you don’t need any master baking skills to achieve a delicious result. Consequently, with the straightforward steps and phenomenal outcome, these tres leches cupcakes are a fantastic choice for any and all celebration events this season.


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