Tres Leches Cupcakes

Do you have any hidden talents? Not like parlor tricks but serious talents?

I do.

I’m a master karaoke singer.

By that I mean, I sing karaoke. Horrifically badly. So badly that it is a gift.

I discovered this gift the summer before my senior year of college.

The time? Well after midnight. The place? The diviest dive bar around the Santa Clara campus, The Claran. The song? Neil Diamond’s “Sweet Caroline.”

Baking at night makes for dark pictures.

My two roommates and I sang the bejeezus out of that song. The crowd went wild and chimed in with “so good!”s at the right times. It was magical. And I was CONVINCED that karaoke was my calling. Every time we went out that next year, we had to sing that song. And also “Like a Prayer.”

And “Total Eclipse of the Heart.” And “Build Me Up Buttercup.”

And “Take Me Home Country Roads.”

And “Hurt So Good.”

We had quite a set-list going. And man, did I think we were doing the other bar patrons a favor by belting out tunes.

Since then, I’ve come to realize that I actually sound terrible whilst karaoke-ing. My apologies to the rest of the Santa Clara University community for putting you through that for one long year. I’ve also come to realize, though, that this fact will never keep me from singing karaoke. I’m really, really bad. And I also really, really don’t care.

Accordingly, I now subject my closest friends to hours of listening to me sing for my birthday every year. It’s great fun. The set-list has changed a bit (additions include: “Bye Bye Bye, “Party in the USA,” “Never Say Never,” and “Just a Dream”). My terrible singing has not changed even a little bit. But my friends are awesome. So they humor me, pretend like they are enjoying themselves, and sometimes even get in on the fun and sing me Disney songs or freestyle rap to “In Da Club” by 50 Cent or duet to KC and JoJo’s “All My Life.”

It’s one of my favorite nights of the year. It just happened on Friday. I baked these cupcakes for my birthday on Saturday as I was recovering from the ridiculousness.

Tres Leches Cupcakes

Makes about 16 cupcakes 



1 1/2 cups cake flour

1 1/2 tsp baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 cup sugar

1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature

2 large eggs

1 tsp vanilla extract

3/4 cup evaporated milk

Caramel Milk Syrup

1/2 cup sugar

2 tbsp water

1/2 cup heavy whipping cream

1/2 cup  sweetened condensed milk

1/4 cup evaporated milk


1 3/4 cup chilled heavy whipping cream

1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract


  1. Cake– Preheat your oven to 350°F. Line cupcake tin. Combine dry ingredients in a small bowl and set side.
  2. Cream together butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each. Mix in the vanilla.
  3. Then, alternate beating in the dry ingredients and the evaporated milk. You want to have three additions of each (dry, milk, dry, milk, dry, milk. I’m sure you’re smart enough to figure that out, but it always confuses me.). The batter might be a little thinner than you expected. Don’t be alarmed (like I was).
  4.  Fill cupcake tins about 2/3 full. Bake 15-18 minutes or until golden brown and a cake tester comes out clean. Cool in pan for 5 minutes. Then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
  5. Caramel Milk Syrup– Stir sugar and water in a small saucepan over medium heat until the sugar dissolves completely. Then increase the heat and let boil without stirring until it turns a dark amber color. If you have a candy thermometer, you want it to get to about 350°F. Even though you can’t stir, you can swirl the pan occasionally to distribute the heat evenly.
  6. Remove the pan from heat and immediately begin to whisk in the cream. You want to to this somewhat slowly or you might find that the sugar will re-crystalize from contact with the cold cream. If that happens, just put it back on the heat and let the sugar re-melt. I don’t know if this is proper caramel etiquette, but I was really struggling with my caramel making last night, so I ended up doing that with the third batch and it ended up just fine!
  7. Whisk in the sweetened condensed milk and evaporated milk and let cool to lukewarm.
  8. Frosting– Whisk cream and vanilla in large bowl until medium to stiff peaks form.
  9. To Assemble– After the cakes have completely cooled, cut a large, shallow hole in the top of each. Drizzle about 1 tbsp of the lukewarm milk syrup into the hole. You really wanna make sure that the syrup is still somewhat warm to ensure that it soaks into the cake. Replace the top of the cupcake and drizzle another 1 tbsp over the top of the cupcake. I ended up drizzling about 2 tbsp over the top of each cupcake in order to use most of the milk syrup, but you can definitely use less/more as you prefer. Top with whipped cream and straw/blue/blackberries.
  10. The recipe says to keep this cake in the fridge if you are going to wait to serve it, so I take that as in indication that they need to be refrigerated. However, you want to serve/eat them at room temperature.

Recipe adapted from Bon Appetit 

To be honest, I had never made Tres Leches cake before, so I didn’t really know what to expect as far as the consistency of the batter and the baked cake went. I ended up misreading the recipe and adding a little bit too much evaporated milk, so my batter was much thinner than I expected. The cupcakes still baked up deliciously, but I might watch yours in the oven a little bit to make sure that the baking times I gave you actually work with a somewhat thicker batter. My bad. Blame the post-karaoke-high.

And, I will state for the record that my roommate and I scored a 100 from the karaoke place for our rendition of “Party in the USA.” So there’s that.

Hope you’re having a lovely end to your January! Bake with love!



  1. Hi Kate! Happy birthday to one of the most amazing young women in the universe!! I wish I could have been there to applaud and join along with the crowd in amazement at your vocal talents. I’ll just have to settle for vicarious enjoyment by trying a batch of your cupcakes — another one of your many gifts!!
    Here’s to a phenomenal year filled with fun and joy and love, and many sweet things!!!!
    Love, FDL’s Mom

  2. Thanks for the cupcakes and for letting me share your perfect score on The Best Song Ever Written. Happy belated birthday, shawtyroomz!
    (eat the cupcakes with a fork but NOT a knife and they are delicious!)

    1. Haha there is a strict no-video policy if you want to attend my party.
      …Not really. But no, unfortunately, no one wanted to capture my vocal stylings to have forever. Weird, right?

      Thanks for stopping by!

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