Ice cream. It all started with ice cream.

Coconut Tres Leches Cupcakes I

Clearly… this? Not ice cream. But it’s cool. It’s almost as good. Maybe better?

Depends on your mood. Are you in an omg-I’m-going-to-inhale-a-pint-or-two-of-ice-cream-after-this-hellish-day mood? Or are you in an I’m-so-happy-I-could-smash-my-face-into-a-cupcake mood?

You should figure it out. These things are very important when it comes to desserts.

I tend to be a frequent member of the face-smashing club. I adore how social and exciting food is, and it wouldn’t be a lie to say it’s the first thing I plan in time of celebrations. What I’m really trying to say is that regardless of the mood, I constantly eat my emotions. And they are so delicious!

Like last Tuesday, when I visited Ashley and we went to Jeni’s ice cream. I only had about, uh… 12? samples before cautiously choosing the tres leches cake (just look at those ingredients) and declaring it one of the best decisions of my life. Say it with me: coconut soaked cake, toasted coconut, vanilla ice cream, cherries…

You know where this is going. I haven’t been able to think about anything else. Seriously.

Coconut Tres Leches Cupcakes I

If you’ve ever made a tres leches cake, you know it’s all about baking the cake then pouring the combined three (hello… TRES) milks over top. And if you’ve never made tres leches cake… well it’s all about baking the cake and then pouring the combined three milks over top. Now you know.

And as you also probably already know… cupcake tops are not, um… flat. They are very not flat. Not like the top of a cake baked in a baking dish. They tend to be slightly puffy and round, unless you’ve experienced a minor disaster and slowly watched your cakes in a cup sink to their toes right before your weepy eyes.

It happens. (<— all the time.)

Soooo what’s a pateince-less girl to do when you have a dozen cupcakes plus that need a few cups of milk slowly and carefully poured on top? I’m going to tell you.

1. Clear a lovely little area in your house… kitchen, dining room, family room floor to make your life more accessible to the shirtless men on Dancing with the Stars… whatever. Make it easy. Somewhere you can sit. Be comfy and what not.

2. Set out three glasses, then pour wine in all three. Place them in front of you in a cute little lineup. This will save you time. Instead of pouring wine, you can continue to tediously spoon thick and luscious (I sort of hate that word) milk on top of your baby cakes. All three shall be consumed. It’s a rule. Made up by me.

3. Blast Adam Levine something or other on your Pandora station. Loudly. Smile at Pandora. Adam just got dumped and surely he needs some love. And cupcakes. I’m totally delivering both to his doorstep ASAP.

4. Dump that stuff over the cupcakes, take a sip, smile at Adam… over and over and over again.

Coconut Tres Leches Cupcakes I

If you are the type of person who is fully behind the cupcake trend, no matter who says that it’s over, outrageous or ridiculous… if you are the type of person who loves adorable little cakes so much because they just scream “I’M CUTE – EAT ME!”… and if you are really the type of person who would rather make tres leches cupcakes… and spend forever and a day injecting cake with milk… so that they are pretty single serving desserts, but mostly because you have a complete mental block against actual cakes, especially layer cakes which are supposed to include things like crumb coats and icing jackets and frosting gloves and a bunch of other scary, complicated things… well these are for you. Also, you are probably my soul mate. Call me. We have some things to discuss.

If not… make this into a cake. Still as fab. Still as coconutty. No biggie.

These cupcakes graced our Easter Sunday and were a huge hit. Soft, soaked cake, a ginormously fat, fresh whipped cream, face-plant worthy hat and a sprinkle of toasted coconut garnished with a sweet and juicy cherry? I’m in. Every day of the freaking week.

Coconut Tres Leches Cupcakes I

Coconut Tres Leches Cupcakes

[slightly adapted from Alton Brown]

makes 12-14 cupcakes

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour + 1 tablespoon (6.75 ounces)

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature

1 cup granulated sugar (8 ounces)

5 large eggs

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1/2 teaspoon coconut extract

1 cup evaporated milk

1 cup sweetened condensed milk

1 cup full-fat canned coconut milk

whipped cream: 2 cups whipping cream, cold + 3-4 tablespoons powdered sugar

garnish: 2 cups toasted flaked coconut + maraschino cherries

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line a muffin tin with liners. Because you will be soaking the cake in liquid, I highly suggest using the double liners with foil. If you can’t find those, double the liners yourself. In a bowl, sift together flour, baking powder and salt. Set aside.

In the bowl of your electric mixer, beat butter until smooth and creamy. Add in sugar and beat on medium-high speed until fluffy, about 2-3 minutes, scraping down the sides if needed. With the mixer on low speed add in each egg one at a time, mixing to combine and again scraping down the sides. Add in 1 1/2 teaspoons of vanilla extract and 1/4 teaspoon coconut extract, mixing until combined. With the mixer on low, add dry ingredients in three increments, only mixing until just combined and no dry spots remain. Using an ice cream scoop or 1/4 cup measure, spoon the batter into the double-lined muffin tins. Bake for 13-15 minutes, until the tops of cupcakes spring back to the touch. Let cool completely.

While cupcakes are cooling, whisk together coconut milk, evaporated milk and condensed milk. Set aside.

Once cupcakes have cooled, you have many options on how to soak them. You can poke holes in the cake (make sure the hole goes to the almost-bottom) with a toothpick, skewer or fork, then slowly spoon the milk mixture over top. If you have a turkey baster or meat injector, you can inject the cupcakes with the milk. I also tried using a piping bag, placing the tip in the cupcake, then pouring the milk in the bag and holding it until it absorbs. Either way, it will be a tedious process. I found the slow spooning method to work best, but beware: it will still be messy. Once cupcakes are soaking in milk, refrigerate overnight or for at least 6 hours.

To frost: In the bowl of your electric mixer, beat whipping cream until peaks for and it is stiff enough to frost cupcakes, then mix in the rest of the vanilla and coconut extracts, and powdered sugar. Place in the fridge until ready to use. Once ready to frost, spoon a large 1/4 cup of whipped cream on top of cupcake and smooth with a spatula. Roll the tops in toasted coconut then garnish with a cherry. These are best when refrigerated, but are fine when sitting out for a few hours at a party, etc.

Note: the cupcakes are tedious – if you find it easier, make the cake in a 9×13 dish and bake for 20-25 minutes, poke holes, then pour milk over top.

Coconut Tres Leches Cupcakes I

Definitely worthy of face-smashing.

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138 Responses to “Coconut Tres Leches Cupcakes.”

  1. #
    J J — September 26, 2012 @ 5:04 pm

    I am a baker and would like to make these for a customer. Can you use canned whip cream or cool whip for stability?


    • Jessica — September 26th, 2012 @ 5:20 pm

      Yep I think you can!


  2. #
    elisa — March 26, 2013 @ 12:47 pm

    i made these for my birthday! amazing!


  3. #
    Kristen — May 11, 2013 @ 6:52 pm

    What can i use as a substitute of coconut extract?


  4. #
    Lauryn — January 6, 2014 @ 2:35 am

    Hi, I have been looking for a Tres Leches cupcake forever and this is the perfect one! May I ask though Could I leave out the coconut part and replace the coconut milk for regular or heavy cream?


  5. #
    Erica @ thecrumbycupcake — July 9, 2014 @ 7:03 pm

    COCONUT TRES LECHES IS MY FAVORITE EVER. I’ve never had the patience to make it in cupcake form though…guess I’ll have to give it a shot, now!


  6. #
    gabby — August 7, 2015 @ 9:18 am

    I assume because this cake is so liquidy it won’t freeze well? Do you think I could make the cake ahead of time, freeze, and then add the soaking liquid after I defrost? I want to make these twice in two weeks and would like to cut down on some time in the kitchen if possible, unless you think they would hold up for two weeks in an airtight container untouched? Prefrosted obviously.



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