Tres Leches Cupcakes

Miami was way more seeped in Latino and particularly Mexican culture than I was ready for. Sure, I knew that Spanish would be more common there than in Minnesota--the tundra in the north populated by German, Norwegian and Irish immigrants from generations before--but I didn't realize that every aspect of culture would be so influenced by Central and South America.

Dessert wise, the influence was clear, and any self-respecting cafe or restaurant in the area had tres leches cake on the menu. Now, I am not an expert on tres leches, and have not even consumed very much of it. However, I do recognize its level of deliciousness and potential for greatness.

That said I also think that the wide spread version of tres leches cake is a bit too monotone for my liking. The entire cake is basically a white and sugary sponge.

Inspiration in hand, I set off to find a way how I could turn the recipe into something more in line with my personal baking style.

As you might have guessed, this came with the addition of tea.

Making a Tres Leches cake is quite easy: you basically just make a sponge cake, poke holes in it, and pour on the 'tres leches' mixture. This leaves you with two basic ways to adapt the recipe--adding in flavor to the sponge cake or adding in flavor to the tres leches mixture. I opted to add in my flavor to the latter, and steeped two flavors of tea (rose & hibiscus/strawberry) in a bit of hot water to make a super concentrated tea, and then mixed that into my standard tres leches mixture.

The results? Fantastic. Seriously, so delicious. And my little creative brain was incredibly satisfied at how well it worked, as this opened the door to steeping basically any tea or flavor into the recipe in the future for more flavor variations. Milk Tea Tres Leches Cupcakes anyone? Yes, please.

Tres Leches Cupcakes

Cake Base Recipe:

3 eggs, separated
1 cup flour
1 tsp baking powder
pinch salt
3/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup milk

1) Preheat your oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit and line a muffin pan with cupcake liners.
2) Combine the dry ingredients and set them aside.
3) Whip the egg whites to soft peaks and set aside.
4) Whip the egg yolks for about 2 minutes until they start to lighten and thicken, then add in the sugar slowly and beat until it forms thick ribbons, then beat in the milk.
5) Fold in the dry ingredients into the yolk mixture, then fold in the whites. Scoop into the prepared pan and bake for 25 minutes.
6) When the cakes have cooled to about room temperature, liberally poke holes into the tops of each cupcake and pour the tres leches mixture over the tops of the cupcakes. Let them rest overnight in the refrigerator to soak up all of the liquid and absorb all of the flavors.

Tres Leches Mixture

1/2 cup whole milk
1/2 cup sweetened condensed milk
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup hot water
2 tablespoons tea leaves/flavoring of your choosing *I used Hibiscus Strawberry and Rose
+food coloring as desired

1) Let the tea leaves soak in the hot water for about 10-15 minutes, then strain and allow the water to cool to room temperature (or make this ahead of time and leave the water in the refrigerator overnight or until needed).
2) Gently whisk together the condensed milk and some of the heavy cream to loosen the consistency of the condensed milk, then add in the rest of the cream, milk, and flavored water. (If you throw all of the ingredients together at the same time, it will take longer for the condensed milk to become homogenized and you could end up with lumps!)
3) Add food coloring or any other flavors as you desire.
4) Pour the mixture equally between 12 prepared cupcakes, then refrigerate.

Whipped Cream "Frosting"

1 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons sugar
+ vanilla bean or any other flavoring if you so choose

1) Whip the cream until it becomes slightly frothy, then add in the sugar and continue to whip until stiff peaks form.
2) Transfer the cream to a piping bag and pipe onto the prepared cupcakes. I used a star piping tip for the Hibiscus Strawberry Tea Cupcakes and a rose petal tip to pipe flowers onto the Rose Tea Cupcakes.

*I topped the Hibiscus Strawberry Cupcakes with a few fresh berries, and the combination was amazing--I highly recommend it!

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