Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Tres Leches Cupcakes with Dulce de Leche Swiss Meringue Buttercream

This is one of my favorite cupcakes. It's sweet and rich, and surprisingly really satisfies my sweet tooth even without any chocolate. If you've never had tres leches cake (proudly displayed in Mexican bakeries and supermarkets), it's a white sponge cake completely soaked in a milk combination, topped with whipped cream and some combination of fruits or chocolate. It sounds odd if you've never had it, but hey, think about French dip and au jus - it's better when the good stuff is soaked in. Yuummm.

This recipe requires a little more work in beating up and folding in egg whites. Then the milk has to be infused somehow. And then, after all that folding and baking and infusing, you don't even get to enjoy it until you let it sit overnight. But like macarons, the wait is totally worth it. Plus, using a meat injector to soak the cake, and getting to wave my giant syringe around in the kitchen and jabbing it defenseless cupcakes is just something you know you want to try.

Naturally, this cupcake is frosted with a variation of Swiss meringue buttercream (SMBC), utilizing dulce de leche. Dulce de leche is a sort of caramalized, sweetened condensed milk. Does that not sound like heaven? You can make your own, which I've done before, but I just don't always have the time so allowed myself a little shortcut and just bought a can of it. In my opinion, when you have make a SMBC base, you're allowed.

Tres Leches Cupcakes
Makes 14-16 cupcakes

¾ cup unsalted butter, softened
1 cup sugar
3 eggs, separated
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup evaporated milk
1/2 cup sweetened condensed milk
1/2 cup coconut milk (light is OK)

Preparation: Heat oven to 350 degrees F. Line cupcake wells with paper liners.


  1. In a large bowl, cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy on medium speed. Add egg yolks one at a time, mixing until combined. Add the vanilla and combine. Sift together the flour, baking soda and salt. Alternately add the dry mixture with the buttermilk to the creamed butter beginning and ending with the flour.
  2. In a small bowl, beat the egg whites on high speed with clean beaters until stiff peaks form. Gently fold into cake batter.
  3. Fill paper-lined wells 3/4 full. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Let cool in pan for 10 minutes. Transfer cupcakes to wire rack and set aside.
  4. Stir together the evaporated milk, sweetened condensed milk, and the coconut milk. Use a meat injector needle to inject warm cupcakes all over with about 1/2 to 3/4-ounce of the mixture. (you can also poke holes in the cupcakes with skewers and pour the mixture over them). Refrigerate for 2 hours or overnight before frosting.
Dulce de Leche Buttercream Frosting

5 large egg whites
1 1/2 cup sugar
4 sticks unsalted butter, diced and softened
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon vanilla
1/2-1 cup of dulce de leche, room temperature

  1. Combine egg whites and sugar in a bowl placed over simmering water. Bring mixture to 150 degrees F while whisking constantly. 
  2. Transfer mixture to stand mixer bowl, fitted with a whisk attachment and beat on medium speed until mixture cools and doubles in volume.
  3. Add butter in one piece at a time, mixing to incorporate after each addition. Add salt and vanilla and mix to combine. Add dulce de leche and mix to combine.
1. Frost cooled cupcakes with dulce de leche buttercream and either sprinkle lightly toasted flaked coconut on top or dust with grated chocolate.