My sisters are twins. They're only two years younger, which isn’t a very large gap at the (still) young age we are now, but the age difference between, say, two and four years old is big. The difference between sweet, soft, tiny, two-year-old twin baby girls and a big, fat ugly four-year-old is even bigger. It’s ginormous. My sisters were small and cute and dressed in adorable, colorful matching little dresses. As they got older, they were pretty, built very un-Asian-like with more “Western” facial features like small faces and round eyes and long, thin arms and legs. They were taller, skinnier, and prettier than your average, and even above-average, Korean girl. On the other hand, I was short, stumpy, pale, and what is now popularly known as “plump.” I was dressed in dumpy tomboy cords and unmatching windbreakers. I had a disproportionately large head with a big broad forehead that earned me the nickname “moonface,” from my own family. As I grew up, the long narrow slits I had for eyes stayed the same size, but since my face continued to wax to the glory of the full moon, my eyes looked even smaller by comparison. My torso was long and my arms and legs were short, and though my sisters looked like a very desirable “mixed,” I looked like Hello Kitty’s very unattractive Asian older stepsister (except that I also have a very big mouth).
When we were little and blissbully ignorant, I never paid much attention, but later on in life when external pressures about appearance start to weigh-in hard, I looked back at pictures of us through the years to the present time and became increasingly aware of how much bigger (and uglier – but that’s kind of a different story) I was than my sisters. Were we really related? Did I really get that unlucky with my parents’ pool of genes? How can my sisters eat a pound of bacon for breakfast, Arby’s Beef n’ Cheddar for lunch, snack all day long on chips and cookies and have a huge steak for dinner, but if I so much as wash my hair with fruit-infused shampoo I gain ten pounds??! My sisters got all the cute skinny genes, and I...I guess I got the brains. LOL!
I gave in to those external pressures and did every ridiculous, gimmicky thing I could to look less like myself and more like I was related to my family. It goes without saying that it took a long time of failing before I finally realized that this body wasn’t ever going to get there. I can’t fight what’s natural. I will never be tiny, no matter what I do, and instead of trying to squeeze into a size *ahem* and being miserable when things spill out all over the place and I can’t zip my jeans, I should just rely on my sparkling personality and brilliant mind to get me through life ;)
This is the lesson I pass on to Tres Leches Cake. Sometimes, we just have to accept that we’re better when we’re bigger.
Tres Leches, honey, you’re never going to be little. You can try to be a cupcake, and at first it may appear that you’re succeeding, but you can’t maintain. Don’t be sad. It’s just not natural for you, and trust me, I’ve seen Dr. 90210 and you definitely do not want to go under the knife. Well, the cake knife, maybe, but not the scalpel. You, Tres Leches, were born to be big. You can be cute, but it won’t be small-cute. Instead of wallowing and focusing in on what you can’t be, how about we really play up your assets? You’re big. You’ve got a great personality. And you know how to party.
Pastel de Tres Leches is a simple Latin American sponge cake soaked with a syrup made of three different types of milk – sweetened condensed milk, evaporated milk, and heavy cream. These are the “tres leches.” It happens to be one of my all-time favorite desserts, so when I see it on menus, I almost always order it. I had never made it at home before because it tastes like it would be complicated, but when I finally found out that Tres Leches Cake is fairly easy, I resolved to make it and thought it would be a fantastic idea to make them into cupcakes because every cake is cuter as an itty bitty babycake!
It was not a fantastic idea.
Baking the sponge cake is so simple it’s almost criminal. Then, making the milk syrup (to which I added a generous dose of rum) and soaking each cupcake with it is a little bit more of a hassle for multiple cupcakes than I would imagine for a single large cake. Though the traditional frosting is a meringue, I am afraid of raw eggs, so I used whipped cream which, aside from simply going au naturel, is the easiest way to finish off cupcakes. So far, none of this is bad.
The un-fantastic-ness of the idea starts with the milk syrup. After the milk syrup soaks into the cake, it also seeps out of the cake and through the cupcake liner! What an ickie sticky mess. This of course, could be remedied by using foil liners, but there is a bigger problem that cannot be remedied so easily. Regular Tres Leches Cake is eaten with utensils insmall, normal, civilized bites. Because the cake is so sopping soaked with syrup, you could even use a spoon. Cupcakes, on the other hand, are usually eaten with hands. When you bite into a Tres Leches cupcake, the sticky milk syrup gently flows out of the cake, dribbles down your chin and trickles through your fingers, down the back of your hand into tiny milky rivulets down your forearm. Tres Leches Cupcakes taste great, but they aren’t pretty.
It’s just better, Tres Leches, to be one big pleasantly plump cake that we can all eat with a spoon.
Tres Leches Cupcakes (Recipe) that Should Have Remained a Cake)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Make sponge cake first by whipping 6 large egg whites until foamy. Gradually add 1½ c. sugar and continue whipping until stiff peaks form. Beat in 6 large egg yolks one at time.
Sift 1½ c flour with 1 T. baking powder.
Fold flour into eggs, alternating with ½ c. milk.
Pour batter into muffin tin lined with cupcake liners about ⅔ full. Be smart unlike me and use foil liners. Don’t go too low because this sponge cake sounds like it would rise and be sponge-y, but it doesn’t. Don’t fill too far over either because the pudgy little things will spread like my love handles over the tops of my one-size-too-small jeans.
Bake for 30-35 minutes, or until they’re done.
While the cake is baking, combine 1 can sweetened condensed milk, 1 can evaporated milk, 1 c. heavy cream and ¼ c. rum of any kind.
Remove cupcakes from oven, and poke all over with a thin chopstick or skewer. Slowly spoon rum-milk over hot cupcakes allowing them to soak it up. I poured by the teaspoonful, about 5 teaspoons for each cupcake. Allow cupcakes to soak and cool for at least 4 to 6 hours. You won't use all the syrup, and if you do, then you are going to have some soggy-ass cupcakes (which isn't necessarily a bad thing).
Top cupcakes with lightly sweetened whipped cream. (Traditionally, the frosting is a meringue, but like I said, raw egg whites scare me).