Dulces: Tres Leches Cake

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My high school's snack bar (known as "the fresco stand") sold itty-bitty cans of sweetened condensed milk. My girlfriends and I used to crack them open—they had a convenient little tab, just like soda cans—stick in a straw and slurp up the contents. Whether it was the intense afternoon heat, the acute sugar high, or the effort of sucking up thick condensed milk through a narrow tube, post-recess calculus was torturous for us, and no picnic for the teacher.

Sweetened condensed milk is my mood-altering drug. If it were civilized to sip it like a cocktail, I would, but being the mature lady that I am today, I choose to imbibe it in a more socially acceptable manner: tres leches cake.

Tres leches is a popular dessert throughout Latin America. Its nationality prompts debate, as many countries, namely Nicaragua (where I'm from) like to claim it as their own. Regardless of nationality, the sponge cake is poked all over with a fork until it looks riddled with machine gun fire. Then, like Cleopatra, it is bathed in milk—but three milks to make it even more luxurious. Sweetened condensed milk, evaporated milk, and heavy cream. Once soaked through, the cake is topped with Italian meringue or whipped cream and thoroughly chilled.

I had it for dessert four times this weekend (for testing and quality control, of course) and caught myself making the most scandalous sounds with each bite. So much for being mature and polite.