The person responsible for the fancy iced cakes at Rosita Bakery in Kensington is not Rosita. That would be Erlinda Montes, Rosita's mother.
"Rosita is my 13-year-old," says Montes, who has decorated her small Latino bake shop with large-display photos of her daughter posed next to tiered specialty cakes. "But someday this will all be hers."
Those who judge the quality of a Latino bakery by the richness and flavor of its tres leches -- three-milk cake ($3.79 per slice) -- will be pleasantly surprised. Montes, a native of Nicaragua, soaks moist white cake with sweetened condensed milk and evaporated milk as well as fresh cream. On goes a thick layer of whipped cream before she decorates the top with fresh fruit.
For parties, Montes recommends her white-and-pink, fist-size meringues (75 cents each), which are very sweet and slightly moist in the center. A thickly iced and decorated half-sheet cake for, say, a quinceanera -- the coming-of-age party for a 15-year-old girl, is $69.99. The gorgeous, lattice-topped, nine-inch fruit pies are a bargain at $4.99 each. On the savory side, the empanadas (chicken or beef, $1.59 each) look appealing. But the ones we tried were made with more pastry than filling.
Montes says her Nicaraguan customers head right for the picos -- triangular, folded breads filled with white cheese dusted with cinnamon ($1.49 each).
A second choice for these folks are the packages of rosquillas (six for $3), which are corn flour and cheese pastries smeared with molasses and brown sugar. "They are very nice with a cup of coffee in the afternoon," suggests Montes.
Rosita Bakery, 10534 Connecticut Ave., Kensington; call 301-949-8200. Open 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Saturday; 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday.
-- Walter Nicholls