CHICAGO -- When describing the Puerto Rican cupcakes available at Borinken Cakes, owner Rachel Diaz refrained from using the word "moist."
"I was describing to people that these were very moist cupcakes and some people were like 'eww,'" joked Diaz. "They're pretty sweet and 'juicy,' almost."
Located in Chicago's Garfield Ridge and Logan Square neighborhoods, Borinken Cakes specializes in cupcake versions of bizcocho mojadito, a dessert similar to pound cake, but soaked in brandy syrup and common on the island of Puerto Rico.
"The flavor is almost like 'grown up cake,'" said Diaz. "You get a little bit of the hint of the liquor, but you don't have the alcohol and you get a little bit of the warm tones in it."
Diaz, 33, came to Chicago as a young designer from Puerto Rico to live with her now-husband back in 2007, knowing only Spanish.
"I basically learned all my English watching Food Network, which is kind of embarrassing, but I always loved food," said Diaz.
Wanting to make bizcocho mojadito for her son's birthday, Diaz reached out to her aunt, who was a professional baker in Puerto Rico. After mastering the cake, requests from family and friends kept her busy baking, eventually resulting in the opening of Borinken Cakes.
"After that, it was history. We just started growing and growing," said Diaz.
Diaz started the bakery with her sister, Jashira, and mother, Raquel. Raquel was a nurse in Puerto Rico before having to relocate to the U.S. after Hurricane Maria devastated the island.
"She always says she went from injecting patients to injecting cupcakes," said Diaz.
Besides bizcocho mojadito, flavors for the cupcakes include Nutella, guava dream, coquito, coconut, pia colada and dulce de leche, with new varieties being added frequently. The cakes sit in a colorful paper cup that helps hold the juicy desserts together.
"The way you eat is with a spoon because if you peel it out it will just fall apart because it just crumbles," said Diaz. "It's so tender and delicious that it just melts in your mouth."
Diaz is grateful to bring native Puerto Ricans back to their memories of the island while introducing Chicagoans to something they may have not tried before. She said some people even cry when they taste her cupcakes.
"It's been a rewarding experience," said Diaz. "Bringing my culture and what we love in Puerto Rico to the community of Chicago and how they accepted it and loved it as much as we have, it's just an amazing feeling."
In addition to cupcakes, Borinken Cakes also offers other Puerto Rican pastries like quesitos and pastelillitos.
For more information on Borinken Cakes, visit borinkencakes.com.