Bake These Fabulous Mexican Pastries
Mexico’s bread and pastry culture is thriving. Panaderías, or bread bakeries, and pastelerías, or pastry shops, are abundant and there are thousands of types of Mexican sweet breads, or pan dulce, not to mention cakes, cookies, and other treats. The Spanish first brought wheat to Mexico, which quickly became a staple of Mexican cuisine, but the French brought the fine art of baking and pastry-making. Mexican pastry artists adapted these French concepts to cook up their own unique creations, and Mexicans quite literally ate it up. Today, locals grab treats from bakeries and pastry shops for breakfast bites, midday snacks, afternoon nibbles, and late-night indulgences, as well as for special occasions such as family celebrations and national holidays. In honor of these Mexican morsels, we’ve rounded up some of the most beloved traditional cakes, cookies, breads, and more. So fire up your oven, choose the recipe that makes your mouth water, and treat yourself to a delicious Mexican baked goodie!
Flan Mexicano (Mexican Flan)
One of the most famous Mexican desserts, flan is a light, cool, jiggly-meets-creamy delicacy with a sweet vanilla flavor and a soft caramelized sugar top layer. "This recipe was given to me by my mother-in-law, who is from Durango, Mexico,” says Amy Shurts. “I had to beg her for years to give the recipe to me. Finally, she gave it to me for Christmas.”
Pastel de Tres Leches (Three Milk Cake)
Pastel de Tres Leches, meaning “Three Milk Cake,” is a light, spongy cake soaked in three kinds of milk: evaporated milk, condensed milk, and heavy cream. The sweet, rich three-milk mixture soaks in as the cake refrigerates for a cold, sweet dessert that earns its fame. This recipe tops the cake with whipped cream and fresh strawberries.
Sopapilla Cheesecake Pie
Sopapilla is a homemade dough fried to crispy perfection and often topped with a cinnamon-sugar mixture or honey and powdered sugar. This variation uses the sopapilla as a crispy topping for a creamy cheesecake pie. Says CandelB, “I make this to take to potluck dinners and get rave reviews!”
Polvorones de Canele (Cinnamon Cookies)
Often enjoyed for Christmas or weddings, this traditional Mexican cookie is rolled in a cinnamon-sugar and baked so that the exterior has a lovely crispy crunch. They are the perfect afternoon snack to enjoy with a coffee, tea, or authentic Mexican-style hot chocolate!
Anise Seed Borrachio Cookies
Rum gives these little shortbread-style cookies a boozy kick, while anise seed lends them a nice licorice nose. It’s a one-of-a-kind taste that will dazzle your taste buds. “You must find some time to make these cookies because they are simply delicious—one of my best friend's favorites,” says Ruben Jerez. “They are classic sugar cookies with the blended flavors of vanilla, anise, and rum.”
Mexican Wedding Cookies
Rich, buttery, nutty, and simply to-die-for, these famous Mexican morsels are so special that they are, as the name suggests, worthy of a wedding celebration. Butter, sugar, vanilla, almonds come together in perfect harmony with a lovely dusting of confectioner’s sugar to finish them off. You may not be the one getting hitched, but you’ll certainly fall in love … with these cookies!
Conchas (Mexican Sweet Bread)
This is an extremely popular traditional Mexican sweet bread, so named for its conch-shell-like appearance. The inside is sweet and fluffy, while the crunchy topping is made of sugar, butter, and flour. “I got this recipe from my friend's mom who owns a Mexican Bakery,” says MelissaAmador of this authentic recipe. “Although they are a little time-consuming, it is well worth it at the end!”
Pastel de Elote (Mexican Corn Cake)
“A delicious and moist Mexican cake made with fresh sweet corn kernels and sweetened with condensed milk,” says Elva_Adriana of this traditional recipe from the state of Jalisco. Top this classic Mexican dessert with a glaze or powdered sugar and serve a la mode for a treat you won’t soon forget.
Mexican Pumpkin Empanadas
Most people, at least most Americans, associate empanadas with the savory meat mixtures that come inside the handheld pastry pies. But sweet versions are just as popular in Mexico with jam fillings, chocolate, or sweet pumpkin like this one!
Marranitos (Mexican Pig-Shaped Cookies)
“Marranitos are often called 'Gingerbread Pigs,' although they don't actually have ginger in them. In fact, traditional marranitos get their delicious spicy-brown goodness from molasses,” says Tabitha Wilson of this classic recipe from the Trans-Pecos region. She adds cinnamon here, which is not normally used, and suggests adding dry ground ginger, if you want a gingery bite.
This version of the traditional Mexican sweet buns features a sweet streusel filling, as well as a chocolate streusel variation. “You can shape these into seashells, ovals, or horns,” says Dawn. Have fun with the presentation!
This chocolaty brownie incorporates canela, or ground Mexican cinnamon, with pequin chile pepper for a spicy kick. “This type of brownie is not too sweet nor too dense,” says caroliney_. “I would definitely say this is a mature brownie.”
Pan de Muertos (Mexican Bread of the Dead)
Pan de Muertos, meaning “Bread of the Dead,” is a classic pan dulce with the addition of anise seeds, orange zest, and orange flower water or orange juice. It’s made in the months leading up to Dia de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead, and eaten is remembrance of passed loved ones. The bread is often molded into certain animals or angels or adorned with skulls, crossbones, or teardrop shapes.
This dessert empanada is filled with a fruit jam of your choice and covered in a generous dusting of cinnamon-sugar. The dough incorporates cream cheese for an ultra-rich flavor. “Better make plenty,” says Rosina. “These disappear fast.”
Rosca de Reyes
Rosca de Reyes is a traditional Mexican yeasted sweet bread shaped into an oval adorned with candied citrus peels and sugar paste. It is eaten to celebrate the Epiphany on January 6. Similar to a King Cake, a baby Jesus figurine is hidden in the cake, and the person to discover it is expected to host a dinner of tamales and atole, traditional Christmas dishes, on Candlemas Day on February 2.