Cinco de Mayo, or ‘May 5th’ is a Mexican holiday celebrating the anniversary of the victory of the Mexican army over the far larger invading French army at the Battle of Puebla, on May 5th 1862. The city of Puebla, where the battle took place, marks the date with an arts festival, a festival of local cuisine, and battle re-enactments, and public schools are closed throughout the country.
These days, however, the festival is more commonly observed in the USA, and has come to represent a celebration of Mexican-American culture, for Mexicans to celebrate their homeland, and Americans to celebrate their Mexican friends and neighbours. At last count, there were over 150 events held throughout the US each year, with celebrations featuring Mexican music and regional dancing such as baile folklórico and mariachi bands.
If you want to celebrate Cinco de Mayo, we’ve collected some delicious Mexican-inspired desserts to get the fiesta started. With so many irresistible cakes and flans on offer, you might find it difficult to choose - after all, the Mexicans did invent chocolate. And the perfect accompaniment? Homemade margaritas, of course.
Treat your inner child with the gloriously messy jumble of colours and flavours that is this Mexican fried ice cream cake from A Spicy Perspective. Everyone’s favourite dessert from their local Mexican restaurant, this party classic is made from an irresistible combination of fried ice cream, crunchy cornflakes and rich chocolate sauce, with a generous topping of cream, brightly-coloured sprinkles, and luscious red cherries.
For something a little more understated, but every bit as delicious, try these Mexican burnt milk candy (leche quemada) from A Spicy Perspective. A traditional Mexican candy, leche quemadas are like fudge, if fudge was made from dulce de leche. A little like caramel, and a little like praline, and very, very addictive, these bite size treats will have everyone coming back for more.
Mexican food wouldn’t be the same without a little spice, and these spicy, fruity paletas, also from A Spicy Perspective will change the way you look at popsicles forever. Made with fresh cantaloupe, cucumber, lime and jalapeño, they’re sweet, spicy, refreshing and zesty all at once. The perfect light dessert if you’re already full of tacos.
Flan is a popular dessert throughout Central and Latin America, and we have several of these creamy, custard-like desserts on our list. They are typically made from eggs, sweetened condensed milk, cream, or whole milk, and must have a delicate, just-set wobble, like panna cotta.
If you like a boozy dessert, you’ll love Tablespoon’s recipe for Flan Borracho, which translates as ‘drunken flan’. Cooked in a water bath for the perfect wobble, this intoxicating dessert has a hard caramel shell, and is bathed in a sweet rum sauce.
There are plenty of delicious variations on the traditional flan recipe. This coconut flan from Woman’s Day pairs the traditional caramel with sweet coconut milk, while these Mexican chocolate flans from Tablespoon use everyone’s favourite Mexican ingredient mixed with a touch of cinnamon. And if you can’t decide whether to choose cake or flan, why not have both? This chocolate caramel turtle flan, also from Tablespoon has a layer of chocolate cake topped with a caramel flan, with a generous topping of that other Mexican favourite, dulce de leche.
Another classic Mexican dessert is the tres leches, or ‘three milks’ cake, which are soaked in a mixture of sweet condensed milk, evaporated milk and whole milk. In this updated version from Delish, their Tres Leches coconut cupcakes are soaked in an extra-indulgent mixture of evaporated milk, coconut milk and heavy cream, and topped with fresh strawberries and just a little more cream.
While we’re on the subject of cupcakes, these Cinco de Chilli chocolate cupcakes are Mexican through and through. A rich, dark chocolate sponge topped with chilli-flavoured frosting, the flavours of this fiery little cake mimic the spicy hot chocolate drink enjoyed by the ancient Aztec civilisation.
Hot chocolate is still a Mexican specialty today, and our next two chocolate treats are both inspired by the modern version. These Mexican hot chocolate cookies from The Food Charlatan are soft, gooey cookies made with real cocoa and a dusting of cinnamon, just like a Mexican hot chocolate. Or if you’re feeling brave, try these dulce de leche stuffed Mexican chocolate cookies from Butternut Bakery Blog, with added cayenne pepper and a melting dulce de leche center.
No Mexican party is complete without a piñata, and the only thing better than a piñata is a piñata made of cake. This beautifully-decorated piñata cake by Sprinkles for Breakfast is the perfect centrepiece for any Cinco de Mayo table, and it’s actually easier than it looks.
For more desserts with Mexican-themed decorations, try this taco cake from Club Crafted, with a vanilla frosting shell, crushed-cookie beef, red M&M tomato and orange candy melt cheese, or these adorable sombrero cookies from Delish.
Finally, if you just can’t get enough of those margaritas, why not try them in dessert form? These margarita cupcakes from Delish combine a light, zesty lime sponge with a generous topping of lime and tequila buttercream and a sprinkle of sea salt, while this frozen margarita pie from All Recipes is the Mexican cousin of the key lime pie.
If you’ve been inspired by this list of mouthwatering desserts, you can find ideas for appetisers and main course from these 11 recipe ideas for a delicious Cinco de Mayo.