As an upstairs neighbor, the United States—especially in states like Texas and California—has its own unique Mexican food culture, one that echoes the original cuisine in many ways. No party is complete without tortilla chips and salsa or guacamole, and we have a whole day of the week devoted to tacos. (It’s so prevalent, even, that someone’s trademarked it).
This love for the foods of our southern neighbors, however, rarely extends to desserts. Sure, some of us in the U.S. are lucky enough to have a neighborhood paletería where we can sample an assortment of technicolor popsicles in flavors like sweet corn and mango with chile. Others may have access to Mexican bakeries that feature shelves laden with crackly conchas and other similar, lightly sweetened breads. Nevertheless, most of us may only be familiar with flan and churros (which are originally Spanish and found all throughout the Spanish-speaking world) and maybe tres leches cake (which is actually Nicaraguan).
Even I have been guilty of believing for a time that Mexicans maybe just didn’t make desserts, that perhaps they just didn’t have the same sweet teeth that we Peruvians have.
A trip to Mexico City in 2013 proved me wrong in a very big way.
Not only did they have desserts, they also had a pretty vast repertoire of cakes, pastries, ornate gelatins, and sweets that we rarely get to see this side of the border. A visit to any of Mexico City’s bakeries, such as El Globo, is like stepping into a pastry fantasy. There are towers of sweet indulgences scattered throughout the whole store. The set-up is similar to that of many Korean bakeries: You grab a tray and stroll through the shop, using tongs to grab your selections from island displays. There really is no gatekeeper between you and your goodies like in many American- and European-style bakeries.
One of the uniquely Mexican baked goods I kept coming across repeatedly called out to me with its distinctive appearance, until I finally gave in and tried one: Garibaldis are hard to miss in a bakery. They are essentially upside-down pound cake muffins that are glazed in apricot jam and then rolled in white nonpareil sprinkles. Sometimes they’ll include a dollop of chocolate ganache on top or a swirl of tangy cajeta, a type of caramel made from goat’s milk that is similar to dulce de leche.
These little cakes are said to have originated in El Globo bakery, which was founded by an Italian immigrant family in 1884.
Due to the Mexican Revolution, the family (along with many other Europeans) fled Mexico and temporarily closed the bakery. Once things had quieted down, El Globo reopened in 1923.
Another Italian immigrant bakery, named Alberto Laposse, is credited as the inventor of the garibaldi cakes, naming them after the famous Italian revolutionary. Despite their Italian connection, these little muffins are now as much a fixture of local cuisine as tacos al pastor, and you can lose count of how many people you’ll see in the Mexican capital nibbling at these buttery treats along with their morning café con leche.
• 1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
• 1 pinch kosher salt
• 1 teaspoon baking powder
• 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
• ½ cup (about ½ package) cream cheese, softened
• 1 ½ cups granulated sugar
• 3 large eggs
• 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
• ½ cup apricot jam
• 1 tablespoon warm water
• ½ cup white nonpareil sprinkles
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