It’s impossible to think of Mexico and not think about its gastronomy. After all, the first thing most travellers ask when they arrive in Mexico City is where they can find the best tacos, where to get a nice tequila, etc.
Yes, we know we have good tacos and we love good tequila. But Mexico is so much more than that. We also love sugar. Which means we love desserts.
From lattes paired with almond chocolate cake, to an ice cream dish called ‘Three Marias’ (because, you know, Mexicans), to traditional candies, there are lots of tasty treats to satisfy your sweet tooth.
To send you off on your own sugar high the next time you’re in town, here are my picks for where to find the best desserts in Mexico City.
Something I love (ahem, need) to start my day is a good cup of coffee. I’m not talking about that mediocre coffee you’ll get from your hotel. I’m talking about a tasty Mexican coffee — paired with the best piece of cake you will ever have in your life.
La Ruta de la Seda is located in the Coyoacan neighbourhood, just a few blocks away from the main Coyoacan plaza. They have excellent coffee here — whether you like it black, as a frothy cappuccino, a creamy latte or even a green tea latte. Their desserts range from a concha de Jamaica (hibiscus flower) sweet bread or green tea concha, to cakes of lavender and vanilla, or chocolate with almonds, or green tea with strawberry coulis.
Who doesn’t love ice cream, especially on a hot day in the Mexican sun? La Especial de Paris has been open since 1921 and is an ice cream landmark in the city — I remember coming here as a kid with my family for their famous tres Marias (‘three Marias’) ice cream sundae. My mother said I’d never finish it. Of course I did.
The tres Marias sundae is the perfect mix of strawberry, vanilla and chocolate ice cream (yes in that order), topped with crumbled cookies, cream and nuts, plus cherries to top it off. But if the massive dish isn’t your thing, they also have a huge menu of ice creams and nieves (nieve is similar to ice cream but made with water, like an Italian ice, sorbet or shaved ice). Lately I’ve been attracted to the flavours of cardamom, tobacco and handmade chocolate. Plus, they add a little bit of extra sugar to the ice cream here, to bring out more of the original flavour.
We can’t talk about desserts without mentioning the local markets. Don’t worry if you’re not located close to one of the touristy markets — Mexico City is divided into 16 districts, and each one has one or more locals markets to explore. You just need to be sure they sell food.
One of my favourite markets is on weekends near Alameda Park, on Juarez Avenue, at the Plaza de la Soledad. I love to take travellers here to taste the best of local and traditional desserts.
Traditional Mexican candies be from crystallised fruits like limes, coconut, figs, or pineapples. There’s also a dulce de leche treat, which is a small piece of sweet, milky dessert. Cocadas are small candied balls, made from milk, eggs and coconut. As well, there’s the famous alegría, a Mexican sweet made with amaranth seeds and honey, sugar or chocolate (it’s super tasty).
Another traditional dessert is one that you can find being sold on the streets: merengues (and no, I don’t mean the dance). A merengue is a traditional Mexican candy, bright pink in colour and very sweet. It’s made with sugar and eggs.
The tradition is for the “merenguero” (the guy who sell the merengues) to play a game with children before they buy. “Simple or double” was the invitation to play, and the merenguero would flip a coin. The prize if you won would be two merengues for the price of one — but if you lost, you’d have to pay twice! Betting a few coins was always fun, but often left you feeling a bit deceived as somehow the merenguero would always win. Merengueros also sell some other traditional Mexican candies, but that’s another sweet story…