What Is Cinco de Mayo? Fun Facts About the Party Holiday & Recipes Too

cinco de mayo guacHappy almost-Cinco de Mayo -- the holiday celebrated more in America than in Mexico. In the state of Puebla, the holiday is called El Día de la Batalla de Puebla and commemorates a battle the Mexican army won against French forces in 1862. (Mexican Independence Day is September 16.) The holiday is still celebrated in Puebla, a region famous for its complicated but amazing mole sauces.

Here in the U.S., Cinco de Mayo has become a celebration of Mexican heritage. So when it comes to traditional Cinco de Mayo party food, almost anything Mexican-ish goes. Even Tex-Mex and California-style burritos. But here's a few of my favorite picks.


Guacamole! You cannot celebrate this holiday without it. You just cannot. Look for the ripest avocados you can find. They should be black and soft, but there shouldn't be any gaps between the skin and the flesh (you can feel this by delicately squeezing all over). Here's a classic guacamole recipe

Homemade tortilla chips. Packaged tortilla chips are just fine, but if you're craving restaurant-style chips, here's a video tutorial on making your own tortilla chips.

Chicken fajitas. Grilled or sauteed chicken with onions and peppers in a flour tortilla -- and they can be tweaked for your kids' palates if necessary. This is a fairly simple Tex-Mex recipe for chicken fajitas.

Micheladas. Some folks will open a bottle of Corona, add a lime, and call that good enough. But if you're up for something a little more exciting, try this beer cocktail. Here are eight recipes for Micheladas.

Just for fun, here's a few recipes that include the French side of Cinco de Mayo.

And for dessert? It's time to try tres leches cake. This is a Latin-American white cake (not just Mexican) soaked in sweetened condensed milk and topped with cream, and it's BEYOND. 

Tres Leches Cake via Food Network


For the cake

Vegetable oil

6 3/4 ounces cake flour, plus extra for pan

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

4 ounces unsalted butter, room temperature

8 ounces sugar

5 whole eggs

 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract

For the glaze

1 (12-ounce) can evaporated milk

1 (14 ounce) can sweetened condense milk

1 cup half-and-half

For the topping

2 cups heavy cream

8 ounces sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract


For the cake

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Lightly oil and flour a 13 by 9 inch metal pan and set aside.

Whisk together the cake flour, baking powder, and salt in a medium mixing bowl and set aside.

Place the butter into the bowl of a stand mixer. Using the paddle attachment, beat on medium speed until fluffy, approximately 1 minute. Decrease the speed to low and with the mixer still running, gradually add the sugar over 1 minute. Stop to scrape down the sides of the bowl, if necessary. Add the eggs, 1 at a time, and mix to thoroughly combine. Add the vanilla extract and mix to combine. Add the flour mixture to the batter in 2 batches and mix just until combined. Transfer the batter to the prepared pan and spread evenly. This will appear to be a very small amount of batter. Bake on the middle rack of the oven for 20 to 25 minutes or until the cake is lightly golden and reaches an internal temperature of 200 degrees.

Remove the cake pan to a cooling rack and allow to cool for 30 minutes. Poke the top of the cake all over with a skewer or fork. Allow the cake to cool completely and then prepare the glaze.

For the glaze

Whisk together the evaporated milk, sweetened condense milk, and the half-and-half in 1 quart measuring cup. Once combined, pour the glaze over the cake. Refrigerate the cake overnight.


Place the heavy cream, sugar, and vanilla into the bowl of a stand mixer. Using the whisk attachment, whisk together on low until stiff peaks are formed. Change to medium speed and whisk until thick. Spread the topping over the cake and allow to chill in the refrigerator until ready to serve.


Image via C05T 1N/Flickr

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