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During a tour of the historic center of downtown Mexico City, our guide’s face began to light up.
“Can I take you to my favorite cake shop?” she asked.
Obliging, we followed her into Pasteleria Ideal. Nothing fancy from the outside, the two-story bakery impresses once its variety and volume of handmade cakes and Mexican pan dulce (sweet bread) come into view inside.
On the ground level, display cases hold colorful, fruit-filled gelatin cakes that, despite looking like relics of 1960s America, are actually traditional treats still eaten at Mexican social gatherings. Then, there is a maze of baskets overflowing with pan dulce, where I admit I spent a few extra moments.
And I wasn’t the only one — shoppers equipped with tongs and large silver trays were creating individual pyramids made up of conchas, cuernos and more. Many street vendors resell Ideal’s pastries, and the prices are so good, it’s hard to leave with only a few items.
Sweet carb lovers of all ages should muster the willpower to tear themselves away and head upstairs. The entire second floor is filled with models of cakes that Ideal can custom bake. It’s quite a sight to behold — and smell, since the fake cakes do use real frosting.
There are traditional, many-tiered wedding cakes with stalactite frosting; elaborate pink affairs for quinceaneras; and an impressive amount of pop-culture cakes. Minimalist, light and monochromatic cakes do not exist in this frosty wonderland. I even saw a wedding cake that, at more than 120 pounds, could potentially feed an entire village in Mexico. Hello Kitty, Spiderman, a creepy doll in a quinceanera dress — name the character, and it’s likely honored with its own heavy-duty, baked replica.
Which cake would I fight for? Hands down: the lucha libre fighting-ring cake, complete with plastic luchador figurines.