This week is a time for celebration! Not only do we celebrate the graduating seniors and the completion of another school year, but also Cinco de Mayo! If you need a good excuse to take a study break, look no further. Below is a recipe for Mexican Cheesecake, a delicious dessert that will help you celebrate this festive holiday.
Inspired by the popular pastry Sopapilla, Mexican Cheesecake is a warm dessert with a sweet cream cheese filling, flaky, buttery crescent crust and cinnamon-sugar topping. My family has made this dish for numerous occasions and everyone agrees that it is love at first bite.
Although we often think of Cinco de Mayo as a day to honor Mexican culture, host parties, enjoy parades and indulge in many tacos and non-Covenant beverages, most Americans do not know the history behind the festival. Many mistakenly assume that Cinco de Mayo is Mexican Independence Day when, in fact, it is a celebration of the Mexican victory over France at the Battle of Puebla in the Franco-Mexican War.
In 1861, Benito Juárez, a lawyer and member of the Indigenous Zapotec tribe, became president of Mexico. However, Mexico was undergoing great financial struggles at the time and was in debt to European governments. Britain, Spain and France sent forces to Mexico to demand reimbursement. France, under the rule of Napoleon III, decided to use this opportunity to conquer Mexico and make an empire out of Mexican territory. The French also hoped that by gaining a foothold in Mexico, they could support the U.S. Confederate Army, fighting in the American Civil War which was occurring at the time. At the end of 1861, the French stormed Veracruz and forced Juárez and his government to retreat. As the French made preparations to attack Puebla de Los Angeles, a little town in east-central Mexico, Juárez gathered a group of about 2,000 men, many of whom were Indigenous or of mixed Mexican ancestry, and sent them to defend Puebla.
On May 5, 1862, under the leadership of General Ignacio Zaragoza, the Mexicans successfully won the Battle of Puebla against the French. This victory boosted the spirits of the resistance. It also held off the French until the U.S. Union forces could offer assistance in officially driving the French out of Mexico in 1867.Four days after the battle, Juárez declared Cinco de Mayo, also known as “Battle of Puebla Day,” a national holiday.
So, why do Americans celebrate Mexican heritage on the date of this battle rather than on Mexican Independence Day? Well, for starters, some point out that “Cinco de Mayo” is a lot easier for most Americans to say than “Dieciséis de Septiembre,” the date of Mexican Independence. Additionally, in the 1960’s many Chicano activists raised awareness for this holiday as they identified with the victory of Indigenous Mexicans.
There you have it — a little of the history behind Cinco de Mayo. What better way to commemorate this celebration of Mexico than with some yummy Mexican-inspired cheesecake sure to lift your spirits amidst the stress of finals? Make sure you take a study-break this week and celebrate Cinco de Mayo with this sweet, creamy, cinnamon-y dessert.
Mexican Cheesecake Recipe:
Two 8 oz. packages of Crescent Rolls (I use Pillsbury Crescent Rolls.)
Two 8 oz. packages of Philadelphia Cream Cheese, softened
1 tsp. vanilla (I use a splash more than 1 tsp.)
1 cup of sugar
1 stick of butter, melted
¾ cup sugar
1 tsp. cinnamon (I use a heaping teaspoon.)
Preheat oven to 350˚F degrees.
Spray a 13×9 baking pan with cooking spray.
Line the bottom of the pan with one package of the crescent rolls. Be sure that all seams are pressed smooth and sealed.
Bake for 3 minutes. Then, remove from oven.
In a large bowl, combine the cream cheese, vanilla and 1 cup of sugar.
Use an electric mixer and mix until very smooth.
Pour the cream cheese mixture over the crust.
Carefully lay the second package of crescent rolls over the top of the cream cheese layer.
In a small bowl, combine the melted butter, ¾ cup sugar and cinnamon. Mix well.
Pour the mixture evenly over the top of the crescent rolls, covering the entire area.
Bake for 30–35 minutes.
Serve warm or at room temperature.
Wheaton College, IL