Pingüinos are personal-sized chocolate cakes filled with vanilla buttercream and topped with chocolate icing and an iconic white loop decoration. Most importantly, though, they are a popular snack cake in Mexico along with some other ones like gansitos and chocoroles. And, even though I’ve never been a huge fan of these well-known snacks, last summer I started recreating some of them for Metate Bake Shop. Here’s why:
During my elementary school days, my parents would give me $5 pesos for lunch. Five pesos doesn’t get you much these days, but back then, it seemed like a fortune – especially for a kid. The elementary school I went to (like many others in Mexico) had a “tiendita” or small convenience store and a callejón del diablo within the school. We’ll leave the callejón del diablo stories for some other day. Let’s focus on the tiendita part for now.
This tiendita was run by a guy we all knew as Leñas, and his family. To be honest, I seriously doubt that was his real name but that’s what we all elementary school kids called him. Leñas would welcome us into his tiendita during recess by asking us to show him how much money we had with us to spend. He would then give us options that were within our budget from what I liked to call: the snack wall. The snack wall was a perfectly organized display of all the popular treat-like packaged snacks: gansitos, pinguinos, chocoroles, cookies like barritas and many, many more.
With my $5 pesos, I would always go with Marinela’s pay de nuez or mini pecan pie. Let me tell you, that mini pie would make your teeth scream in agony from all the sugar and I think it has now been discontinued. Nonetheless, my 7-year-old self would always feel inexplicably accomplished whenever she got something from Leñas‘ legendary snack wall.
If you ever go to a tiendita in Mexico and give any of these packaged snacks a try, chances are you’ll find them extremely sweet as they are highly processed. However, all these products are a very important part of my many childhood memories. Trips to the tiendita with friends and/or cousins would not have been the same without all these snacks and their colourful packaging.
When I started Metate Bake Shop, I was determined to share not only pastries with our customers but memories as well. I wanted them to experience a tastier version of my memories, though. This is why I started experimenting with my own version of some popular brand-name Mexican snacks. I wanted to give people a tasty tiendita experience.
Today, let me walk you through my version of pingüinos so that you can have your very own tiendita experience at home. This version uses a chocolate frosting and white chocolate for the classic pingüino decoration on top rather than royal icing as the original one does. If you want to decorate with royal icing, please go ahead. I just find chocolate frosting to be tastier. Alright, here’s what you’ll need to make these pingüinos:
- 185g sugar
- 185g buttermilk
- 115g vegetable oil
- 1 large egg
- 5g vanilla extract
- 155g all-purpose flour, sifted
- 45g cocoa powder, sifted
- 4g baking soda
- 225g butter, unsalted
- 115g dark chocolate
- 150g icing sugar
- 80g cocoa powder
- 320g sour cream, cold
- 20g vanilla extract
- 1 cup unsalted butter
- 4 cups icing sugar
- ¼ cup whipping cream
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- Preheat oven to 350F. Spray muffin pan with cooking oil and line with parchment paper or muffin liners.
- Make chocolate cake batter: In a medium bowl, combine first 4 ingredients for the chocolate cake. Set aside. In a separate bowl, combine the remaining 3 ingredients. Add the dry ingredient mix to the wet ingredient mix. Mix with a whisk until you get a smooth, homogenous batter.
- Bake chocolate cake: Spoon chocolate cake batter into prepared muffin pan until they are three quarters full. Bake for 12-15 minutes or until toothpick or tester comes out clean. Allow them cool completely.
- Make frosting: Melt chocolate and butter in microwave. Combine sugar and cocoa powder in a bowl. Add melted chocolate to this mix. Whisk vigorously. The mixture should be smooth and lump-free. Add sour cream and vanilla. Whisk to combine.
- Make buttercream: Whip all ingredients together with an electric mixer until light and fluffy. Transfer to a piping bag with a small piping tip.
- Assemble pingüinos: From the bottom, fill each chocolate cake with buttercream. Be generous! Spread about a tablespoon of chocolate frosting on top of each cake. Make loop design with melted white chocolate using a small paper piping bag. Enjoy!
A few words of advice when making these: Allow your chocolate cakes to cool down COMPLETELY. This is very important. You can even make them a few days ahead of time and keep them in the fridge in an airtight container until you’re ready to assemble. If your chocolate cakes are slightly warm, the buttercream will melt when you try to pipe it into the pingüino. The chocolate frosting on top will also melt if the chocolate cake is warm. Be patient. It’ll be worth the wait, I promise.
You can also make all the pingüino components ahead of time and keep them in the fridge for up to 3 days. You’ll just have to let them all come to room temperature before assembling. Otherwise, your buttercream will be too hard to pipe and your frosting too hard to spread. Save yourself some frustration and let them sit on your kitchen counter, at room temperature, for an hour or so before attempting to assemble.
Give these pingüinos a try and let me know how it goes! Tag me on Instagram as @metatebakeshop and as Metate Bake Shop on Facebook. Don’t be afraid to experiment and have fun decorating these little treats!