The aroma gets you about fifty feet from the door, a warm
mixture of sugar and butter combining with the exhaust
fumes from nearby Eje Central. As you pass through the
doors of La Pastelería Ideal you enter a life-size version of
Candyland. Thousands of sugary cakes, muffins, tarts, strudels,
danish, biscuits, croissants, éclairs, cream puffs, donuts,
cupcakes and brioche are spread out before you; more than
300 varieties. And that’s not including the cookies (I counted
almost 70 different kinds).
A beloved institution known to generations of Mexicans, it
was founded by Spanish immigrant Don Adolfo Fernández
Cetina in 1927. He came to Mexico City in 1913 at the age of
17 to work with a cousin in his small bakery business. Today
there are three locations in the city with more than 250
employees. The ovens are going 24 hours a day, seven days
Need a cake to feed 1600? No problem. You could bake it at
home (all you need is 100 kilos of flour, 400 eggs, 40 kilos
of butter, and a 10-foot ladder to reach the top), or head
upstairs to Ideal’s second floor cake showroom. You’ll
see hundreds of cakes of all sizes, shapes and colors—the
biggest, with nine layers, requires three workers to construct.
Decorations might include a plastic lucha libre doll,
ice cream cones, or even a tiny ballerina twirling above a
bubbling fountain with twinkling lights.
There are cakes for weddings, quinceañeras (a girl’s 15th
birthday), birthdays, baptisms, and graduations. Ideal has
provided cakes for TV and movie stars as well as for four
Are the cakes on display real? Furtive finger marks in the
frosting certainly suggested they might be. It turns out the
frosting is real—egg whites and sugar—but the cake itself
is Styrofoam. “They last for years, but they’ll get dirty, so we
replace them every month or so,” an employee told me.
How to shop in a Mexican bakery:
Pick up one of the metal trays and a pair of tongs and help
yourself. At Ideal, go to the counter in the back of the store where you will be given a ticket with the price written on it. Pay at the caja, then go back to the counter where your wrapped pastries await you.
Pasteleria Ideal, Calle 16 de Septiembre 18,
is open from 6 am to 10 pm daily.