If you choose to celebrate Cinco de Mayo in the U.S., you absolutely must do it responsibly and respectfully. Honestly, the holiday is way more of a big deal to Americans than it is to Mexicans. The holiday was originally created to honor a battle against the French that took place in Puebla in 1862. The Mexican troops won that battle, but they later lost a second Battle of Puebla to the French. Cinco de Mayo didn’t really gain steam as a holiday in the U.S. until the 1960s, and that was probably just a marketing ploy to sell more beer.
Now, it’s totally fine to celebrate Cinco de Mayo as long as you don’t turn it into a holiday focused on drinking, wearing offensive clothing speaking in silly and rude accents. You can read more about how to respectfully celebrate the holiday here and it’s also important to learn about Mexico’s history with the piñata before you start baking any. Once you’ve done that, you’re ready for the good stuff: baking up some delicious cookies with a colorful surprise inside.
These multi-striped, piñata sugar cookies come complete with hollow centers that you can fill with a secret stash of your favorite candies. Break open or bite into these festive treats, and be greeted with a sugary surprise inside.
How To Make Cinco de Mayo Piñata Cookies
- 1 cup sugar
- 1 cup powdered sugar
- 1 cup butter
- 1 cup vegetable oil
- 2 eggs
- 1 teaspoon cream of tartar
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon almond extract
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 5 cups flour
- 1 tablespoon vanilla
- Mini M&M’s candies
- 1/2 cup powdered sugar (for the frosting)
- 2 teaspoons milk (for the frosting)
1. Make the dough
Cream together the sugars and the butter. Beat in the eggs. Add the oil. Combine the dry ingredients, and then gradually add them to the mixture. Mix in the vanilla and almond extract.
2. Color the dough
Split the dough into five even-size balls and one smaller ball (this will be the black one). Add food coloring to each dough ball until your desired color is achieved. Gel food coloring gives you more intense colors than liquid food coloring does.
3. Layer the dough
Use a container the same approximate width of your donkey/burro piñata cookie cutter, and line it with plastic food wrap. Split all your colored dough balls in half (except for the black one), and layer the dough in the container, starting with the black dough on the bottom. Alternate the colors so you end up with two layers of each color by the time you’re done.
Cover the layered dough, and freeze it for four hours or overnight. This is the perfect time to conserve your creative juices for what lies ahead.
5. Bake the cookies
Remove the dough from the container, and unwrap it from the plastic. Cut it into slices of approximately 1/4 inch wide.
Place them on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper, and bake at 350 degrees F for 12 minutes.
6. Cut the cookies
Immediately after you take them out of the oven, use your burro piñata cookie cutter to cut the cookie shapes. Working in sets of three, being sure to cut two burro piñata cookies in one direction and one burro piñata cookie in the opposite direction. (Just flip your cookie cutter over.) That way, when you go to assemble them, the finished cookie will look “pretty” on both sides because the baked bottom sides will be hidden.
7. Create the hidden pocket
For the middle cookies in each set, cut off the ears and legs, and cut out the center where the M&M’S will go. I used a small square cutter and made three cuts to get a narrow rectangle. Try to work quickly, because as the cookies cool, they are more likely to crumble or break. Let them cool on the baking sheet before you move them and remove the excess, outer cookie.
8. Assembling the piñata cookies
To assemble, take the first piñata cookie, and lay it upside down so that the baked bottom is facing up. Outline the center of the piñata body with a “frosting glue” mixture of milk and powdered sugar. (I used 1/2 cup of powdered sugar and 2 teaspoons of milk. If you put it inside a Ziploc bag and cut off a tiny tip of the bag’s corner, you can pipe it onto the cookie easily.)
Put the middle cookie on top of the frosting glue, and add the M&M’S to the open center. Put another outline of frosting glue on the middle cookie.
Place the opposite-cut piñata cookie on top (so that the pretty side is facing outward). Let these sit and harden for at least 30 minutes before you stand them upright.
9. Show off your finished piñata cookies
This recipe will make six to eight piñata cookies.
A version of this article was originally published in April 2012.