Why you should care
Because chocolate and cheese shouldn’t work. But it’s delicious.
A skinny, well-calculated drizzle of batter falls from the jug, bubbling as it pools on the sizzling griddle before a quick flick of the wrist forces it to cobweb its way across the entire cast iron surface. Some unlucky globs succumb to the open flame below, but the rest unite to make a wafer-thin crepe that is (soon-to-be) rolled into a tight, compact cylinder; the edges should be smooth, the bake even and the contents plentiful. But, like pizza, even a slightly imperfect marquesita is better than no marquesita at all.
Watching a marquesita being made at oil-clothed street-side stalls or on modified three-wheeled push-bikes is enthralling, but crunch, crunch, crunching one down is so much better. This is especially true once it’s been loaded up with the contradictory yet complementary combo of creamy, chocolaty Nutella spread schmeared along the length of the crepe and salty queso de bola (a Mexican riff on Dutch Edam that literally translates as “cheese ball”).
There’s just something about how the handful of cheese melts down into the sickly sweet slather of chocolaty creaminess …
Yes, really. Trust me. The first time I tried a marquesita was out of sheer curiosity, in Valladolid, Yucatán (the key cheese component originates in Ocosingo, Chiapas, but the marquesita is far more heavily linked to Mexico’s east coast). Anyone in Mexico knows that street stalls only have massive queues for one reason — whatever they’re selling is bloody good — and this particular marquesita stall had the longest line of all. And after queuing for 45 minutes, I wasn’t disappointed.
There’s just something about how the handful of cheese melts down into the sickly sweet slather of chocolaty creaminess inside the elegantly slender marquesita that makes it irresistible. Think of the crepe shell — striped with thin griddle marks (perhaps for grip, who knows?) — as the streamlined, lightweight vehicle for getting that gooey inner goodness into your face hole. A sort of dessert version of taquitos or their longer, skinnier cousin, the flauta, albeit with tortillas swapped out for pancake batter and with that “sweet-salty-creamy combo that makes them unique,” adds Marisol Borges, owner of Veracruz-based marquesería, MarqueCity.
And even though chocolate and cheese is the classic combo, don’t be afraid to mix it up a little. Jam, peanut butter, condensed milk and even fresh fruit are all perfectly valid options. In fact, the most-sold MarqueCity specialty is the “Frida” (named for its inventor, not Frida Kahlo), which combines cajeta (a kind of Mexican caramel) with queso de bola and cream cheese.
Rumor has it that marquesitas (supposedly named for either the daughter of a local marquis or the inventor’s wife, Marquesa) started life in a Mérida ice cream parlor, dreamed up by the owner, Don Vicente Mena, as a snack to boost sales during the comparatively cooler winter months; however, conflicting sources say this tale took place between 1910 and 1930. So it’s safe to say it should be taken with a pinch of local legend salt. And the now-popular chocolate-cheese filling wasn’t always a marquesita staple; instead it was just the crepe, and then the crepe with cheese, before sweeter additions made their way into the mix.
Either way, for a country where desserts sometimes miss the mark with both Mexicans and non-Mexicans alike (see: wobbly flan and a penchant for spicy-sweet candies), people-pleasing marquesitas have a melty salty-sweetness and brittle savory crunch that will leave you obsessed. And for just 30 pesos ($1.60) a pop, one (or two, or three) won’t break the bank.