Tocino de Cielo de Jerez

In Jerez, Spain, they’re famous for a pastry called Tocino de Cielo de Jerez, or just Tocino de Cielo. Translated is means heavenly bacon, which is a pretty weird name for a dessert. But, there’s a reason.

Tocino de Cielo at Tabanco El Anticuario (photo: Brent Petersen)

Tocino de Cielo was invented by the nuns at the Convento de Espíritu Santo de Jerez de la Frontera, a 14th century convent that still stands, though it is no longer in use. Egg whites were used in the convent to clarify wine and as starch for clothing. Because of this, there was a surplus of egg yolks, so many convents came up with so-called Convent Sweets, using the yolks as a base or custard.

For the Tocino de Cielo, a caramel of sugar and water is poured into a pan. Then, a combination of egg yolks, water, and sugar is whisked together and poured on the top. This is baked and then flipped over so that when it is removed from the pan, the yummy custard is now on top.

Sampling Tocino de Cielo (photo: Karen L. Campopiano)

Tocino de Cielo is considered an early version of flan, but differs in that no milk or cream is used (unless it’s topped with whipped cream).

Now, about that bacon name. There are two stories about where this dish got its name. First, the color of the custard is said to resemble bacon, so it became known as Tocino de Cielo.

The other story is that pork lard was originally used in the recipe. While pork fat has been used in some pastries, especially before butter was widely available, this explanation of the name seems unlikely, since no butter is used in the modern recipe.

Still, I wanted to know, so I asked several places that serve Tocino de Cielo in Jerez if they use pork lard in their dish. They all gave an emphatic “No!” Then, I asked if they had ever heard of lard being used in the dish and they all said that they had not. Not scientific, for sure, but I would say it’s pretty definitive.

Several places have Tocino de Cielo on the menu in Jerez. One of my favorite places to get it is Tabanco El Anticuario. Inside is a traditional bar and there’s seating outside when the weather is nice.

Inside at Tabanco El Anticuario (photo: Brent Petersen)

About the Author

Brent Petersen is the Editor-in-Chief of Destination Eat Drink. He currently resides in Setubal, Portugal. Brent has written the novel “Truffle Hunt” (Eckhartz Press) and the short story collection “That Bird.” He’s also written dozens of foodie travel guides to cities around the world on Destination Eat Drink, including in-depth eating and drinking guides in Spain to Madrid, Cordoba, and Puerto de Santa Maria. Brent’s podcast, also called Destination Eat Drink, is available on all major podcasting platforms.

Author: Brent