Tocino de Cielo was my abuelo’s favorite Cuban dessert. The sweet yellow custard is heavy on the yolk and rich decadence in each sugary bite. My abuelo loved sweets and was notorious for drinking insanely sweet coffee and adding sugar to batidos or milk shakes. Tocino de cielo is like flan’s distant cousin. Flan is very very easy to make, but tocino de cielo requires a little more timing and gentle handling.
This recipe is my abuela’s, and it is the very best tocino de cielo recipe on the planet. The name translates roughly to bacon of the heavens or sky, a name which alludes to its sweet greatness. My abuelo loved when she would make it for him, and my mom would always make it for him as a treat. I tried to make it once from a random website as a surprise for my mom, and the recipe was god-awful- I mean seriously terrible and nothing like the delicacy I knew. Thankfully my mom supplied me with abuela’s handwritten recipe- the secret to perfect Cuban tocino de cielo.
I imagine tocio de cielo being served in tiny portions during a 9-course meal, with each dish more decadent than the last. This dessert is incredibly rich, so smaller portions are advised. Your sweet tooth will be satisfied with a small amount of this traditional Cuban dessert. The bright yellow dense custard of this classic Cuban sweet is perfectly golden on top and swims in a caramel sauce. Although flan is my preferred dessert, tocino de cielo will always make me think of my abuelo and how much I miss him.
Abuela’s Tocino de Cielo (tocinillo de cielo)
1 ½ cups sugar
¾ cup water
4 drops lemon (I interpreted this as a lemon twist)
3 whole eggs and 6 egg yolks
1 tsp vanilla
Boil water, sugar, and lemon twist until it thickens and is reduced to 1 cup. You MUST constantly stir this mixture. I repeat CONSTANTLY stir. My initial attempt at making this thick syrup failed terribly. I made hard butterscotch candy…hahaha seriously…it was rock hard. Trust me, stir the syrup constantly, this takes around 7-10 minutes. I recommend putting the temperature to around 6-7 on the burner dial. The syrup can quickly burn! Pour the contents into a cup measure, if it is slightly over that is fine, it’s better to just go with that than cook the syrup for longer and risk overcooking it. Allow the syrup to cool.
In the meantime heat 1/2-3/4 sugar in the Cuban flanera (flan mold) on low heat. This will create the golden amber caramel that pools on top of the tocino de cielo.
In this original recipe my abuela had written ½ cup yolks and ½ cup eggs, we have translated this to mean 6 egg yolks and 3 eggs. Beat yolks and eggs just until they are juuuuuust mixed. Add the cooled simple syrup and the vanilla. Strain through a colander (this step is important otherwise there are ‘tough’ parts in the custard) and pour into a flanera. Bake at 350F for 1.5 hours en un baño de María (or a water bath). Hint: put the baking pan on the oven shelf and THEN add the water to the pan.
Once finished baking in the oven, allow the custard to cool on the stove-top before placing in the refrigerator overnight. Before serving run a knife along the edge of the custard. You can garnish the tocino de cielo with the candied lemon peel used in the simple syrup, with fresh raspberries, or spun sugar. Place a plate on top and invert the tocino de cielo in all its golden glory.
*Knock gently on the back of the flanera to release the Cuban dessert from the mold if it doesn’t come out immediately.