Tocino de Cielo

Egg Custard from Heaven

Preparation info

  • Difficulty


  • Serves

    8 to 10

Appears in

Eating Cuban

Eating Cuban

By Beverly Cox and Martin Jacobs

Published 2006

  • About

Tocino de cielo is an old Cuban dessert custard with deep roots in Andalucia. It is a specialty of Jerez de la Frontera, where egg whites were traditionally used to clarify sherry before it was bottled. Making this amazingly rich custard was originally a delicious way to use up the leftover yolks.

This is how my friend Virginia Flores-Godoy remembers being introduced to this heavenly dessert: “My great-grandfather Don Ramón Flores de Apodaca was an officer in the Spanish Royal Navy who came to Havana from Cadiz in the late 1800s. He brought with him a taste for the delicacies of his native Andalusia. Sunday lunches at my paternal grandparents’ home were long and exquisitely interpreted by Rafael, their Cantonese cook. After a menu of gazpacho, red snapper, and filet mignon, we were offered a wide array of desserts—sumptuous tocinos de cielo, coquimol, yemas dobles, and other confections made with eggs and sugar.”

This recipe describes the traditional Cuban method of caramelizing a mold; for an alternate—and perhaps easier—technique, see the instructions in the recipe for Flan de Leche Clásico (Classic Flan).


For the Caramel

  • ½ cup sugar

For the Custard

  • 12 large egg yolks
  • 2 cups sugar
  • ½ vanilla bean, or ½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract


Make the caramel: Place the sugar in a 4-cup metal charlotte mold or a shallow 8-inch round or square metal cake pan. Place the mold directly on the burner over medium heat. Using oven mitts to protect your hands, turn and tip the mold over the heat until the sugar melts and turns a pale amber. Remove the mold from the heat and tip it so that the hot caramel coats the bottom and part of the sides evenly. Set aside.

Make the custard: Place the egg yolks and 2 tablespoons cold water in a mixing bowl and whisk until combined but not foamy.

In a medium-size, heavy saucepan, combine the sugar and 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons water. Slit the vanilla bean down one side with a sharp knife and scrape the pulp of the bean into the syrup (or add the vanilla extract, if using). Cook for a few minutes at medium heat until the sugar dissolves and the syrup turns clear. Remove from the heat and set aside.

Gradually pour the hot syrup into the egg yolks, stirring constantly, until well combined. Pour the egg mixture through a coarse strainer into the still-warm, caramel-coated mold.

Place the lid on the charlotte mold or cover the top with aluminum foil.

Fill the bottom of a tall stock pot fitted with a steamer basket with enough hot water to almost reach the basket. Place the mold in the basket and cover the pot tightly with a lid. Steam the custard over simmering water for 45 to 55 minutes, until the custard seems fairly firm, and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out almost clean. Check the water level occasionally and, if needed, add additional hot water, making sure that it doesn’t get into the mold. Remove the mold, take off the lid or foil, and let the custard cool, then refrigerate it, loosely covered, for several hours or overnight.

To serve, run a thin-bladed knife around the edge of the custard. Place a serving plate face down on top of the mold. Gripping the mold and plate together with both hands, invert the custard onto the plate. Slice and serve with the caramel from the mold.