Origin: Jerez de la Frontera, Andalusia
Tocinillo de cielo is similar to the Spanish flan but, as defenders of either side of this Spanish desserts' dilemma will tell you, there is a significant difference, most notably in the fact that this Spanish dessert only uses egg yolks while the flan uses a combination of whole eggs and egg yolks. The tocinillo de cielo recipe also produces a much lighter and sweeter dessert than that of the flan.
The Tocinillo de Cielo, literally Heaven's Little Pig but more commonly known as Heavenly Custard, is very simple to make and uses only a few basic ingredients but it is super tasty and extremely rewarding. This simple dessert is therefore similar to the ever popular Spanish potato omelette in the fact that it uses basic ingredients but produces an excellent Spanish dish.
This dish was invented in the early part of the 14th century, around 1324, in the city of Jerez de la Frontera, near Cadiz in Andalusia. The wineries of the town used to use egg whites to clarify their wine and so they always had a large number of egg yolks left over. Therefore they decided to donate the leftover egg yolks to the nuns of the Convento de Espíritu Santo de Jerez de la Frontera (Convent of the Sacred Spirit of Jerez de la Frontera). Thanks to their divine help and the combination of syrup and a water bath, the tocinillo de cielo was created - hence the reference to the Heavens. The use of only egg yolks gives the Spanish tocinillo de cielo a distinctive bright yellow colour. The dish was made a lot during the start of the 20th century when there was a shortage of food and basic ingredients was all that people had to cook with.
Today, you can sample this deliciously simple Spanish dessert in various places across Spain. This Spanish custard dish still has strong links to Andalusia and of course Jerez. However you can find versions of the dish in other regions of Spain such as Asturias and Castilla y Leon.
In recent years, the name 'tocino de cielo' has also becoming much more common for the dish but there is no real reason why this should be. Those of you who learn Spanish in Spain will realise that this simply means 'Bacon of Heaven' which doesn't seem an apt title for a Spanish dessert that neither contains bacon or tastes of bacon.
There are a number of varieties of this dish as well which can be found across Spain and the world. The most commonly found flavours of the tocinillo de cielo are the lemon-citrus tasting version and the version that has a flavour similar to almonds. So when you visit Cádiz or Jerez de la Frontera, make sure you try them all!