“Tocino del Cielo”

If it was a simple “madeleine” that sparked the flood of memories in Marcel Proust’s mind, it is the luxurious “tocino del cielo” that sparks my own remembrance of things…

It is the confection I most remember during family occasions amidst dessert selections that included fresh fruits, homemade buco and [ white, white ] lychee sherbet, “Selecta” “Macapuno” ice cream [ back when the Arces owned “Selecta” ] , homemade carabao milk and “dayap” lime-tinged “Mantecado” ice cream, vanilla ice cream topped with bing cherries in liqueur, the strawberry and peach cream Princess Cake, walnut and almond “Sans Rival,” “Canonigo,” “Brunn” butter cake, “food for the gods,” date bars, “borrachos,” “panaritas,” “See’s” chocolates, “Almond Roca,” and whatever else Lola Charing had brought out from her personal pantry.

It is the confection I hold with the deepest affection.

Luz Sarmiento de Panlilio of Bacolor related a funny story about the Gonzalez “tocino del cielo”:  On 12 July 1939, the Angeles sugar planters Gregorio, Dalmacio, and Carmelino Timbol and their bodyguard Geronimo Buan gunned down Jose Leoncio de Leon, Augusto Gonzalez, and Captain Julian Olivas at the PASUDECO Pampanga Sugar Development Company offices in San Fernando, Pampanga.  All of Pampanga and Manila society were busy condoling with the de Leon family in Bacolor and the Gonzalez family in Sulipan, Apalit.  The Panlilio y Santos Joven siblings of Bacolor — Jose “Pepe,” Francisco “Quitong” / “Paquito,” and Encarnacion “Carning” —  were second cousins through the Joven line of Jose “Peping” de Leon y Joven, the only son of Jose Leoncio “Pitong” de Leon y Hizon [ Josefa “Sepa” Santos y Joven, the mother of the Panlilio siblings, was a first cousin of the sisters Regina “Inang” and Maria Natividad “Titang” Joven y Gutierrez, both of whom married Jose Leoncio de Leon y Hizon; Ramona Joven y Suarez, the mother of Josefa, and Juan Joven y Suarez, the father of Regina and Maria Natividad, were siblings; Ramona and Juan were among the nine legitimate children of Juan Joven and Geronima Suarez ].  So the whole family, including the two in-laws [ Luz Sarmiento and Nitang Granda ], promptly went to the wake at the de Leon mansion, which was only a few yards from their own residence.  The Panlilio y Santos Joven siblings — certified gourmands — were not at all pleased with the traditional dinner served to them at the de Leon manse.  They then proceeded in their big car to the Gonzalez wake in Sulipan, Apalit.  After condoling with the family [ but not with the widow, Rosario “Charing” Arnedo; she was strapped to a bed during the wake and the funeral because she was one month pregnant with Macario Diosdado, the future Brother Andrew Benjamin Gonzalez, F.S.C. of De La Salle University ], they were seated at the long “cabecera” dining table and served an elaborate Sulipeno meal on the Gonzalez Paris porcelain, Baccarat crystal, and English sterling silver.  The Panlilio y Santos Joven siblings and their in-laws were very pleased with the grand dinner served to them at the Gonzalez manse [ Maria Ignacia “Titay” { o 1872 – + 1964 } and Ynes Arnedo { o 1876 – + 1954 }, the daughters of the legendary Capitan Joaquin Arnedo { + 1897 }, and the aunts of Rosario “Charing,” had temporarily moved into the Gonzalez mansion and supervised the food of the wake and the funeral ].  They declared the Gonzalez “tocino del cielo” “Superior!” [ “sooh-pehr-yohr” ] and proceeded to consume several pieces.  Jose “Pepe,” a longtime diabetic, consumed twelve pieces!!!  For the next two evenings, the Panlilio y Santos Joven family made the customary visits to the de Leon wake and to their second cousin Jose “Peping” but eagerly proceeded to the Gonzalez wake in Sulipan, Apalit to eat very well.  And to have those divine “tocino del cielo” by the dozens again!!!  Luz Sarmiento de Panlilio recalled with embarrassment and irritation that her Panlilio y Santos Joven in-laws only made perfunctory visits to their de Leon relatives [ “e maniaman yng pamangan” because “the food was not good” ] but thoroughly enjoyed condoling — and eating!!! —  with the Gonzalezes in Sulipan [ “tutung ‘superior’ yng pamangan!!!” where “the food was ‘superior’!!!” ], whom they knew well socially but were not related to at all…!!!  Hahahah!!!   😛   😛   😛

The “tocino del cielo” is not for everyone though.  I vividly remember a suitor — from a newly affluent family — of my sister who came to Sunday lunch.  He did not know what it was.  He found the sweetness cloying and the texture slimy.  His reaction was understandable:  he did not grow up with such luxurious eccentricities.

It is certainly unfashionable in these days of washboard abdominals and stick thin figures.  But children of old families brush vanity and diet restrictions aside once faced with these sweet treasures of their past on their dessert tables.

It is basically just egg yolks and sugar, but the precise technique is everything!!!

In the late 1800s, the Arnedo “tocino del cielo” was cooked by the legendary patissier Juan Padilla in a “bano maria” covered with banana leaves placed over the earthenware stove with its charcoal in the big “cocina” of the guesthouse of the “La Sulipena” mansion, which was devoted exclusively to the production of desserts.  It was originally made with duck eggs which endowed it with a stronger taste and a more solid, but not chewy, texture.  No one in the family knows how chicken eggs were eventually substituted for the duck eggs specified in Padilla’s original recipe.

The Gonzalez “tocino del cielo” was similar to the Arnedo version because their cooks tended to come from the same families in Sitio Pulung Cauayan [ Sulipan ] where all the household help and various staff of the Arnedo, Escaler, and Gonzalez families lived.

I remember Lola Charing’s strict instruction that “tocino del cielo” could only be made with “Victorias” refined sugar.  If there was no “Victorias” refined sugar available, there could be no “tocino del cielo,” as simple as that.

The memorable “‘Las Cibeles’ Pasteleria y Salon de Te” — the favorite pastry shop of Manila’s Spanish mestizo community — produced a rich “tocino del cielo” that was made with milk.

My brother Gene Gonzalez has made the family’s “tocino del cielo” available year-round at his Cafe Ysabel pastry shop.  It is a good version that is close to the one made at the family home.  But there was still a certain ineffable quality to the “tocino del cielo” when it was made in the serene atmosphere of the kitchen at Lola Charing’s…

An Arnedo cousin, the computer engineering genius and immensely successful IT expert Henry Peter [ Arnedo-Sazon ] Badenhop, continues to prepare the traditional Arnedo “tocino del cielo” for his personal consumption at his New Jersey home.

Our very dear 96 year old great grandaunt “Imang” Beatriz Rodriguez in San Fernando, Pampanga still prepares her “tocino del cielo” in the original molds.  The taste and consistency of her version, I am told by Gonzalez aunts, hew closest to the prewar version, which had not changed from the late 1800s.

My cousin Carmelita “Mely” Palanca Gonzalez-Gan prepares the Gonzalez “tocino del cielo” in an interesting way.  Instead of tediously using the small molds, she makes the “tocino del cielo” in one big tray.  It is convenient for people like me who like their desserts in generous servings.

A friend, the very fashionable Vicky Panlilio-Claparols, serves a rich “tocino del cielo” among the desserts at gatherings in her home.  Like my Ate Mely’s, it is made in one tray.  It is prepared by Teofilo, the longtime cook of her mother-in-law, the redoubtable Sagrario Alejandrino Medina-Claparols.  It is unusual because it is made with milk.

The high point of the “tocino del cielo,” in my opinion, was reached with the exacting tastes of my uncle, Brother Andrew, acknowledged as the leading gourmet in the family.  He told Celi the cook in the plainest terms that he wanted the “tocino del cielo” his way — not Ate Garing’s, not Ate Talia’s, not even Lola Charing’s, nor the Gonzalezes’ nor the Arnedos’.   It was he who insisted that the “tocino del cielo” have a half-cooked consistency [ “gagalgal” in Capampangan loosely translated to “quivering” in English ] which endowed them with an elusive silky texture and unparalleled smooth finish.  The result was an exquisite, “couture” dessert that was classically French in quality!!!

Now, if only I had made an effort to learn it…!!!   🙂   🙂   🙂

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24 Comments

  1. Ginger Tabora said,

    October 6, 2010 at 5:23 pm

    I can still remember Lola Auring Escaler’s Tocino del Cielo, not to mention her Ensaimadas, Food for the Gods, Boat Tarts, and Turon Alicante. I remember how everyone in the family got her baskets when we’d go to San Rafael for Christmas. Those were the good old days…

  2. Cathi Ferrer-Albano said,

    March 2, 2009 at 2:31 pm

    Hi, is Henry Peter Badenhop the same guy who went to Espiritu Santo Parochial School? He had a sister, can’t remember her name, is it Mylene? And yes, they had a lovely grandma called Lola Ising. My mum were friends with her back in 1986-1987. Peter was our class vice president. I have been looking for old classmates and so far I have stumbled on one here in England. I think Peter would remember me for “punching” him on the stomach (I bloody didn’t! I tapped him!!!) when he was checking if everyone was wearing their school ID’s. It sent him curling up, but I didn’t really!!!

  3. September 10, 2008 at 1:15 pm

    Willie:

    I am very honored that a distinguished personage like you, a former Vice-Governor of Bulacan and a former Congressman, has found his way to this silly blog of mine. I was introduced to you and your wife Tetchie Battista-Villarama many years ago during the “La Naval Fiesta” in your Buyson-Lampa ancestral house in Bacolor by your first cousin Dr. Tady Buyson Gonzales. I was also introduced that evening by Tady to his mother Atty. “Diding” Buyson-Gonzales and to your elegant mother Pilar Buyson-Villarama.

    I remember your Buyson-Lampa ancestral house well. Yes, it stood along the highway across the Arts and Trades School. It was in what the Filipiniana scholars Martin “Sonny” Imperial Tinio and Fernando “Butch” Nakpil Zialcita termed as the Floral Style of the 1880s. It had a beautiful “escalera principal” principal staircase with large Victorian-style balusters, carved, tall, and majestic double doors, carved arches, and old chandeliers. Most distinctly, it was the only “bahay na bato” / mansion in Bacolor [ if not Pampanga ] with conserved Victorian Era stamped metal [ tin ] ceilings. There was also modern, long green carpeting that ran through the rooms to prevent the Buyson ladies and their guests from slipping on the wide and polished “narra” plank floors.

    If I remember right, Tady Gonzales once mentioned that the Buyson-Lampa mansion was originally the residence of Don Ceferino Joven, the first appointed Civil Governor of Pampanga during the American regime.

    The antique image of “San Pedro Apostol” and its silverplated “carroza” which participated during the annual “Maleldo” / Holy week processions belonged to the Buyson Family and emerged from their house every Holy Wednesday late afternoon.

    According to the Bacolor elders, behind the Buyson-Lampa mansion stood the modest house of Laureano Sarmiento and Ines Lugue and their many children; that was the house where the Bacolor grande dame Luz Sarmiento de Panlilio [ widow of Don Jose Panlilio y Santos Joven ] and her spectacularly successful youngest sister “The Jeweller” Fe Sarmiento-Panlilio [ Mrs. Jose Lazatin Panlilio ] grew up.

    Should you have the time, please regale us with the memories of your happy childhood in Old Bacolor…

    Cheers!!!

    Toto Gonzalez

  4. Willie Buyson Villarama said,

    September 10, 2008 at 1:09 am

    Hi relatives & everybody. Am so glad I chanced upon this blog & read many familiar names, relatives, etc.. Being 64 years old, e naku high tech. In fact I had to call a computer expert to ask what URL means, a requirement I have to fill up in order to post a comment. My mom, Pilar, belongs to the Angeles-Buyson of Bacolor. My favorite 1st cousin who was a politician like me was Kuya Pepito Buyson & I have a strong suspicion that Nijel is related to him. My email address is wbvillarama@yahoo.com. Am spending most of my time in Clark rather in Bulacan where I was a Vice-Governor & Congressman. Our house in Bacolor, the one in front of the Trade school, disappeared after Pinatubo erupted. I passed by the place once in a while. This was where I had fond memories of my childhood. Hope to hear from my relatives.

  5. Anton Sy said,

    May 26, 2007 at 9:16 am

    Natatakam takam tuloy ako…I miss Arce Dairy….

  6. Des Cayme said,

    May 11, 2007 at 11:11 am

    Hi Mr T. Gonzalez,

    I was searching for articles about “tocino del cielo” when i came upon this blog. I was distracted a bit by other juicy tidbits (non-food). Very interesting. I will surely find time to read your archives.

    Anyway, I noticed your entry about “Selecta” Macapuno and Mantecado ice cream. I live near the compound of the Arces, and they are still producing the delicious flavors you mentioned. No longer called “Selecta” Ice Cream, the label is now “Arce Dairy.”

  7. Nijel Granda said,

    April 19, 2007 at 5:29 am

    Louie,

    Sorry about the delay…check your email and let me know if you got the two jpgs that make up the de Leon family tree.

    -Nijel

  8. LOUIE DISON WEST said,

    March 19, 2007 at 9:28 pm

    Hi Nijel,
    If you have e-mailed me the tree, I did not get it. Pls. send it at your convenience. Rgds.
    Louie

  9. LOUIE DISON WEST said,

    February 20, 2007 at 3:28 pm

    Hi Nijel,
    Thanks. My e-mail address is louiewst@yahoo.com.

  10. Mila said,

    February 20, 2007 at 5:10 am

    Thank you for the descriptive reply, Toto. I do remember “Las Cibeles,” they had the best “lengua de gato” (no one has ever come close, although “Cibo” does a decent job).

  11. February 19, 2007 at 10:00 am

    Mila:

    Thank you for finding your way here.

    If you’re in Manila, all you have to do is go to any branch of “Dulcinea” Pasteleria y Salon de Te. They have most of the “postres” you mentioned. The best Spanish pastry shop in Manila used to be “Las Cibeles” “Pasteleria y Salon de Te” but it closed down many years ago. Many “de buena familia” lament its demise.

    Of course, currently the most chichi pastry shop in Manila is the upscale “Bizu” Patisserie at the [ Ayala ] Greenbelt Mall in Makati. It features the latest dessert trends from the world capitals.

    But if you’re not in Manila or anywhere in the Philippines, here are my descriptions of those traditional Spanish “postres”:

    The round “Milhojas” is the Spanish version of the French “Millefeuille.” It is basically several layers of puff pastry filled with rich [ yellow from all those eggs ] custard. Sometimes, as in a “Napoleon,” the last layer is filled with egg white icing. It is topped with glazed puff pastry decorated with butter cream icing.

    The rectangular “Madrilenos” was “Las Cibeles'” version of the Filipino “Sans Rival.” However, the meringue-and-almond [ or cashew ] base of “Madrilenos” is softer and not as chewy as that of the “Sans Rival.” It is less rich.

    “San Jorge,” “Canarios,” “Moritos,” and “Zapatitos” are all variations of one sponge cake base with different icings. The rectangular “San Jorge” is filled with a butter cream icing laced with “naranja” bits and topped with caramelized sugar. The rectangular “Canarios” is filled with a [ liquified ] “yema” [ sugared egg yolks ] icing and is an upscale version of the pedestrian “Yema Cake.” The round “Moritos” is filled with a butter cream icing and topped with a [ Hershey’s? ] chocolate ganache. The oval “Zapatitos” is filled with custard. Really simple stuff.

    “Naranjas” are candied, quartered oranges.

    The oval “Agujas” are meat pies. They are usually filled with ground beef sauteed with garlic and onions in tomato paste.

    Happy Eating!!!

    *chompchompchomp*

    Toto Gonzalez

  12. Mila said,

    February 19, 2007 at 8:44 am

    I am so glad I came across this post! We are having a selection of spanish-influenced pastries and need help describing them to the people who will eat them this weekend. Would you be able to help us describe (in a sentence or two) the ff: Milhojas, Madrilenos, St. Jorge, Canarios, Moritos, Zapatitos, Agujas, Naranja? A few of them I’ve found reference to online. But am not sure if it refers to the Spanish/Latin American or the Filipino entymology of the dessert.
    Many thanks!

  13. Nijel Granda said,

    February 18, 2007 at 6:24 pm

    Hi Louie,

    Sure. The family tree is from a photocopy of “The Life of Jose de Leon y Joven” by Jose N. de Leon III that was given to us a few years back. The tree is dated Sep 12, 1972. The part I have hasn’t been updated since. Part of the tree can be hard to read, but I can send you what I have scanned. I can email it if you want…

    I don’t know the three you mention personally, but we’re related to at least the Buyson-Villaramas. On some visits home to the Philippines, I’ve met with Willie Buyson-Villarama in Manila.

  14. LOUIE DISON WEST said,

    February 16, 2007 at 6:08 pm

    Nijel,
    Very interested in the family tree you mentioned. It is possible to get a copy?
    I have been corresponding with Toto for sometime now and have learned a lot
    from him. Many of his relatives are also my relatives. Ivan is also a relative
    on the Singian side. I am from the Singian-Hizon and the Dison clan.
    Are you related to Joji Villarama, Ning Gomez and Dr. Jesus Eusebio Jr.?
    Their mothers are all Buysons. Dr. Eusebio is my cousin from the Hizon-Santos side. Looks like everybody is a cousin in Pampanga.

  15. Jose Nijel Buyson Granda said,

    February 16, 2007 at 8:45 am

    By the way, I think Ivan and I found out we were related after looking at that family tree…

  16. Jose Nijel Buyson Granda said,

    February 16, 2007 at 8:44 am

    Yes, I’m pretty sure I’m related to the curator of the Museo De La Salle. My cousins here in the US told me about it a few years ago.
    It’s really interesting reading your blog. I think a lot of the people you refer to and some who reply may be relatives of mine. A few years ago I sent Ivan Henares a copy of the de Leon-Buyson (Aniceto de Leon and Aleja Buyson) and Lichauco (Tomas Ly-Chau-Co married Cornelia Lau-Chang-co) family trees. This was the line that spawned the PASUDECO de Leons. The tree shows how the Joven, Escaler, Buyson, Lichauco, Hizon, David, Keyser, Gonzales, Panlilio and Granda families are all related. 🙂 Cheers, Nijel.

  17. January 3, 2007 at 3:01 pm

    Nijel:

    Thank you for enjoying my silly blog. Dacal a Salamat!!!

    I’m sorry to hear that Dona Nitang Granda de Panlilio finally passed away. I was under the impression that she was still alive. Dona Luz Sarmiento de Panlilio, her sister-in-law, remembered her to be lighthearted, easygoing, and fun…

    Yes, so many things were destroyed in Bacolor, Pampanga from 1991-1995. At the 1830s “Bale Sim” [ “House with an Iron Roof” ] of the Rodriguez family, a big “aparador” crammed full of old family pictures fell face front into the lahar, which destroyed its historic contents forever.

    Among our [ Gonzalez ] family pictures, I used to see Don Alfonso Granda in pictures with Don Jose Leoncio “Pitong” de Leon y Hizon, his son Don Jose “Peping” de Leon y Joven, and the rest of the de Leon-Joven family. Sadly, many of our pictures were unaccountably lost after a transfer of houses some years ago.

    Fortunately, many pictures of Old Bacolor and of Old Pampanga are preserved in the files of the “Museo De La Salle” at the De La Salle University Campus in Dasmarinas, Cavite. You might want to look them up and request for digital copies of pertinent pictures. The creator and present curator of the “Museo De La Salle” is Jose Maria Ricardo “Joey” Panlilio, a grandson of
    Don Jose “Pepe” Panlilio and Dona Luz “Lucing” Sarmiento of Bacolor, the in-laws of Dona Nitang Granda de Panlilio. You’re probably relatives!!!

    Another probable resource is the JDN CKS HAU Juan de Dios Nepomuceno Center for Kapampangan Studies at the Holy Angel University in Angeles City. They also have a big file of Pampanga-related pictures. Look for The Center’s Director Robby Tantingco and his assistant Arwin Lingat for inquiries.

    Toto Gonzalez

  18. Nijel Granda said,

    January 3, 2007 at 11:09 am

    I just wanted to say that I enjoyed reading your article…I came across your website before when I was looking for relatives/family history. I’m pleasantly surprised that you know so much about the de Leon family tree and your mention of Dona Nitang Granda-Panlilio brought back some memories. Apung Nitang passed away several years ago, just after her 94th birthday, just outside Los Angeles, CA. Please let me know if you have any old pictures in your collection. Unfortunately, many of the ones we have were ruined by the floods and lahar that buried Bacolor.

  19. December 28, 2006 at 8:35 pm

    Myles:

    Now I know what to send to you or bring to you in San Francisco, if those can pass US Customs!!! *lolsz!*

    Toto Gonzalez

  20. Araceli singson said,

    December 28, 2006 at 7:54 pm

    Muchas Gracias Toto!!

    You are a repository of priceless information. You have answered my question. Zapatitos were my grandmother’s favorite. Those melt in your mouth desserts were a comfort to her. And Naranjas are my mom’s favorite.

    Your blog is not silly at all. Food and families make for the perfect combination. Add a dash of family genealogy and a sprinkling of current family events, and with the cook’s unique style… and voila, your blog is delicious!

    Araceli

  21. myles garcia said,

    December 28, 2006 at 5:52 pm

    It’s come back to me — my favorite treat from Las Cibeles (and then copied by Dulcinea): argellanas!!

    2nd and 3rd were the hojaldres and mangosteen from Cebu!!!

    Myles

  22. myles g. said,

    December 27, 2006 at 11:51 pm

    I think my favorite was the, if memory does not fail me, ‘hojaldres’ (?) — light, flaky, oval shaped biscotti dipped in caramelized sugar. (Or am I thinking of the round, hole-in-the-middle flat cookies from Cebu, that came in round tins?)

    ‘Yemas’ are just sublime and absolute artery-cloggers!!

    Myles

  23. December 27, 2006 at 3:06 pm

    Araceli:

    Yes, “Churros con Chocolate” at “Las Cibeles” was an afternoon ritual of so many families.

    Funny, but most of the many “postres” at “Las Cibeles” consisted of one sponge cake base with a variety of icings: custard, vanilla, and chocolate. Those “postres” had names like: “San Jorge,” “canarios,” “zapatitos,” “borrachos,” “almendras,” “polkas,” “madrilenos,” “mermeladas,” etc.. And of course, there were the “yemas” [ sugared egg yolks ] and the “naranjas” [ candied oranges ].

    How can anyone of “good family” ever forget the “Tarta Madrid” of “Las Cibeles”??? “Tarta Madrid” was often the centerpiece of the dessert tables of the parties of those good ol’ years…!!!

    Thank you for enjoying my silly blog.

    Toto Gonzalez

  24. Araceli Singson said,

    December 25, 2006 at 3:16 pm

    I remember Las Cibeles. My father and I used to eat churros there. Would you know the name of that pastry which had a soft sponge cake base and a yellow cream smooth topping? It had an oblong shape. I don’t recall its name and would like to know the recipe.
    I liked their tocino del cielo and Tarta Madrid also.
    This is an excellent blog. I like to read about food of the past that still are around though in varying shades. I love Spanish pastries and would like to learn how to make them.
    Thanks a lot.


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