Alcalá de Henares 1. Crappy Costrada

Crusty, crunchy, crumbly costrada

Crusty, crunchy, crumbly costrada


Well, I picked the wrong topic for embarking on my series of posts on Alcalá. Deciding to start out light – leaving the question of the Quijote for much, much later – I thought I´d consider costrada, a pastry associated with the city.

I don´t know why I bothered since it´s already been blogged about (see below) and to be honest, light it is not. Despite the crema pastelera, a thick custard, and a soft, meringue  filling, it has a hard, almond topping or costra, meaning crust (as well as the scabby kind you get when you fall flat on your face).

Appetising. You can´t even cut it without it demolishing into a flat, flaky mess. I first tried it fresh from Britain´s yummy, spongy, overly-sweet cakes and found it insipid, dry, annoyingly crumbly and not sweet enough.

Food blogger Lauren Aloise doesn´t share my impressions. In a post on the pastries of Alcalá she wonders if costrada might be the “perfect pastry” and loves its:

“layers of flaky puff pastry and sweet cream filling covered in soft meringue and finally topped with crushed sugared almonds.”

You can read Lauren´s review of costrada and other, equally dry Alcalá pastries here and for more information, check out this article in Spanish and (foreigner) English. It boasts a video of how to make costrada, curiously shot by a one-armed baker (WTF)?

Soft, spongy Tarta de Santiago

Soft, spongy Tarta de Santiago


So, apart from taking the photo above and having a large piece of costrada with a cup of tea for research reasons, I haven´t had to over-exert myself for this post.

This time around I had the good sense to forget dainty knives and forks and eat it with my hands.  I liked it a little better.


But not much.

My advice is that if you´re ever in Alcalá, or anywhere else in Spain for that matter, give the crusty, dried-up old costrada the body swerve and have yourself a big slice of the moist, sweet, Tarta de Santiago from Galicia.

This has a compact consistency that doesn´t leave you all sticky and covered in crumbs because its almonds aren´t on the top but where they should be: ground into a delicious filling on the inside.

Cross of Saint James


  1. Will definitely try these delicacies; in a Spanish restaurant. Thanks for posting.

  2. Catherine Mills says:

    Yum yum!

    • I see, Catherine, that you fancy a bit of the old costrada. I suppose it doesn´t taste bad at all, if you don´t mind eating it completely flattened and getting bits of toasted almond stuck in your teeth. However, I continue to prefer a Tunnock´s teacake too the crappy, crumbly, crispy, crackery costrada.

  3. Is it just me, or does every single Spanish Desert seem to involve egg custard or almonds ?

    • I think we can safely say that compared to British puds and cakes the Spaniards are left at the starting line. However hubby reminded me that there´s charlota in Asturias which is a really delicious creamy cake and of course arroz con leche which has no eggs, custard or almonds in it. I always dread the famous ¿qué hay de postre? and the waiter starts, “plátano, manzana, naranja …..”. So no Mud Pie or Sticky Toffee Pudding there, then.

  4. Oh how I have missed your posts! Agree wholeheartedly – you should see what they try and palm you with as ‘cake’ in these parts! 🙂

    • I feel more than a little tearful! So glad to be missed. I seem to be overrun with stuff to do these days. It´s undeniable to my mind that cake is a British (och, all right, English) phenomenon! How I miss bakewell tarts and trifle which might just be included in the cake category with a wee push. I do read your writing Belinda (eventually) so keep up the good work.

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