There has been much debate recently concerning the long-term (i.e., >1 m.y.) strength of continental lithosphere. In one model, dubbed jelly sandwich, the strength resides in the crust and mantle, while in another, dubbed crème brûlée, the mantle is weak and the strength is limited to the crust. The different models have arisen because of conflicting results from elastic thickness and earthquake data. We address the problem here by first reviewing elastic thickness estimates and their relationship to the seismogenic layer thickness. We then explore, by numerical thermomechanical modeling, the implications of a weak and strong mantle for structural styles. We argue that, irrespective of the actual crustal strength, the crème brûlée model is unable to explain either the persistence of mountain ranges or the integrity of the downgoing slab in collisional. systems. We conclude that while the crème -brûlée model may apply in some tectonic settings, a more widely applicable model is the jelly sandwich.