What is Rogel Cake?
Torta Rogel is a classic cake from Argentina that is truly timeless. It continues to be present in all patisseries and at both large events and small home gatherings. It’s one of argentine’s favorites, maybe because of the amazing amount of dulce de leche that is present between its layers.
The origin of this dessert is somewhat uncertain (as is generally the case in many dishes) but some say that it has its origins in Buenos Aires, from a lady named Rogelia, who used to sell it to her neighbors in the Belgrano area. Others say that it was born in another neighborhood in Buenos Aires, as a version of a Dutch cake that had a fruit filling. Other sources say that it was born from the Santa Fe alfajor (alfajor santafecino), which is a Rogel’s mini version, but covered in glaze, and which by the way is so delicious that one day I’d really like to make it.
Rogel cake is made up of several layers of thin, crispy and neutral-flavored cookies that are stacked and filled with dulce de leche, and covered with Italian meringue. One way of decorating this cake is by covering it completely with meringue, including the sides. The other way is to top the cake with the meringue and make some swirls with a spatula, to create a rustic finish. A fancier way of doing it (which I prefer) is to use a piping bag to make blobs on top of the cake. The whole idea is that you can see the layers on the sides, and in my opinion, that’s what gives the cake that unique look.
How do we make a Rogel Cake?
Prepare the dough:
The ingredients we use are flour, salt, egg yolks, water, vodka and butter.
For this recipe we use yolks instead of full eggs as this helps to create a crunchy dough. Using egg whites would result in a more cakey dough.
Vodka is an important ingredient as it helps dry the dough in the oven. As the alcohol in vodka evaporates during baking, this cake is safe to eat for those who don’t have alcohol.
First we prepare a dough by mixing all the ingredients except the butter. This step can be done by hand or with a stand mixer at low speed and with the hook attachment. When ingredients are fully combined, add the butter (which must be soft) and continue kneading until the butter is combined and the dough is smooth and does not stick to the hands. If this step is done by hand, it’s best to place the butter on the counter and knead on top of it, patiently, as if tearing the dough. We can also help ourselves with a scraper.
Once the dough is formed, it is important to let it rest for about 20 to 30 minutes, until the dough is relaxed and ready to roll.
Cut and bake the layers:
Once the dough has rested, cut it into 14 same size pieces. Roll out each one of the pieces with a rolling pin. It is very important to use flour for rolling since the dough can shrink if it sticks to the counter. Roll out 1 to 2 mm thick layers and cut with a sharp knife, following a circle paper template or round plate. Place the cookie layers on clean trays, no butter or parchment required. Poke with a fork and bake on a preheated oven at 200°C or 390°F for 12-15 minutes.
When baking the layers, you must be extremely careful with the cooking time, as they can burn in just one minute. That is why I recommend to start baking the first layer for the minimum time, about 9 minutes, and continue adding minutes one at a time until the layer is golden brown on the edges and dry and opaque in the center. Let cool on a cooling rack and continue baking all the layers.
Once all the layers are cold (which takes no more than 20 minutes), we can assemble our Rogel. First, glue the first layer to the serving dish with a little dulce de leche. Then spread a super thin layer of dulce the leche on top of the cookie. Place the next layer, press lightly with your hands and repeat until you’re done with the cookie layers. For the filling I use thick dulce de leche, that way the cake is firmer. But you can also use the classic consistency dulce de leche, whether it is store bought or made at home with a condensed milk can. Classic dulce de leche (store bought or homemade) might be a little messier than the thicker version when we cut the cake.
Finally it’s a good idea to press the whole cake from the top with our hands so that the layers remain well glued together.
For the italian meringue, place the sugar in a saucepan and cover it with the water. Take to high heat and wait for the syrup to reach 121°C or 250°F. If you don’t have a thermometer you can check the syrup by dropping a little syrup into a glass of cold water. If you can grab the syrup with your fingers and make a ball with it, it’s ready to go.
After the syrup starts boiling, start beating the egg whites at low-medium speed, until stiff peaks form. When the syrup reaches the temperature, carefully drizzle into the egg whites while still mixing. Continue beating at medium-high speed until the meringue reaches room temperature.
Transfer the meringue to a piping bag with a round tip and make big dollops with it on top of the cake. You can also top the cake placing all of the meringue at once and make a rustic decoration with a spatula.
1) When weighing your ingredients out for the dough, it’s better not to place the yolks together with the vodka because the alcohol tends to make them curdle. Ideally, add the yolks, then the water and the vodka last.
2) It is important to include salt since in this like in other neutral doughs we use it to avoid a bland taste.
3) The butter should be soft so that it can be easily combined with the dough.
4) The layers tend to shrink in the oven, so it’s a good idea to cut the circles ½ or 1 inch bigger than the size we expect.
5) While one or two layers are baking, you can roll and cut the following cookies. However, if you prefer to finish all the cutting and then bake everything at once, you can stack the unbaked layers. Just be sure to place a parchment paper between them to avoid them from sticking together.
6) It’s possible that rolling the dough unevenly causes some layers to bake with a darker side. If that’s the case, don’t discard the whole layer! You can remove the dark side and pair the half layer with a scrap from another layer.
7) It can be a bit annoying to bake layer after layer when there’s so many of them! If more than one tray fits into your oven, you can bake 2, 3 or 4 layers at the time. Just keep in mind that there are some parts of the oven that are usually hotter than others, and the layers will need to be rotated so they don’t burn.
8) This recipe yields 14 layers of dough or more. You can make a Rogel with fewer layers, but for me 12 is the bare minimum!
- 600 g All Purpose flour
- 10 g Salt
- 6 Egg yolks
- 180 ml Water
- 4 tbsp Vodka
- 120 g Unsalted Butter at room temp
- 800 g- 1kg Dulce de leche
- 4 Egg whites
- 280 g Granulated sugar
- 80 ml Water
- In a bowl mix the flour with the salt and create a well in the center where you’ll add the yolks, water and vodka. Mix all the ingredients to create a dough.
- Knead the dough until all flour has been completely combined.
- Add the butter to the dough in 3 parts and keep on kneading until all butter is combined. It will look super sticky at first, but adding air to the mixture will make it drier and firmer.
- Once the butter is fully combined, knead for about 10 more minutes until the dough is smooth.
- Cover and let rest for at least half an hour. Check if it’s ready to roll by making a mark with your fingers on the dough. If the mark remains on the dough and doesn’t pull back, it will be ready to go.
- Cut the dough in 14 pieces and roll out each piece of dough with a rolling pin to get 1 to 2 mm thick layers.
- Cut with a sharp knife using a 21-22 cm circle paper template or plate.
- Place the dough circles onto clean baking trays and poke with a fork several times.
- Bake at 200ºC or 390°F for approximately 12-15 minutes, until they take a light golden color. Baking time will depend on the size and thickness of the pieces. This recipe yields 14 layers plus the scrapes that can be rolled for a second time.
- Let cool and assemble: sandwich the cookie layers with thin layers of dulce de leche. Top with Italian meringue.
- For the Italian meringue: In a saucepan place the sugar and cover it with the water. Bring to high heat. While the syrup is heating up, beat the egg whites on medium speed until stiff peaks form. Use a mixer with a whisk attachment on.
- When the syrup reaches 121ºC or 250°F, slowly drizzle in the syrup, while mixing the egg whites non stop at medium speed. Continue beating until the meringue forms and reaches room temperature.