Pionono: Peruvian Cake Roll with Homemade Dulce de Leche



Last night, my parents and grandma flew out to Peru to stay with family and friends for a couple weeks. Over the next few days they’ll be making a pilgrimage up north to a secluded beach where my grandpa used to fish with his comrades. It is there where they’ll spread his ashes, as he wished.

I really wanted to be there but I can imagine how beautiful it will be.



I’m bent on making my way through grandpa’s cookbook. This is what it looks like: inked with his hand, oil-splatted pages and all. It’s personal and intimate and I love it. This particular recipe for biscochuelo was a general one he used for cakes and would modify it depending on what he was crafting that day. It’s a simple but heavenly batter and I wanted to drink it as is before baking — it smelled so good.

Some key things here: read through the directions a couple times before starting it. This isn’t terribly hard to make, in fact, quite the opposite, but considering it was my first hand at making a cake roll, it was imperative to do some research on technique prior to assembling. Pre-rolling it in a kitchen towel while it’s still warm is critical, otherwise the cake will crack if you roll it when it’s cooled. Letting it cool completely rolled up sets the mold so when it comes time to filling and rolling it up again, it knows where to go.

I was delighted with how it turned out. The dulce de leche to spongy cake ratio was spot on, with the slightly over-baked chewy bits being the tastiest of them all. We eat this with a mug of hot tea for an after-dinner treat.




Makes 1 fat roll 


6 eggs, whites and yolks separated

3/4 cup white sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

3/4 cup all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

5 tablespoons vegetable oil

2 cups homemade dulce de leche* or 2 store-bought canned

Powdered sugar, for dusting

*Recipe for homemade dulce de leche at bottom of post


Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with greased parchment paper that hangs about 1/4 inch off the sides and then grease and flour the top. Set aside.

Using a stand or hand mixer fitted with the whip attachment, whip the egg whites on high until it’s got a silky, lustrous sheen and stiff peaks, about 7 minutes. Lower the speed and slowly add the yolks one at a time, and then the sugar and vanilla extract.

Sift the flour and baking powder together to lighten and blend. Then, mix this in to the egg mixture by hand, little by little, with a spatula, being careful not to over-mix or deflate batter. Lastly, add the vegetable oil and stir gently again.

Pour this batter onto the baking sheet and spread evenly. Put it into the middle rack of the oven and bake for about 12-15 minutes, using a toothpick to test for doneness. It shouldn’t be too golden brown on top and the cake should be pretty light and springy.

Let this cool for about 10 minutes on a cooling rack, covered with damp paper towels to keep moist.

Then, run a knife all around the edges and use a spatula to un-stick parchment paper from baking sheet. Grab a kitchen towel bigger than the size of the cake sheet and put it over the cake. Turn the baking sheet over so it’s upside down and the cake should plop right out, but be gentle. Slip the parchment paper off the bottom of the cake and discard. Dust lightly all over with powdered sugar — this helps the towel not stick when you pre-roll it. Then, from one short end to the other, roll it so that the towel tucks inside and leave it be just like this until the cake cools completely.

Meanwhile, clean up (my kitchen was a delightful mess at this point).

When you’re just about ready to fill and roll, warm up your dulce de leche on the stove top until loosened up a bit. You have the option to use either homemade or store-bought dulce de leche. I’ll include the recipe for homemade at the bottom (p.s. homemade tastes tons better)

Unroll the cake roll and pour the dulce de leche all over, spreading it evenly with an offset or icing spatula. Then, use the towel as an aide to help you re-roll it following the mold it had cooled in. Heft it onto a pretty platter and dust with powdered sugar. Slice and enjoy!



Homemade dulce de leche

Here’s a recipe for the homemade stuff. I originally posted it a month ago on the ODA Facebook page but I reckon I should keep it here too. My family used to make this on the stove top, with the unopened can submerged in water to simmer for a couple hours. But, after being exhorted of possible can explosions in the kitchen (this happened to my aunt once) I decided to play it safe and cook it in the oven instead sans can. Turned out to be easy and delicious. 

Makes about 1 cup


1 – 10 ounce can sweetened condensed milk



Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

Pour sweetened condensed milk into a baking dish; I used a round glass pie dish. Wrap the top with aluminum foil and place this dish into a bigger roasting pan. Pour hot water into the roasting pan until it comes up about halfway up the sides of the baking dish.

Place the whole thing into the middle rack of the oven and bake for about 1 hour and 20 minutes, stirring every now and again and replenishing the water if it starts to get low. When it’s golden brown, luscious, and tastes delicious, it’s ready. This keeps in the fridge for weeks. Warm gently to loosen before use (if you want, or just stick spoon in and eat).

XO, Steph

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  • Lillian H.January 5, 2012 - 6:33 pm

    i LOVE this! to see your grandfather’s cookbook in his handwriting, and worn… so beautiful – thank you for sharing his recipes with us! i really want to try this but i may forgo the rolling part and just make it a layered sheet cake? would your grandpa hate me? =P  

    btw, i’ve made dulce de leche in the oven 2x now and it never gets as dark as it’s supposed to… i did it the same way you did – except i didn’t stir it all that much during… do u think that makes a difference?ReplyCancel

    • AnonymousJanuary 5, 2012 - 9:31 pm

      @Lil, I think a layered cake would be gorgeous, especially crafted with your expert hands. Maybe cook the dulce a bit longer? I don’t think it needs to be terribly dark. I actually prefer it sort of light. ReplyCancel

  • Maggie G.January 5, 2012 - 8:28 pm

    Thank you for the dulce de leche recipe! I’ve always wanted to make it, but I too am afraid of explosions from the stovetop method.

    I discovered your site the other day while looking for Peruvian recipes…I went to Lima back in June, and absolutely fell in love with the food! I’m loving your blog, and have already bookmarked several recipes to try! ReplyCancel

    • AnonymousJanuary 5, 2012 - 9:26 pm

      @Maggie, you’re very welcome. Oh, I’m so jealous you were in Peru. I long for it! 🙂 I haven’t been in a few years. What did you try there? I have to say, one of the first things I absolutely MUST have as soon as I get there are anticuchos. So good with hot sauce.ReplyCancel

      • Maggie G.January 6, 2012 - 7:31 am

        I think a better question is what *didn’t* I try there 🙂

        I ate far too much to list here, but my favorite thing was the ceviche. So delicious and fresh! ReplyCancel

  • AnonymousJanuary 5, 2012 - 9:29 pm

    @Theresa, I think I’m going to blow. I’ve had two gargantuan slices already today. So good but I think I need to pace myself. :-p How about I mail this log to you in exchange for some balls? :-pReplyCancel

  • FatpiginthemarketJanuary 6, 2012 - 3:38 pm

    The only time I made dulce de leche it was a dulce disaster and kinda embarrassing considering it doesn’t take all that much attention. Your grandfather’s handwritten recipes are so beautiful and roll cakes are one of my favorites so you’ve inspired me. I’ll try it again.ReplyCancel

  • Fresh and FoodieJanuary 8, 2012 - 6:16 pm

    Woah mama. This looks ah-maz-ing. Post-holiday diets be damned! Your grandpa knew what he was doing, didn’t he!

    (Totally off topic, but your grandpa’s handwriting looks almost exactly like my grandpa’s.)ReplyCancel

  • KristaJanuary 2, 2013 - 11:27 pm

    I found your guest post on Hungry Dudes and made your delicious Panettone Bread Pudding with Dulce de Leche tonight. Thanks so much for the recipe. I’m so happy to find your blog and have been going “Pin” crazy. Pisco milk punch is on the agenda for sure.

    Regarding manjar (dulce de leche), my family and I have always made it on the stovetop with no accidents. I found a pin the other day for making it in the crockpot. Have you had any luck with this method? I have poor ventilation in my kitchen so this seems like a “cooler” process.ReplyCancel

    • StephanieJanuary 3, 2013 - 7:11 am

      Hi Krista,

      I’m so glad to hear you enjoyed the panettone bread pudding! That is for sure one of my favorite go-to holiday desserts. Nope, I haven’t tried making dulce de leche in the crock pot– mine sort of sucks so I don’t feel truly confident to whip things up in it lately.ReplyCancel

  • […] dessert I made pionono, which is like a cake jelly roll with dulce de leche filling. I’ve never made a jelly roll, […]ReplyCancel

  • VictoriaMay 30, 2014 - 4:31 pm

    Thank you so much for making this recipe available. I have just made it for my family here in London and they loved it.
    I have never made a cake roll before and now have the confidence to try another thanks to your easy to follow instructions.
    We had the steak in breadcrumbs for our main too and that also went down very well. 🙂ReplyCancel

  • jimena l.November 23, 2017 - 2:47 pm

    I make this for my dad every time I come home from college, we’re Peruvian! they immigrated here when I was a baby tho, still they love the fact that I can make this for them. Thank you so much!ReplyCancel

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