Who wants a piece of this delicious rolled cake with dulce de leche? Brazo de reina is a specialty that comes straight from Chile. This cake is often found on tables for special occasions. It has delighted people over the centuries but did you know that rolled cake traveled a lot before landing in Chile?
What is the origin of brazo de reina?
Brazo de reina is a traditional rolled cake garnished with milk jam (dulce de leche). Etymologically, brazo de reina means “queen’s arm” in Spanish.
In Spain, you will find a savory version, which is called brazo de gitano (gypsy’s arm). In Chile, it is not uncommon to find a version of this cake with fruit jam. Although this cake is popular all over the country, its recipe varies from one household to another. Also, several sources confirm that it was imported from Spain by the clergy with sweets like manjar (dulce de leche) and churros.
In Spanish or Creole Mexican recipes, you will often finds dishes and cakes referring to the queen. This is the case, for example, with pollo en salsa reina (chicken with salsa reina) or brazo de reina (the Queen’s arm), which may have been popular with members of royalty. This could very well explain the name given to this traditional cake.
We find the recipe for brazo de reina in the old Chilean cookbooks dating from the seventeenth century. It is also found in other parts of Latin America, particularly in the province of Yucatan in Mexico.
What is brazo de reina?
Brazo de reina is usually a cylindrical cake, light and a few inches high. Also, it consists of simple ingredients: eggs, sugar, flour, corn starch and in some recipes, lemon juice.
Brazo de reina was originally garnished with “Spanish cream”. This cream consisted of a mixture of milk, eggs, sugar, cornstarch and vanilla. It is the equivalent of pastry cream (custard).
The tradition was to go to the nearest bakery to bake the brazo de reina. The cake was baked on the spot, in a long and wide mold (about 12 x 20 inches). At that time, only rich classes could afford to buy butane gas stoves. Right after baking, the cake was immediately wrapped in a damp cloth sprinkled with coconut until completely cooled. The popular class feasted on this cake and used generous portions covered with meringue.
In Chile, this cake of Spanish origin is known by the same name. Although the queen’s arm seems to have spread throughout the Yucatan peninsula in Mexico, in many cities it is known only as dzotobichay. However, it does not present the traditional form of rolled cake (arm) as in Chile. The composition of its ingredients also varies. In English, it’s called the queen’s arm tamale.
Dzotobichay is a traditional Yucatan rolled cake that could be prepared with ingredients found in the region alone: corn flour, chaya leaves, roasted pumpkin seeds and ground stewed eggs. The dough thus formed is mixed with lard, salt and chopped chaya. This dough is then spread on a banana leaf and then sprinkled with pumpkin seeds. Finally, it is garnished with pieces of egg and then rolled by covering with eggs and squash seeds so as to give it the appearance of a roll or an arm. In Spain, the savory version of the queen’s arm, also known as the gypsy arm, is cylindrical and consists of a dough made from wheat flour, dried spinach and meat.
Rolled cakes around the world
The rolled cake is known under different names in the world. It is called Swiss roll, jelly cake or cream roll in the United States.
The oldest published reference for a rolled jelly cake was in an article in the Northern Farmer, a newspaper published in Utica, New York, in December 1852. The recipe, titled, “To Make Jelly Cake,” describes a jelly roll comparable to modern rolled cakes. The instructions for preparing it are also identical. And especially the trick of rolling the cake in a damp cloth while it is still hot.
In Colombia, the rolled cake is called pionono or brazo de reina. But, unlike in Chile, it is garnished with dulce de guayaba (guava jam), similar to that used for pasta frola, or arequipe (dulce de leche).
In Puerto Rico and Venezuela, it is known by the same name as in Spain, but there is a wide range of fillings including cream, chocolate truffle, dulce de guayaba (guava jam), dulce de leche (manjar blanco) and fruits.
So, convinced to try this rolled cake? It’s so quick to make, and if you’re in the mood for inspiration, there’s nothing stopping you from trying out other fillings for this cake.
- 3 tablespoons flour
- 2 tablespoons cornstarch
- ½ teaspoon baking powder
- 5 eggs (at room temperature)
- 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 4 teaspoons caster sugar
- ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 cup dulce de leche
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 2 tablespoons icing sugar
- 2 tablespoons grated coconut
Preheat the oven to 350 F / 180 C.
- In a small bowl, combine the flour, cornstarch and baking powder. Set aside.
- Separate the eggs.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat the egg whites by gradually adding the sugar.
- Add the vanilla and whisk until egg whites are stiff.
- Using a spatula, gently fold the egg yolks one by one without breaking the whites.
Then fold the mixture of flour, cornstarch and baking powder in the same way, as well as the vegetable oil.
Pour the mixture into a 17 x 13 inch (40 x 30 cm) rectangular jelly roll pan (Swiss roll tin) lined with parchment paper and well buttered.
- Spread the mixture evenly with a spatula.
- Bake in the center of the oven for 12 minutes or until the cake is slightly brown.
- While baking the cake, spread a parchment paper on the work surface and sprinkle with a tablespoon of icing sugar.
- Unmold the biscuit by turning it over on the parchment paper sprinkled with icing sugar.
- Gently remove the parchment paper.
- While the cake is still hot, turn it over to a board.
- Spread the dulce de leche evenly over its entire surface, and roll it on itself. If the dulce de leche is too firm, heat a few seconds in the microwave and mix well before spreading it.
- Place the rolled cake on a serving plate with the seam underneath.
- Mix the remaining icing sugar and coconut and sprinkle the rolled cake with this mixture.
- Heat the metal skewer with a flame or on the stove and use it to mark the top of the cake with square grill marks.