Alfajores Recipe (Caramel Sandwich Cookies)

Traditional Alfajores - Caramel Sandwich Cookies

The Spruce / Abby Mercer

Prep: 40 mins
Cook: 34 mins
Chill: 30 mins
Total: 104 mins
Servings: 12 servings
Yield: 12 cookies
Nutrition Facts (per serving)
362 Calories
18g Fat
45g Carbs
3g Protein
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Nutrition Facts
Servings: 12
Amount per serving
Calories 362
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 18g 23%
Saturated Fat 12g 58%
Cholesterol 48mg 16%
Sodium 172mg 7%
Total Carbohydrate 45g 16%
Dietary Fiber 1g 3%
Total Sugars 18g
Protein 3g
Vitamin C 1mg 3%
Calcium 82mg 6%
Iron 1mg 4%
Potassium 118mg 3%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.
(Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate.)

Imagine biting into a blissfully decadent, melt-in-your-mouth sandwich cookie filled with creamy dulce de leche caramel that’s been rolled in a cloud of chewy coconut. No, you’re not in heaven; you’re simply tasting an alfajore.

This gooey-sweet treat burst onto the food scene in Argentina in a tourist town called Mar del Plata. Tourists brought them home to share with friends and family, and naturally, the irresistible cookies immediately caught on.

The earliest alfajores were found among Muslim cultures and traced as far back as the 8th century. Finding it impossible to leave them behind, the people of Western North Africa carried the cookies to Spain, where the Spanish created their own delicious version.

Today, alfajores come in many sizes and luxurious flavors. Each region of South America has its specific varieties, and many bakeries, even some in the USA, specialize in producing alfajores. These caramel sandwiches change as they sit. Freshly made, the crisp cookie is a dramatic contrast to the soft filling. As the cookie sits, it softens, melding with the filling and developing a cake-like texture.

This traditional recipe calls for a touch of pisco, a South American brandy, in the cookie dough. It’s optional, but adds a nice flavor. You can substitute any brandy for the pisco. For an extra-special cookie, make your own dulce de leche.

“This is a beautiful holiday cookie to share with family and friends. They’re not hard to make, but they do take a bit of time and patience. My advice is to take it slow. You can split the process into two days, if that’s easier. Make the cookies on day one, then fill them on day two. I used a stand mixer to make the dough, which was much less laborious. The cookies were deliciously rich, buttery, and completely decadent with the dulce de leche filling. I would have liked to eat more, but I could only eat one since they’re a generous size.” –Diana Andrews

Alfajores
A Note From Our Recipe Tester

Ingredients

  • 1 3/4 cups cornstarch

  • 120 grams (about 1 cup) all-purpose flour, more as needed

  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder

  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt

  • 1 cup (8-ounces) room-temperature unsalted butter, cut into small pieces

  • 1/2 cup confectioners' sugar

  • 1 to 2 tablespoons pisco, or brandy, more as needed

  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

  • 1 cup homemade or store-bought dulce de leche

  • 1/2 cup sweetened shredded dried coconut

Steps to Make It

  1. Gather the ingredients.

    Traditional Alfajores - Caramel Sandwich Cookies ingredients

    The Spruce / Abby Mercer

  2. Place the cornstarch, flour, baking powder, and salt in a bowl and mix to combine.

    Place the cornstarch, flour, baking powder, and salt in a bowl

    The Spruce / Abby Mercer

  3. Add butter to the flour mixture, blending with your fingers until the mixture is smooth (see note in Step 4 about using stand mixer as an alternative).

    butter and flour mixture in a bowl

    The Spruce / Abby Mercer

  4. Add the powdered sugar, pisco, and vanilla. Combine with your hands until a smooth dough forms. Add another tablespoon or two of pisco if the dough is too crumbly to form a ball. Alternatively, use a stand mixer with the paddle attachment on low speed; this will cut the prep time down by about half. Shape the dough into a disk, wrap, and let the dough rest, refrigerated, for 30 minutes.

    dough ball in a bowl

    The Spruce / Abby Mercer

  5. Meanwhile, position a rack in the center of the oven and heat to 350 F. Lightly flour a work surface. Roll out dough to 3/8" thickness, and cut into 2-inch circles. Combine and re-roll the scraps, continuing to cut cookies until the dough is finished.

    rolled out dough, cookie cutter

    The Spruce / Abby Mercer

  6. Place cookies on baking sheet lined with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat.

    cookies on a baking sheet

    The Spruce / Abby Mercer

  7. Bake cookies one sheet at a time until the edges begin to turn golden brown, rotating the tray halfway through for 15 to 17 minutes total. Let cookies cool 5 minutes, then transfer to rack to cool completely.

    cookies on a cooling rack

    The Spruce / Abby Mercer

  8. To fill the cookies, spread one cookie with dulce de leche.

    cookies spread with filling on a cooling rack

    The Spruce / Abby Mercer

  9. Top with a second cookie to make a sandwich. Roll the edges in the coconut, sprinkling more over the edges if the coconut doesn't adhere easily.

    Traditional Alfajores - Caramel Sandwich Cookies

    The Spruce / Abby Mercer

Recipe Variation: Chocolate-Dipped Alfajores

  1. Heat 8 ounces chocolate chips with 1 tablespoon shortening and 1 teaspoon corn syrup in the microwave for 15-second intervals, stirring after each interval, until the chocolate is melted.
  2. Dip half of the cookie sandwich into the chocolate. Lift the cookie out and gently scrape along the edge of the bowl to remove the excess chocolate.
  3. Place on a cookie sheet lined with wax paper or a silicone baking mat and let cool.
  4. When the chocolate has mostly set, roll the edges in the toasted coconut.

Tips

  • Cutting cold butter into 1/2-inch pieces will allow it to reach room temperature in 10 to 15 minutes.
  • As an alternative to rolling out the dough and cutting with a cookie cutter, roll the dough into a 2-inch diameter cylinder. Wrap it in cling wrap and freeze for 30 minutes. Then unwrap, and with a sharp knife slice 3/8-inch-thick cookie rounds and bake as directed above. 
  • Because the cookies are fragile, piping the dulce de leche filling onto the cookie works best. Place the filling in a small zip-top bag, snip a 1/2-inch piece from a corner, and fill the cookie, starting at the outer edge and working towards the center. 
  • Use as little flour as possible when re-rolling dough scraps because the cookies will become dense and tough.

Storing and Freezing

  • Freeze the cookies individually overnight. Transfer to an airtight container and freeze for up to 3 months. 
  • These cookies make beautiful gifts for the holidays, but take care when wrapping because they’re quite delicate. Once the cookies are frozen, transfer them to holiday cupcake liners, then wrap them in decorative tissue or cellophane. Another clever option is to use a pretty ceramic, glass, or tin canister lined with colored tissue paper and tied with ribbon.