Yesterday I made a variation of one of my favorite traditional Dutch afternoon cake treats, the "boterkoek“, roughly translating as “butter cake”. The boterkoek can be considered to be a bit like a cross between a tart and shortbread, with its crunchy sides and soft heart. I have not found a similar cake in other European cuisines and although there is a wonderful French gâteau breton or even the gâteau basque which I also love to bake every so often (you can take a look here), this is an entirely different treat and one that is decidedly Dutch in appearance and taste.
From what I was told, this cake first appeared in the thirties and was considered to be a confection for the more „common folk“ and therefore could not be found in any of what can be considered the "high-end bakeries". But it made and still makes a regular appearance in the kitchens of the homebakers and to this day remains a welcome afternoon treat with a cup of good strong coffee.
As its name implies, this lovely Dutch treat has lots of butter and the original has an almond flavor, reminiscent of frangipane. Given just how butter is the key flavor of this recipe, really, really try to use the best, freshest butter you can, and do not even consider of using any substitutes here. If you are trying to be healthy, make it properly, then just enjoy a small slice of the real thing.
It is also very simple to make, so perfect if you have got to produce something at short notice. It is also one of the first cakes that Dutch children learn how to make at home – so if your are looking to show your kids some delicious and easy baking, this is a great recipe to get them started.
Dutch Boterkoek with Autumn Apples
Ingredients for the Boterkoek Base
- 150 g butter, unsalted
- 200 g caster sugar, also called superfine baking sugar (if you cannot find superfine baking sugar at your grocery store, you can grind standard granulated sugar in a food processor or blender for about a minute)
- 1 1/2 tsps pure vanilla sugar
- 1 egg (M), organic or free range
- 200 g plain wheat flour
- a generous pinch of fine sea salt
- 1/2 tsp baking powder
Ingredients for the Apple Topping
- 3 baking apples (L), preferably a regional variety with red peel, sliced
- 2 tbsps caster sugar
- a pinch of Ceylon cinnamon
- 1 tsp pure vanilla sugar
- 2-3 tbsps apple jelly (preferably homemade)
- a springform baking pan (about 23 cm/9 inch)
- baking parchment
Preparation of the Boterkoek with Apples
- Preheat the oven to 175°C (350°F).
- Line your 23cm (9 inch) springform pan with baking parchment.
- In a medium bowl, cream together the butter, sugar and vanilla sugar until light and fluffy.
- Pour the egg into the mixture, and stir well.
- Add the flour, salt and baking powder, and mix until you have a smooth dough.
- Transfer the mixture to the baking pan, and pat down with the back of a spoon until smooth (you might find it easier to use clean hands to smooth the mixture).
- In a medium bowl mix together the sliced apples, the sugar, vanilla sugar and cinnamon.
- Arrange in a nice pattern on top of the base.
- Bake for 30 to 40 minutes until the apples appear to be baked and the dough around them is just golden and firm to the touch and the sides start to brown.
- Remove from the oven and while still warm, brush the top with warmed apple jelly, then let cool almost completely in the springform pan and until the jelly has set up again.
- Then remove the ring and the base and transfer to a cooling rack to cool completely and serve on the day it was made (although it was still pretty delicious the day after it was baked).
Cut into small slices and serve plain or with a bit of Greek yogurt – while that is not traditional, we found that the tanginess of the yogurt cuts well through the delightful buttery sweetness of the cake. And do not forget to serve with some really good coffee or tea, if you prefer.
And while I veered off the traditional boterkoek by adding some wonderful regional autumn apples and homemade apple jelly as a topping, boterkoek is a really simple recipe with surprisingly good results for something so easy. Definitely give this one a try!
If you are looking for a traditional, more simplified version, without apples, by all means visit my previous boterkoek posts here and here!
Whether you choose the apple version or the plain almond version, this cake is great to mix up in a hurry when you have surprise visitors! And apart from being the perfect afternoon pick-me-up-treat, it also makes a great mid-morning delight!