Originally a Frisian wedding delicacy, this treat studded with candied orange peel and spices is a delight to the tastebuds. Nobody quite knows where and how it originated, and why it's called Oranjekoek if the frosting is pink, but who knows.. (oranje means "orange" as in the color, not the fruit.)

The House of Orange-Nassau, the aristocratic dynasty from which our royal family stems, lent the colorful addition to our country's current three colored flag: red, white and blue, with a separate vane in bright orange to show loyalty to the royal family. During international sporting events, you can recognize the Dutch supporters by their orange outfits, wigs and other sports-related items.

But back to the Oranjekoek. The original version is a single layer cookie/cake, frosted with a pink glaze. The dough contains orange peel and whole or ground aniseed (you can also use gestampte muisjes) and nutmeg and is, combined with the sweetness of the glaze, a great addition to your morning coffee or afternoon tea. More recent versions of the cake contain two layers, separated by a filling of almond paste and a swirl of whipped cream on top. I usually bake the single layer pink cake, but in order to celebrate the occasion of Koningsdag on April 27th, I baked the almond paste filled koek, used an orange glaze and added a dollop of whipped cream and some fresh fruit and candied orange peel, for looks.

The koek is originally served in squares and because of its cookie texture is easily picked up by hand and eaten as a cookie, rather than a cake. It will keep great in lunch boxes or cookie jars (without the whipped cream). Because of the cake's slightly dry nature*, it goes well with a glass of milk or a cup of coffee or tea.

1 1/2 cup (225 grams) all-purpose flour
1/2 cup (100 grams) sugar
1 tsp nutmeg
2 tsp aniseed (ground or whole)
1/4 cup candied orange peel and/or zest from one medium orange
5 tablespoons (75 grams) butter, cold and cubed
1 medium egg
Ice cold water

For the filling: (best made the day before)
1 cup (250 grams) almond paste
1 egg
1 teaspoon almond extract

For the glaze:
1 cup (125 gram) powdered sugar
1 tablespoon water
Red food coloring for pink, and red and yellow for orange.

For the topping:
1/2 cup (125 ml) whipping cream
1 heaping soup spoon powdered sugar
Fresh berries
Candied orange peel (optional)

Mix the flour and sugar together, then add the butter in small chunks. Keep mixing while you add the nutmeg, aniseed and orange zest, then add the egg. Add a tablespoon at a time of ice cold water to knead into a slightly sticky dough. Fold in the chopped orange peel (optional). Wrap the dough and let it rest in the fridge for about an hour. In the meantime, grind the almonds and the sugar together and fold in a beaten egg. For extra almond taste, add a drop or two of almond extract.

Heat the oven to 350F/175C. Grease an 8 x 8 inch (20 x 20 cm) square baking pan or baking sheet, or line with parchment paper, and divide the dough in two. Pat one part of the dough into the baking pan (allow for about an inch height). Spread the almond paste over the top and pat the second half of the dough on top.

Bake for approximately 25 to 30 minutes or until the cake is done: it will be quite lightly colored. Let it rest in the pan for about five minutes, then turn out and cool upside down on a rack.

When the cake is completely cooled, cover the flat top side with a glaze made of powdered sugar, the food coloring and a little water or milk. If you would rather use natural coloring, try blueberry juice for pink, or carrot juice for orange. Let the glaze dry for at least an hour. Cut into 9 squares, pipe some whipped cream on top and decorate with candied orange peel and fresh berries. You can wear an orange hat if you want to :-)

* sometimes I sprinkle orange liquor over the bottom of the cake (not the one that is going to be glazed) to make it a little moister.

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  1. Ahh what would the Dutch do without aniseed? Love the natural colouring option for the icing there:) So this cake is a tribute perhaps to the royal family?

  2. I tried this recipe, but it was a failure because i think the baking powder was forgotten to put on the recipe.

    1. same happened to me... it became mor a biscuit than a fluffy cake ....

  3. Oranjekoek does traditionally not use any chemical leaveners. It's a chewy, dense, thick cookie/cake texture that has very little to no rise. If you like a lighter version, like the more commercial oranjekoeken, you could substitute the flour for selfrising or add baking powder to the recipe.

  4. I am really confused about the whole cup of anise seed and what to do with us.


    1. As am I! Half a teaspoon is more than sufficient!

  5. There are two of Nicole's orangekoek but one of them suggested using a cup of anise seed. That most likely is not correct. The above recipe calls for only 2 teaspoons.


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