Sunday, February 23, 2014

Joodse Boterkoek

Boterkoek, butter cake, is a traditional Dutch delicacy. The Belgians do not have anything similar to it, nor do the Germans. The French have a Breton butter cake, but that's a completely different animal. Nope, the boterkoek is most definitely Dutch, with its crunchy sides and soft, tender heart.

It's definitely not for the faint of heart, or the dainty eaters, nor for the more refined consumer. Boterkoek, since its early appearance in the thirtiesappears to be a confection for the common people. It was not sold in the higher-end patisseries or bakeries in town, nor could it be found in the tea rooms of the upper classes. Even the traditional boterkoek baking pans, the shallow tart pans with the built-in slider, were not stocked in the higher-end specialty stores, according to Johannes van Dam, the famous Dutch food writer, but could easily be found in more eh...general stores like Blokker and Hema.

But in the homes of the hard workers, the farmers, the fishermen, the harbor workers and other physically challenging jobs, a small square of boterkoek was well received, together with a cup of strong coffee to cut through some of the greasy goodness. Made with (good) butter, i.e. not margarine, sugar and flour, the butter cake is probably one of the easiest cakes to make, and probably one of the first ones that kids learn to make at home.

Somehow there is a Jewish connection with boterkoek, as it was traditionally served on Shabbat in Dutch Jewish homes. Claudia Roden includes a recipe for Joodse Boterkoek in her book "The Book of Jewish Food", where she mentions that  the boterkoek is part of "a few dishes, seen as Jewish but presenting a distinctive Dutch character."  The Dutch Joodse boterkoek, Jewish butter cake, is per definition made with candied ginger.

Joodse Boterkoek
2 sticks of butter, room temperature
1 1/4 cup of sugar
1 1/2 cup of all purpose flour
1 egg
1/2 cup of candied ginger

1 egg for brushing

Mix the butter with the sugar until it comes together, then add the flour. Chop the ginger into small strips and add 3/4 of the amount to the dough. When the flour has been absorbed, add in the egg, mix it a few more times until it appears to be a cohesive dough.

Butter a square or round baking pan (9 inches) and place a bottom of parchment paper in there. Pat the dough into the pan, refrigerate it for 10 minutes, then brush it with the beaten egg and sprinkle the remaining 1/4 of ginger on top. Bake in an 350F oven for 25 - 30 minutes or until the sides start browning.

Remove from the oven, and let cool down completely before removing the cake from the pan. Cut into small squares. Serve at room temperature with some good coffee.


  1. in mijn oude Joodse kookboek staat ook gevulde boterkoek met een laagje amandel spijs. Wij zijn er mee opgegroeid. Cake, appeltaart en boterkoek.

  2. Ziet er heerlijk uit, yum!

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  4. This was my favourite treat as a kid and this makes me miss my nanna Jacoba a lot. Hers didn't have candied ginger on though. Love your blog the background was fascinating.

  5. I make it without an egg and brush it with a bit of milk to make it shine. than make triangel strips om it with a fork. That is the real Jewis treat.

  6. We make it with a stem (preserved in syrup) ginger and ground almond filling between 2 layers of dough--learned from my Dutch Jewish grandmother Helen van Gelder.

  7. Ik zit te kwijlen! Maar ik vind er welwverschil in zitten als je geen Europese boter of basterdsuiker gebruikt. lk denk dat ik hetzelfde oude Joodse kook boekje heb als anneke1908. Trouwens...peren kugel is ook zo erg lekker. Ellen


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