Monday, April 11, 2016

Dutch Boterkoek

One of the great experiences I've had while moving all over the Midwest is getting to know interesting people.

Kathleen and I met at our church in Lexington, Kentucky. I made sure to sit next to her in the choir, since I could always count on Kathleen to sing the Alto part correctly. When I sat near her, I sounded much better!

Back when we went to church together, Kathleen and her sister, Esther, were both single women, somewhere in their twenties. I treasured the example they set for my own daughter of how a single Christian woman can live well. :)

Fast forward a few years, and Kathleen is now married to a wonderful guy, lives in West Michigan, and is the mom of two lovely little girls. I enjoy the fun pictures she shares of her girls and their trips to the park and the beach.

Of course, if you live in West Michigan, there is only one beach. The Beach. And only one lake. The Lake. :)

When Kathleen shared a picture of her latest baking project on Facebook a couple weeks ago, I knew I had to share it here at the Cafe. 

The first thing that caught my eye was this recipe's Dutch origins. Having grown up in West Michigan, I know what Kathleen means when she says "you can't turn around without walking into a Dutchman!" 

Before and during World War II, there was a huge influx of immigrants from the Netherlands who settled in West Michigan. There they found a similar climate to their lands on the North Sea and a welcoming community. 

And if you're from Michigan, you know what I mean when I say that West Michigan wouldn't be West Michigan without the Dutch. City names like Zeeland and Holland are just the beginning of their influence. Grand Rapids (just inland from Holland) is the birthplace and home to several Christian Publishing houses, including my own Revell. Zondervan is also located there, as well as Eerdmans, and Kregel, along with a host of others. I haven't even begun to think about other Dutch owned companies!

But the Dutch bakeries! Oh! One of those first-generation Dutch immigrants baked my wedding cake. It was the best wedding cake ever.

Enough about me, though - Kathleen, take it away!


Mom and Dad met in 1959 at a Christian retreat in Japan--Mom was a governess at the Netherlands Embassy in Tokyo, and Dad was in the US Navy there. They married in 1960, honeymooned on Mt. Fuji, moved to Washington, DC, and Dad went to Westminster Seminary to become a pastor. Five children, 14 grandchildren, and 56 years later, they celebrated their anniversary on April 9th.

There were few real Dutch people around Philadelphia (where Westminster Seminary is located), just Pennsylvania Dutch (German). It's interesting that I have moved to Michigan, where you can't turn around without walking into a Dutchman!  

Although we didn't learn to speak much Dutch, Mom taught us all how to bake. This is one of several recipes she made often in my childhood. She only made the almond filled variety for company! You can halve the recipe and make it in a round cake pan, which lets you cut very attractive wedge shaped pieces.


4 cups flour
1 cup butter
2 cups sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoons lemon flavoring
2 eggs, beaten (reserve 1 Tablespoon for later)
1 1/2 teaspoon almond flavoring
1 teaspoon vanilla flavoring
2 teaspoons lemon or orange rind

Although the instructions say to use the traditional method of cutting the butter into the flour, I find this method easier: 

Dump 2 sticks room temperature butter into a large stand mixer bowl. 

Use one of the wrappers to butter a jelly roll pan. (A true jelly roll is 10x15; I like the one from USA Pan shown here.) 

Measure the flour into the bowl, and turn it on low. Let the mixer do the work of turning the bowlful into crumbs. 

Slowly pour in the salt, sugar and the rind; today I used rind from 1 lemon and 1 orange. 

Crack the eggs into a small measuring cup, and beat with a fork. Pour most of the eggs into the mixing bowl and save a tablespoon for later. 

Add the extracts to the mixing bowl, and mix until it is uniform. It will be lots of heavy crumbs. (It might be more cohesive on a really hot day or with really big eggs.) 

If you are making this without filling, simply pack it evenly into the pan. Otherwise, spread half the crumbs in the pan, and use the palm of your hand to cover the bottom in an even layer. 

If you want to include the filling, distribute 3/4-1 C almond paste (recipe below) over the pan. Put the rest of the crumbs on top, and pat down tightly into the pan. 

Either way, put the last tablespoon of egg on top, and smooth it all over. (I just use my hand for all of this! It's easier. You can also spread the egg out with the back of a spoon.) 

Then, take the back of a table knife and score horizontal lines across, then diagonals, making parallelograms. 

Today I baked it to perfection, 23 minutes @ 350. You can see it is just golden, and the edges are a little more brown. 

Unfilled this takes about 18 minutes. A half recipe might take slightly less. While they are still warm, loosen edges from the pan, and then cut, though leave them in until they are cooler or they will fall apart. Keep wrapped tightly. 

I cut this batch into 40 pieces. Boterkoek is rich!

Almond Paste

If you've never made almond paste before, or if you are short on time, feel free to use canned. Make sure you buy paste, not filling, as canned almond filling has weird things in it like coconut! I find it easy to make almond paste at home with the food processor, though blanching almonds is time consuming.

Almond Paste ingredients:

2 cups almonds, blanched (instructions below)
1/2 cup sugar
1 egg
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon almond flavoring
1 lemon rind (grated)
Boil 2 C almonds 3 minutes; drain; plunge into ice water. Squeeze the skins and watch the almonds shoot out the end. 

Rinse off the almonds when done, then grind up with sugar, egg, salt, almond flavor, and rind of 1 lemon. You can use a food processor or a blender. Ripen up to 1 week in your refrigerator. For this recipe, use half and freeze the rest.

It's delicious in sweet breads like the Hoska I made for Easter, or in a recipe my sister Esther makes, which is filled gingerbread!

Jan here again.

Thank you so much, Kathleen! I know I'm going to make a batch of this for our next carry-in dinner at church!


  1. What an interesting dessert, it looks like a mix between Lithuanian torte and baklava. Either way it looks delicious. Thanks for sharing and for the history and lovely photos.

    1. You're right, Tina. That flaky pastry does look a bit like baklava.

      Now I can hardly wait to try this myself!

  2. I'm going to guess that this name would be "butter kuchen" in an English speaking variety, right?

    And this pastry crust is like the one I found in a church cookbook from a tiny church here in upstate, and I use it as the base for the chocolate cream cheese bars and pecan bars now, it's amazing. And I would have never thought of it except for that hand-printed recipe an elderly customer copied for me about two decades back when I was waitressing! To layer almond paste in it... oh, be still my heart!!!!

    I can't wait to try this, Jan!

    Thank you!

    1. Doesn't this look fabulous?

      And yes, with my micro-smathering of Dutch (what I absorbed during my growing up years), I would guess Boterkoek translates as Butter Cake.

      That alone makes my mouth water!

    2. I love the sheen from the egg glaze... I forget how pretty that looks on a pastry top!

  3. That looks so yummy!! Thank you for joining Jan today to share with us!!

    1. Doesn't it look wonderful? And you can see why I asked Kathleen to share the recipe with us!

  4. Grrr. Blogger ate my comment. One more time! I was thinking Butter Cake as well. And this looks delish. I love almond paste but usually only have it at Christmas time. Have never tried to make my own. I get mine from a Swiss bakery close by. Not even sure if they offer it at any other time of year. Must check. Do you think this will freeze well?

    1. Kav, I don't see why not.... The cake part would, and the almond danish I get does, so there's nothing to break down....

    2. I would think it would freeze very well. Then you could make a batch, cut it into individual portions, freeze it, and you'd have dessert for weeks.

      Oh, that sounds wonderful!

    3. Cool, I'll try it. And then I could have a dessert for unexpected company as well because heaven help me if I ate it all even in gradual increments. LOL

  5. Mmm... This looks great, Jan. And I love sheet cakes. Great for large get-togethers. However, I would have to make sure my son-in-law, Dayton, steered clear of this. Poor guy is allergic to almonds, so I have to be careful not to use almond extract when I know he's going to be partaking. Nothing ruins a get-together faster than having to run someone to the ER. ;)

    However, when he's away, this mother-in-law can play.

  6. Wonderful looking ... and what's not to like about almonds? Glad I read the comments first because I was going to ask if it freezes. My other question is can you eat it frozen? :-)

    Thanks to both of you for the recipe,
    Nancy C

  7. Hailing from Breukelen, a former Dutch colony now known as Brooklyn. ;)

    We study quite a bit about Dutch New York in 4th grade.

    When I saw the title, this reminded me of the German Butter Cake my sister used to bring home when she worked in a bakery. Good thing for our waistlines she only worked there one summer. Oh, so yummy.

    Thanks for sharing this history lesson and recipe.