De Zeeuwse Knop

What, you may be wondering, is a Zeeuwse Knop?

The names translates as the “Zeeland button” and is a traditional piece of jewellery from Zeeland, the most south-westerly provide of the Netherlands. The button could be worth either as a collar tie for men, or in the hair of women. The shape is also very distinctive – a central ball, with fine metalwork and a ring of smaller balls around it, but with myriad variations on the basic design reflecting different regions. While it isn’t seen very much today, it does appear in more modern guises, either as cuff-links and jewellery, or in more unexpected places like the tops of bottle stoppers or baking trays. Yes, baking trays, of which more later.

I’m telling you all this because I was recently in Middelburg, the capital of Zeeland. The city is wonderfully preserved, with much of the ancient centre still intact. It has the typical ornate buildings on the main squares, but one feature that I found particularly charming was that most of the old houses had the name of the occupant painted on the front, as well as some sort of symbol to identify the house. Perhaps this was for a time when people didn’t know how to read and write, but they would be able to offer directions based on the “golden sheep” or “red rose” or my particular favourite, the “pomegranate”.

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During my visit, I popped into a shop called De Keukenkroon (meaning “The Kitchen Crown”). They had a vast array of culinary delights, from pots and pans to cutlery, tea-towels and crockery, but one thing really caught my eye. Yes, it was the knop reinterpreted for the modern age in the form of a cake tin. I was determined to come away from the city with something local and rather special, and this was going to be it.

I’m generally not a big fan of moulded tins, mainly due to a fear that the cake will stick and I’ll never get the thing out in one piece. However, the lady in the shop assured me that rubbing the tin with lots of butter before baking should do the trick. I asked what sort of cake the pan was good for, and she gave a very direct (typically Dutch!) reply: oh, make a boerenkoek – just mix 200g of butter, sugar and flour, and 4 eggs. Flavour according to taste. So there we had it – a tin and a set of instructions. I was on my way with everything I could need to make my very own edible Zeeuwse Knop.

A few days later and back in London, I stood in the kitchen, just me and the pan. We were going to make this work. I had the pan, I had the recipe, I had….well, I realised I had no clue how to approach the cake, no method, no baking time. However, that recipe rang a vague bell – the idea of equal weights of things made me think of pound cake, so I used that method. I got busy creaming the butter and sugar, added the eggs, then some self-raising flour. For flavour, I used vanilla and some fresh lemon zest – I wanted this to be something quite simple.

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However, before all that beating, I had done as the lady in the shop instructed. I got the pan ready by popping it into a warm oven for a moment, then removed it and started to rub generously with butter. After a light sprinkling of flour to coat the butter, and a shake and a bang of the tin to remove the extra flour, we were ready to go.

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The batter went into the tin, and I smoothed the top, being careful not to disturb the lovingly-applied butter coating that was going to ensure this cake come easily out of the pan. We were taking no chances here!

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With the batter done, I popped the cake into the oven and waited patiently. Once it was baked, I let the cake stand for fifteen minutes to cool, and then came the moment of truth – when I turned it out, would it look perfect or would it split in half, with part of the cake clinging to the inside of the pan? Nervously, I lifted the pan…and…out it slipped, intact! Perfectly intact! I’ve had mixed  experiences with “non-stick” pans in the past, but this was an absolute dream. The surface was a golden colour and the details of the pan were clearly visible.

To serve the cake, I dusted it very lightly with icing sugar – and there you have it, a boerenkoek (farmer’s cake) in the shape of a Zeeuwse Knop!

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If you’re keen to buy this tin for yourself, you can contact De Keukenkroon here.

To make boerenkoek:

• 200g butter
• 200g caster sugar
• 4 eggs
• 200g self-raising flour
• 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
• zest of 1/2 lemon

1. Preheat the oven to 160°C (320°F). Prepare a tin (either butter and flour a shaped mould, or line the base of a 20cm diameter (8 inch) round tin with greaseproof paper and butter the sides generously).

2. Cream the butter until soft, then add the sugar and beat until light and fluffy. Fold in the vanilla and lemon zest. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add the flour, and mix until just combined.

3. Transfer the batter to the prepared tin. Bake for around 45 minutes until an inserted skewer comes out clean. If the top is darkening too quickly, cover loosely with tin foil.

4. Remove the cake from the oven, and leave to stand for 15 minutes, before turning out onto a plate. Serve as is, or dust lightly with icing sugar.

Worth making? This is a nice easy recipe that yields a simple but delicious cake. If you want to make it into something fancy, you can split it and fill with jam, cream, buttercream or lemon curd.

10 Comments

Filed under Recipe, Sweet Things

10 responses to “De Zeeuwse Knop

  1. Such a pretty looking cake

  2. Donna Day

    Please what it the cost in U.S. dollars for this darling bunt cake pan?  $47.something? And the shipping handling, and all postage? Does the botton (top) come off seperately? Thank you, Mrs. Day  

    • Hi Donna – the tin I bought was €24,95, which is roughly 32 US dollars. The shipping will come on top of that, and depends on the merchant. If you’re ordering from Europe, there may also be tax on top.

      If you want to order, the website from the designer has various addresses (see http://www.zeeuwseknop.nl/verkooppunten.html). One of them is in Canada (Ravensburg Baking Supplies), so perhaps easiest to get in touch with them and see if they can organise delivery?

      The pan itself is a solid piece of metal, but inside has a non-stick coating. It’s better than anything I’ve tried before, and I think that’s why the cake (provided you go big on the butter) comes out in one piece.

      Good luck!

  3. Rebecka

    What a simple and beautiful cake! Now I kinda want that pan… but no more shopping for me for a while!

    I have a question though… you use self-raising flour (and a lot of recipe sI find online do), but we don’t really use that in Sweden. What would be a good ratio for baking powder? (is baking powder even what should be used to make up for having regular flour? Or baking soda maybe? Both?)

    • Hi Rebecka – it’s good, isn’t it?

      Good question! According to Delia online (so it must be correct), you can make self-raising flour by using plain flour (110g/4oz) with 1 teaspoon baking powder added. Mix well, then pass through a sieve a couple of times to get it all mixed.

      If you need to make baking powder (useful in an emergency) mix 2 parts cream of tartar to 1 part baking soda. Mix well and use as baking powder.

  4. Thea

    Hello,
    I am Dutch-born although our family migrated to Australia over 40 years ago. I, too, visited the beautiful city of Middelburg as I have an old schoolfriend living there. We stayed at a delightful B & B, the Abeelboom, right in the heart of the city. Like you, I am not much into the souvenir thing and had purchased a piece of jewellery featuring the Zeeuwse knop. Looking at the history of the knop online, I came across your article and was so taken by the whole idea that I contacted the Keukenkroon, who couldn’t have been more helpful, and at this very moment I’m waiting for a tin to arrive in the post. I still have a day or so before Christmas so am keeping my fingers crossed. So, thank you for writing such a delightful, interesting article. As you can see, it struck a chord with me – to have something so uniquely Zeeuws not only as a reminder of a lovely holiday in a beautiful, historical city but also of my friend. For me, and I think for you as well, food and travel are inextricably linked. Many thanks. Thea

    • Hi Thea

      What a great story! So glad that you liked the Knop tin and have bought one yourself. Hopefully it arrives in time for Christmas. Make sure that you brush it with lots of melted butter and dust with flour. I had a massive fear that it would all get stuck, but in the end, it came out perfectly.

      You might be interested in something else I’ve got in the pipeline. I’m sure when you were in Middelburg you saw the Zeeuwse Bolus – they are a yeasted dough, coiled into a spiral and brushed with a cinnamon and treacle syrup. The recipe I want to try is one from a Dutch baking book (“Het Nederlands Bakboek” by Gaitri Pagrach-Chandra) which has dozens and dozens of traditional recipes. If you’re keen to try more baking from that part of the world, I thoroughly recommend it.

      Gelukkige nieuwjaar!

      • Thea

        Thank you for your suggestion. Yes, my friend introduced me to the Bolus and I hadn’t thought of trying to make that – next time? The baking tin arrived the day before Christmas, beautifully wrapped, and I made the cake that evening, following your instructions to the letter. It turned out beautifully, was delicious and a lovely surprise for my sister and family at our Christmas lunch. The helpful lady from De Keukenkroon also suggested a recipe book “Het Zeeuwse Knop bakboek”, recipes and stories from all over the world! Looks great. There is so much more to food than eating it. Thank you again for sharing ideas via this blog.
        Gelukkig nieuwjaar from a sunny Australia.

  5. Thank you for this post ~ I am Dutch and love both the jewellery and the gorgeous city this comes from. Wonderful photos. I absolutely wish to go there on my next visit back to Holland. Groetjes !

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