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Kruidkoek, or kruid koek, is a spiced cake that features in the regional cuisine of the Netherlands. This dense cake has a similar texture and taste to gingerbread; its name simply means "spice cake." This sweet treat can be served alone for breakfast or dessert. It also can be eaten sandwiched between slices of bread.
Variants of the cake might be named for the region of their origin. Friese kruidkoek, for example, has its origins in Friesland, a coastal region where natives fought off the Romans during that ancient civilization's attempts to rule Europe. Groninger kruidkoek, or Groninger koek, hails from the city of Groningen.
The basic recipe for the cake depends on a customizable blend of spices, which usually includes cinnamon, cloves, black pepper, nutmeg and ginger. Cinnamon tends to be the most prominently included spice, because it has a milder flavor that can be overpowered by heavier ratios of the other spices. The exact levels can be adjusted according to taste.
The dry ingredients of kruidkoek include flour, dark brown sugar, baking powder and the blend of spices. These ingredients combine with melted butter and milk to form the spice cake dough. A greased baking pan is used to cook the cake for about an hour. Finished kruidkoek has a warm brown color and is firm to the touch. The cake is allowed to cool before it's sliced for serving.
This base recipe for kruidkoek is open to variations depending on taste preferences. Dried or candied fruits or chopped nuts can be added while it is cooking. A northern variation of the cake called oudewijvenkoek, or "old hag's cake," includes anise seed in its spice blend.
The cake is often served with coffee or tea as beverages. It can be garnished with a dollop of whipped cream, regular or flavored butters or honey. Kruidkoek can be eaten warm or at room temperature. Locals sometimes eat it as the middle ingredient between slices of fresh sandwich bread.
Kruidkoek is thought to aid in digestion problems such as upset stomach and constipation. This is likely because of the inclusion of ginger and, in the northern version, aniseseed. The cake is sometimes used as a home remedy in the Netherlands.
There are other cakes in Dutch cuisine, including krentenbrood, which is a yeast cake with currants. Gevulde speculaas is a spice cake stuffed with almond paste and chopped nuts. Kersttulband is a spiced and fruit-filled ring cake that is served at Christmas. Oranjekoek is an orange cake with anise seed. Hollandse stroopkoek includes dutch syrup, beer, currants, raisins and walnuts.