“It’s a Family Tradition and Comfort Food”:  AUC’s Resident Chef Maurits de Klepper Shares His Take on Dutch Holiday Cake Kersttulband

By Adesholla Bishop

Collage by Sara Serrano

At a time of year when short days and long nights are accompanied by the bleak weather that is characteristic of Amsterdam, finding new ways to enjoy spending time indoors becomes a goal of many at AUC. And what better way to make winter a bit cosier than to fill your room with the delicious scents of a freshly-baked homemade dessert?

In search of the perfect baked good to provide some holiday cheer, The Herring reached out to Dr. Maurits de Klepper, AUC’s resident pastry chef. De Klepper is a professionally-trained chef and lecturer of the popular course Gastronomy: The Arts and Sciences of Cooking, among other roles and responsibilities at AUC. 

De Klepper’s chosen winter dessert is a kersttulband, a bundt cake rich yet fresh with butter, lemon juice, and plenty of sweet ingredients. The Dutch name of this cake — tulband — literally translates to ‘turban’ in reference to its shape. 

De Klepper shares the personal significance of this wintery dessert as well as a recipe with his own take on kersttulband with the hope that you will make it yourself this winter. Eet smakelijk!

The Herring: What do you enjoy about baking?

Maurits de Klepper: Frankly, I’m not big on sweets. I also didn’t get my pastry degree because I like eating pastries, but rather for the culinary challenge. So, baking for me is a satisfying manual exercise that gives immediate gratification, but it is mostly about making something good and pleasurable for other people: family, friends, colleagues, and students. Since I’m a parent, baking is also a pastime I enjoy doing with my kids. 

What is the personal significance of this recipe?

I chose this tulband recipe because this is a holiday season baked good I grew up with; it’s a family tradition and comfort food. My mom has been making tulband for Christmas since I can remember, and she still does. Filling the house with warming aromas, she bakes many of them each year, then ornately packages and hands them out as holiday treats to friends and family. I know, this all sounds very Hallmark!

What adjustments have you or your loved ones made to the recipe over the years?

The original tulband is very simple, just a pound cake in a different shape with powdered sugar, but my mom decided to take it to another level. She turned it into a food coma nuke. One slice and you’re annihilated. Inspired by Christmas puddings and mince pies from our family winter vacations to Scotland, she bombs the batter with an un-Christian amount of nuts, spices, and an assortment of rum-soaked dried fruits. I hate it.

The recipe below is my lighter take on it. It’s still full of goodies such as spijs (coarse marzipan), nuts, and raisins, but also fresher with lemon zest and a lemon drizzle.

How and when would you recommend eating kersttulband?

Heat up a slice in the microwave (30 seconds) and serve with ice cream or whipped cream. You can eat it at any time, as long as you eat it with or make it for someone else!

Will you be making it for the upcoming holidays? 

No. Just like you all at the end of the semester, I’m baked (ha!). I don’t feel like doing anything, not even cooking or baking, so we — my wife, daughter, and son — typically go to my mother-in-law’s on Christmas eve and partake in the Dutch competitive eating called gourmetten. The day after, we go to my parents who will have prepared a multi-course protein-rich feast. 

What do the holidays mean to you? 

I’m not raised religiously — in fact, quite the opposite — so Christmas simply means family time, eating heaps of food, and drinking pools of booze. It’s followed by a week of abstinence, penance, and social isolation!


Kersttulband — Dutch Christmas Bundt Cake

De Klepper’s Kersttulband. Photo by Adèle Issman

Ingredients

  • 1 packet of cake mix (400g)*
  • 150g of butter or vegetable shortening, at room temperature
  • 50ml full-fat (whole) milk
  • 4 eggs
  • 150g of chopped mixed nuts of your choice
  • 100g sultanas
  • 300g spijs, crumbled**
  • Zest from 1 lemon
  • Juice from 2 lemons
  • 80g of powdered sugar 

Materials

  • Bundt pan, 22-25 cm in diameter (but you can really use any cake pan you have)
  • Big bowl
  • (Electric) whisk
  • Spatula

Directions

1. Preheat the oven to 150º C (or use a stovetop wonder pan if you don’t have an oven).

2. In a bowl, cream (whip up) the butter until it’s much lighter in colour***.

3. Add the eggs, cake mix, and milk; mix until smooth.

4. Add the nuts, sultanas, zest, and spijs; mix in.

5. Grease your pan (with pan spray or a rub of butter) and pour in the batter.

6. Bake for 65 to 70 minutes. Insert a toothpick to determine whether it’s done; if the toothpick comes out clean, it is.

7. Let the cake rest for 5 minutes, remove it from the pan, and let it cool on a wire rack or a dishcloth.

8. Mix the lemon juice and sugar and evenly drizzle over the tulband.

9. Enjoy!

* This may not seem home-style, but cake mix has advantageous functional properties. Some flour is replaced with starches, which lightens the dough by lowering the gluten content. Also, the mix already contains emulsifiers and raising agents. And finally, it contains less sugar than most pound cake recipes.

** You can buy this at any supermarket, from the famous German brand Dr. Oetker.

*** This is supposed to add air, but I’m suspicious this has a big effect. Maybe an experiment suited for the course Gastronomy?

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