This sweet treat is soft and chewy with a slightly crispy edge. Flavored with butter, vanilla, almond, and hints of citrus, this gluten-free delight is not quite a cake, not quite a cookie, but a perfect blend of something in between.
Initially this recipe was a test in the making for a light, gluten-free citrus cake that I was craving, but after the first test batch I realized the textural similarities was closer to one of my favorite childhood treats; the Dutch boterkoek. Interestingly enough I previously experimented with trying to make a gluten-free boterkoek but the results were sub-par and I put it on the back burner but once I ended up making this…to quote Bob Ross…happy accident, I just knew I needed to tweak, perfect, and share it!
What is ‘Boterkoek‘?
Boterkoek literally translates from Dutch to “butter cake” but the crumb texture and consistency isn’t like your usual type of cake. Instead, this is more like a butter cookie on steroids in the best of ways. It’s rich, buttery, sweet, dense with a compact, moist crumb and the crust and edges of it tends to be wonderfully chewy.
Typically, a boterkoek is flavored with almond extract and decorated with slivered almonds, with a touch of citrus zest thrown into the batter for good measure. Since we’re making this gluten-free, we’ll be swapping out the wheat flour portion of a traditional boterkoek and replacing it with almond flour. While there’s no need to use almond extract and I haven’t used it for this recipe, you can add in a dash of it in place of the orange extract if you really want a good almond kick.
What type of pan to use?
Round, square, or rectangular, the choice is yours. But the pan you choose will determine the shape you cut your boterkoek into. Most people prefer round since they can cut their servings into triangular shaped wedges (like a cake!) and this gives the best of all worlds with each piece in that it will have a bit of the softer middle and a bit of the chewier edge.
As for the material, I prefer using a metal pan so that the edges get that perfect crisp and chew texture, and so that the baking is even. With a metal pan greasing /lining your pan properly is key. Truthfully, this recipe actually is phenomenal in a bundt pan for guaranteeing an even bake and extra crust/edge area (if that’s your thing) but bundt pans can be complicated for sticking reasons. Bearing this in mind, a simple pie dish or small 6″ cake pan can be ideal. If you want to use a larger pan, I highly recommend doubling the recipe and baking it for longer until done.
To make this gluten-free treat here’s what you’ll need:
- Blanched Almond Flour: This is our main flour and what makes this treat gluten-free.
- Raw Cane Sugar: Use a granular or finely blended cane sugar.
- Butter: You can use salted or unsalted butter. I’m using the salted variety. Since it’s essentially a staple in this treat’s taste and texture, opt to us a high quality butter.
- Extracts: I’m using vanilla and almond extract but you can also add in a touch of orange extract if you like.
- Citrus Zest: You can use fresh, finely grated lime, lemon, or orange zest or a combination of all three.
- Egg: Today we’ll use one large whole egg.
- Salt: A small pinch of pink Himalayan or sea salt is a great way to add depth and flavor to our cake.
- Baking Powder: This is our main rising agent.
- Tapioca Flour: Since this is gluten-free baking, a small touch of tapioca flour helps our cake to bind and gives it a great texture.
- Flour: You can use unblanched almond flour (aka almond meal) or pecan flour in place of blanched almond flour.
- Sugar: While the virtually neutral flavor of the cane sugar is ideal you can also opt to use coconut or even date sugar if preferred.
- Tapioca Flour: You can use either cornstarch or potato starch in a 1:1 substitute if preferred.
Let’s make our Gluten-Free Boterkoek!
To a large bowl, mix together the almond flour, HALF of the sugar, salt, baking powder, tapioca flour and citrus zest.
In another smaller bowl, whisk or use a hand mixer to combine the other half of the sugar with the egg until the mixture is thick and pale before mixing in the extracts.
Pour the egg and sugar mixture along with the melted butter into the combined dry ingredients and mix until fully combined. Your batter will be thick.
Pour the batter into a greased and lined pan and spread it to create an even layer. I’m using an 8″x8″ metal baking pan.
You can use butter, ghee (clarified butter) or extra light olive oil to grease your pan. While you don’t need to line your pan with parchment, doing so makes the boterkoek easier to lift out once baked.
Typically, boterkoek batter gets ridged and etched with the tines of a fork but since this is a gluten-free version, it bakes up with a bit of spread and you lose the ridging 😔
Bake in a preheated 325°F oven for 35-40 minutes until the edges begin to brown and it passes a toothpick test in the middle.
Once you remove your boterkoek from the oven, allow it to cool for about 10-15 minutes before attempting to lift it from the pan.
Set it to cool until it is lukewarm before cutting it into pieces. If you do it while hot it can make soft crumbles where the knife cuts it, and if it’s cold it will be harder to cut through. Use a clean, sharp knife to cut your boterkoek for the cleanest cute. This batch makes 16 servings of 2″ x 2″ squares.
And there you have it, a deliciously sweet, not-quite-a-cake-not-quite-a-cookie vanilla citrus butter cake, my gluten-free ode to the iconic Dutch boterkoek. I hope you guys give it a try and that you enjoy it 💕
Citrus-Vanilla Butter Cake (A Gluten Free ode to Boterkoek)
- 1 cup blanched almond flour plus extra 3 tbsp
- 1/2 tsp tapioca flour or cornstarch
- 1/4 tsp baking powder
- 1 tsp lime zest or lemon or orange.
- ⅛ tsp Himalayan salt
- 1/2 cup raw cane sugar (divided into 2 parts)
- 1 large egg
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- ½ tsp almond extract
- ¼ tsp orange extract (optional)
- ¼ cup salted butter melted
- Preheat oven to 325°F and grease a 8x8 pan with butter or extra light olive oil and line with parchment paper.
- To a large bowl, combine almond flour, half of the finely bended raw cane sugar, baking powder, tapioca flour, salt, and citrus zest together.
- In another bowl whisk together egg and remaining half of the finely blended sugar until thick and pale. Add in extracts and whisk again for another 10 seconds.
- Add the whisked egg and sugar mixture along with the melted butter to the dry ingredients and fold together until fully combined. The batter will be thick.
- Evenly spread the batter into the prepared dish and bake in a preheated oven for 35-40 minutes or until it passes the toothpick test in the middle, the top is beginning to brown, and the edges are golden brown.
- Remove from the oven and allow to cool in the pan before attempting to lift out and cut. Enjoy and store any leftovers in an airtight container at room temp for up to 5 days or, in the fridge for up to 10 days, or in the freezer for up to 4 months.
- You can reheat the pieces by warming them on a microwave-safe plate for a few seconds until warmed. This helps to restore the "just baked" texture.
- the 8" x 8" pan makes 16 servings (1 serving being a 2" x 2" square).