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Saturday, October 9, 2010

Arretje's cake

During the early years, before and after the war, companies in Holland realized that one way of reaching into the tightly pinched pockets of the Dutch housewife was through the hearts (or the constant whining) of her children. Marketing companies invented mascots, fictitious people and fantasy figures to distinguish their company from other ones, and promoted their products in marketing materials such as booklets, cartoons, radio ads and even short movies. Especially the cartoons were very popular among the younger kids, and if you happened to own some, you could be assured of plenty of attention!

Flipje is sharing Betuwe goodies
with his friends.
Image from
Piet Pelle was a fictitious young man who rolled into one exciting adventure after the other on his Gazelle bicycle. Flipje from the Betuwe, a fertile fruit growing region in the Netherlands, was something akin of a young man, with a human head, the body of a raspberry and limbs made out of currants. His head was adorned with a chef's hat and he would always end his adventures with a party, inviting everybody to eat copious amounts of jam, fruit juice and other fruit related products that, oh coincidence, all came from the Betuwe region. Joris Driepinter, Joe ThreePints, was the figure for the dairy industry, showing that by drinking three glasses of milk a day, you would have enough strength to even lift up a car. Okay.

Arretje Nof was another one of those concoctions of the marketing agencies. The Nederlandse Olie Fabriek (Dutch Oil Factory, or NOF) published regularly booklets about the adventures of a young Arab boy called Arretje-NOF. The cartoons could be purchased by saving coupons with points that were printed on the packaging of NOF products. Not many remember the cartoons but the one thing that, to this day, appears prominently in traditional Dutch desserts is the so-called Arretje's Cake.

The NOF board butchered a beautiful Italian recipe for chocolate salami, stripped it from all quality ingredients and replaced it with affordable items that were easy to find for the Dutch cook: margarine (which the NOF happened to produce in large quantities), dry cookies, sugar and cocoa powder instead of butter, luxury cookies and quality chocolate. Nevertheless, the Arretje's cake (presumably named because that's what Arretje celebrated his birthday with) became a huge success in Holland and has become one of those indelible memories of treats that grandmas make for their grandchildren.

Is it tasty? Most say that they love this no-bake cake. You can hardly go wrong with sugar, cookies, chocolate and butter. Try for yourself and see what you think! The original recipe calls for shortening but margarine, or even butter ("real butter" as the Dutch say) is more commonly used.

Arretje's Cake
2 sticks of margarine
About 60 dry cookies
1 1/2 cup of sugar
3 tablespoons of cacao powder
1 egg (or a splash of milk, if you don't want to consume possibly raw egg)

Melt the margarine slowly, until just melted. Mix the sugar, cacao and egg in a separate bowl, carefully stir in the margarine until you have a thick chocolatey paste. Smash the cookies into small bits, add them to the chocolate and stir until everything's well mixed. Line a cake form with plastic film, pour in the cake batter and pat down to remove all air bubbles. Cover and refrigerate for 24 hours, then cut thin slices of the cake with a wet knife. This cake is extremely rich!


  1. oohhhhh yummy! The greeks have something very similar which I made while living there. It was delicious and yes, rich tasting.

  2. never heard of this cake before. Isn't that funny. I have heard of Arretje but his cake I never tasted. Flipje is back by the way.

  3. I have never heard about this before either. I might give it a try! And how exciting, a cooking blog as well. Bring on that recipe for bitterballen! :-)

  4. Cisca, so good to hear from you! Did you ever perfect that recipe for glacee cookies? I had arretjescake as a child, but in Limburg it's called "pletskeskook" so I didn't make the connection at first.


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