Dutch Celebration Cake: Tompouce

This story originally appeared in our internal family newspaper.

As a Doggett (my Mom’s side of the family), we enjoy desserts. When I think of my upbringing, most dinners concluded with a homemade delicious dessert. Pies with fruit fillings (cherries and strawberries or whatever other wonderful fruit were in season) and fruit crisps (primarily in the fall or winter months). We all love Christmas cookies and chocolate anything throughout the year. For the most special of occasions there might be a coconut cake (Granddad’s birthday!) and other special occasions one may order rainbow sherbet from the Dan Dee (is it possible to find anywhere else?!). Homemade chocolate mousse (Maurice!) is a welcome surprise after a meal in our home. Heidi makes the moistest and tall German Chocolate Cake I have ever enjoyed. What I do not remember growing up is any sort of whipped cream type of cake or store-bought overly frosted cake. These look ghastly and could not be tasty or worthy of wasting calories on such rubbish.

I have lived in the Netherlands for two years now and also for one year as a teenager. All of this time, I have been avoiding Tompouce. What is tompouce? you might think. Let’s just say it is very, very Dutch. When we foreigners think of the Netherlands we think of wooden shoes, cheese, bikes, floating houses, tulips. What we do not know, what is more pervasive than any of these things in this tiny flat country is…tompouce. When anyone sends an email with a form of congratulations — a picture of tompouce is included. When it is a birthday, graduation, awards allocation or simply afternoon coffee, tompouce is served. They even have tompouce flavored yogurt.

Tompouce is full of cream, held together with two thin layers of some sort of crispy dough, topped with bright pink icing and looks absolutely sickeningly sweet, my Dutch partner would say “you can feel your teeth decaying just looking at it.” Yet it is everywhere. The Dutch version of Target is called Hema and sells it in their café. They have it printed on their reusable shopping bags and little tissue packs are in the form of tompouce. It is everywhere!

Finally, while I was pregnant, and constantly hungry, at a work event while my guard was down, I finally decided to try this delicacy. I had no idea how to eat it. Like a novice, I stuck my fork in it and all the cream erupted out of the sides. This completely ruined the cake and was still impossible to get into my mouth. It was at this moment I realized that there is a special ritual involved with eating tompouce and everyone has a different strategy. Much like Americans with Oreos, do you eat the middle first, twist, or simply eat like a sandwich? My boss saw my struggle and was not surprised, all non-Dutch have the same problem. He explained that he eats the middle then the bottom and then the top with the icing. Other colleagues piped up, disagreeing, and offering their own enjoyment strategy with their personal rationale for decision making. It was then that I was a tompouce convert. Also, it is not as sickeningly sweet as it looks. Like any other dessert — it depends who makes it and with what ingredients.

Monday was King’s day (April 27th) — on King’s Day and around the World Cup or other soccer events, the tompouce turns orange to celebrate the Netherlands. The line at our local bakery was around the block with people picking up their tompouce orders on King’s Day. Naturally, we enjoyed ours as well. I finally looked up tompouce and found out that it is originally from France and the cake layers are more like concentrated croissant dough which makes me enjoy it even more.

Here are two links to more information about tompouce…

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tompouce

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YAkS4G87pIw

Assistant Professor in GeoSciences at Utrecht University. Researcher of maps online, UAS (drones!) and maps Sustainable Development Goals.