Here in the United States, cookies are the most popular treat during Christmastime. We were curious about holiday sweets in other countries, so we reached out to several of our international distributors and Wilton Method Instructors to learn more! In this 12-part series, a different country and traditional dessert will be featured each day. Today’s blog and recipe comes from Anne-lise Nipius, a Wilton Method Instructor in Holland.
After the 15th of November, children in Holland start to get a bit nervous. Sinterklaas is coming from Spain on his big steamboat filled with presents and Piet-helpers (Pieten)to celebrate his anniversary on the 5th of December. Just like Santa Claus, he gives presents to everyone.
He has his Pieten to take care of everything like wrapping up gifts. The baker-Piet makes all the sweets and a lot of gingerbread cookies (pepernoten), which are the traditional treat at this celebration. The music-Piet takes care of all the music and Sinterklaas songs and so on.
When he arrives in Holland, he parades with his Pieten through the streets on his white horse, welcomed by all the children singing the traditional Sinterklaas songs. The Piet helpers are carrying bags filled with gingerbread cookies to give away.
In the evening the children put one of their shoes underneath the chimney or by the window and fill this with a drawing or a carrot for Sinterklaas’s horse. They sing a song and if they have been good, the Pieten will come at night and put a little present in their shoe.
The big celebration is on the fifth of December, with the present evening, where families come together, play games, drink hot chocolate and eat sweet things.
This time of year you smell the mixed spices everywhere and children are getting a lot of cookies and sweets, but my favorite is the filled speculaas cake.
I remember when I was young and came home from school, my mother was baking in the kitchen and from a distance I could already smell what she was going to make. This was the traditional speculaas cake, filled with almond paste. My brothers and I couldn’t wait to get a piece of the dough, which was really nice, but to get a piece of the cake we had to wait until the fifth of December.
Nowadays I am making this cake myself and I really hope my children will have the same sweet memories I have when they smell the speculaas spices.
To make this cake, you need a particular mix of spices. Here in Holland we can buy it anywhere, but if you cannot find it, here are the amounts:
2 3/4 tablespoons cinnamon
1/2 tablespoon cloves
1 tablespoon nutmeg
1/2 tablespoon white peppercorn
1/2 tablespoon ginger powder
1/2 tablespoon cardamom seeds
1/2 tablespoon coriander
Ingredients for Cake
7 cups pastry flour
2 1/3 cups butter
2 cups brown caster sugar
1/4 tablespoon salt
2 large eggs
2 1/4 tablespoons lemon zest
1 1/4 tablespoons baking powder
Speculaas spice mixture from above
Ingredients for Filling
5 cups almond paste
2 3/4 tablespoons lemon zest
1 large egg
5 tablespoons water
1/2 cup butter
Take soft butter and add the brown caster sugar and mix. Put the pastry flour and spices through a strainer in a separate bowl. Before adding the flour mixture to the butter and brown caster sugar, check to see if it is too dry. If it is too dry, add a little bit of milk. Then add the flour and spice mix.
Make sure the dough is equally mixed and leave it to rest in your fridge for at least 2 hours. Knead the dough through before using.
Make the almond paste soft in a mixer. Add the egg, lemon zest and the melted butter, then add the water a little bit at a time.
Roll out 2/3 of the dough about 1/4 of an inch thick onto a baking sheet. Divide the almond paste mixture over the dough, then roll out the rest of the dough to cover the paste. Finally, spread the egg mixture over the dough and bake.
Baking time: 55 minutes at 365 degrees Fahrenheit