Sunday, November 22, 2015

Gevulde Speculaas

When you visit Belgium, you will notice that Christmastime is always marked by the presence of Speculoos cookies. In fact, pretty much every day of the year is marked with Speculoos, but at Christmas, they go from being delicious small additions to a cup of coffee or tea to something altogether grander, culminating into huge cookies that are shaped into the image of Saint Nicolas in December. And Speculoos cookies are also a feature of Christmas in the Netherlands, where their name is slighly changed to Speculaas. If you want to make Speculaas cookies, you can make them either by rolling out the dough and cutting or by using the traditional wooden molds to shape into windmills, flowers or animals.

But there is also a different version of Speculaas, which is called Gevulde Speculaas, meaning “filled speculaas”. This delicious version is made with a layer of dough, similar to that used to make Speculaas cookies, then filled with almond paste, and topped with more dough. The whole is then baked, and finally cut into slices.

The dough is easily put together and so is the filling which I always just assumed was made from Marzipan, but it is something that the Dutch call Amandelspijs, meaning „almond paste“. This is a paste made from ground almonds, sugar and eggs, and somtimes with a little lemon zest which does add a little extra flavor and a certain freshness to the filling.

When it comes to the spices, there is traditional Dutch mixture called Speculaaskruiden, meaning “speculaas spices” that can be made from spices you probably have already stored in your cupboard. If you follow my blog, that spice mixture is rather well known to you. Personally I believe that Gevulde Speculaas is best made with freshly mixed spices but  you could use other spice mixture you like, such as Pumpkin Pie Spices (rather American and available online), or even Mixed Spice (rather British and also available online as well as at your favorite British shop).

The resulting Gevulde Speculaas cake is very rich, as the speculaas does not turn crisp like the Speculaas cookies, but instead you get a spiced pastry encasing the rich almond filling. You can really use as little or as much filling as you like but I believe a ratio of equal parts pastry and filling seems to work best.

This recipe requires three components: first the Almond Paste for the filling. Second the Speculaas Spice Mix for the dough. And third the Speculaas Dough itself. You should start off by making the Almond Paste for the Filling:

Gevulde Speculaas

Filling - Almond Paste

Ingredients for Almond Paste
  • 125 grams (4½ oz) natural almonds, skins off
  • 125 grams (10 tbsps) superfine (caster) sugar
  • 1 egg (L), organic or free range
  • 1 tsp freshly grated lemon zest (organic lemon) NOTE: if you prefer a thicker layer of almond paste, you can double the amout of ingredients.

Preparation of the Almond Paste
  1. Grind the almonds for one or two minutes in a food processor, until rather fine.
  2. Then add the sugar, and grind for another minute or two.. The almonds should be very finely ground now.
  3. Add the egg and the lemon zest to the food processor and process further until the almond paste comes together.
  4. Wrap the almond paste well and place in the refrigerator. NOTE: If you prefer a more pronounced almond taste, you could always add a drop or two of natural almond extract - but remember when it comes to almond extract, a little goes a long way

Speculaas Spice Mix

Ingredients for the Speculaas Spice Mix
  • 4 tsp ground cinnamon (*)
  • 1 tsp ground cloves (*)
  • 1 tsp ground mace (*)
  • 1/3 tsp ground ginger (*)
  • 1/5 tsp (a pinch) ground white pepper
  • 1/5 tsp (a pinch) ground cardamom
  • 1/5 tsp (a pinch) ground coriander seeds
  • 1/5 tsp (a pinch) gound anise seeds or star anise
  • (*) These are essential. The other spices are entirely optional
  • NOTE: If you have whole spices at home, you can grind the spices yourself using a coffee grinder, or use a food processor and a fine sieve.

Preparation of the Speculaas Spice Mix
  1. Carefully measure out spices.
  2. Mix all spices well.
  3. Scoop the mix into a spice jar with a tight-fitting lid.
  4. Label the jar with the name of the spice mix as well as the preparation date.
  5. And use for baking Speculaas cookies, Gevulde Speculaas, muffins, Christmas cookies, waffles, cakes and much more.
  6. Discard any leftovers after four months and make a new spice mix.

Pastry - Speculaas Dough

  • 250 grams (2 cups) all purpose (plain) wheat flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 150 grams  (¾ cup) light or dark brown sugar, firmly packed (such as the Dutch "Lichte Basterd Suiker" or "Donkere Basterd Suiker")
  • a pinch of fine sea salt
  • 2 tbsps Speculaas Spice Mix (see above recipe)
  • 175 grams (1½ sticks) unsalted butter
  • 2-3 tbsps milk (3.5%), optional NOTE: if you like you can add a bit of grated zest from an organic orange or mandarin/clementine to the dough..

  1. Put flour, baking powder, sugar, salt and spices in a bowl.
  2. Cut the butter in dices, add to the flour mixture and knead until smooth.
  3. Add a little milk if the dough is too dry.
  4. Wrap in saran wrap and place in the refrigerator for a good two hours.

Assembling and Baking the Gevulde Speculaas

  • Cooled Speculaas Dough
  • Cooled Almond Paste
  • whole almonds without skins for decoration, halved, about 25 depending on your personal pattern
  • 1 egg (L), organic or free range
  • baking pan with removable bottom 26 cm – 28 cm (10-11 inches)

  1. Grease the baking pan with some butter, line bottom with some parchment paper and butter again.
  2. Pre-heat your oven to 180° C (356° F).
  3. Divide the dough into two portions.
  4. On a very lightly work surface, roll out both portions odf the dough until they are about the size of your baking pan.
  5. Put one of the layers in the pan and press it lightly to fit the bottom.
  6. Lightly beat the egg with a teaspoon cold water.
  7. Brush some of the egg wash over the dough in the baking pan.
  8. Roll out the almond paste between two sheets of saran wrap, until it is exactly as big as the pan, and put it on the dough in the pan.
  9. Press the almond paste lightly down to fit in the pan, and brush some more of the egg wash over it.
  10. Now put the second layer of dough on top of the paste, press it lightly, and make as smooth as possible.
  11. Brush the rest of the egg wash over the dough.
  12. Decorate the pastry with the halved almonds.
  13. Bake for 40 minutes or until the cake feels firm to the touch.
  14. Let cool completely in the pan, then cut into pretty slices and serve the same day – but wrapped well, the Gevulde Speculaas keeps for a few days as it is very moist from the Alomnd Paste.

As I mentioned above, Speculaaskruiden („speculaas“ in the Netherlands, „speculoos“ in Belgium and „Spekulatius“ in Germany) is the typical flavor in a number of cookies and other baked goods.  You can bake the traditional Speculaas Cookies with them (here are mine), you can also add the Speculaas Spice Mix to cakes and muffins like my Speculaas Muffins I made a few weeks ago (here) or wonderfully fragrant Speculaas Biscotti I made last December (here is the recipe).

So, there is no reason to wait any longer to bake a Gevulde Speculaas and then let your imagination be your guide and come up with other lovely creations using the amazingly fragrant and utterly delicious, seasonal Speculaas Spice Mix.


  1. Der Kuchen ist ja wohl absolut perfekt gelungen, ich koennte so hineinbeissen :-) Glaubst du, dass man genau diesen Teig auch fuer die Modeln nehmen könnte???? Vielen Dank fuer die Aufstellung der Gewuerze fuer Spekulatius, diese Mischung gibt es hier naemlich nicht, so bin ich froh, dass ich sie mir selber herstellen kann. Aaaahhhhh, endlich Weihnachtsbaeckerei :-) Ganz liebe Grüße!

    1. Liebe Wally, dieser Teig ist mein Lieblingsteig für den traditionellen holländischen Gevulde Speculaas, für Spekulatiuskekse (für Holzmodel oder für Ausstecher) nehme ich eher ein etwas anderes Rezept - ist aber nur geringfügig abweichend. Zutaten: 500 g Weizenmehl, 2 gestr. TL Backpulver, 250 g Zucker, 1 Pck. Bourbon Vanille Zucker, Spekulatiusgewürz (15 g), 1 Pr. feines Meersalz, 2 Eier (M), 200 g weiche Butter und 100 g gemahlene Mandeln.
      Zubereitung: Mehl mit Backpulver in einer Rührschüssel mischen. Zucker, Vanille-Zucker, Gewürz, Salz, Eier, Butter und Mandeln hinzufügen und alles mit einem Mixer (Knethaken) kurz auf niedrigster, dann auf höchster Stufe zu einem glatten Teig verkneten. Teig etwa 30 Min. kalt stellen. Backblech mit Backpapier belegen. Backofen vorheizen. Ober-/Unterhitze: etwa 180°C Heißluft: etwa 160°C. Teig portionsweise zu Rollen formen. Rollen in gut gemehltes Spekulatius-Model drücken, überstehenden Teig mit einem bemehlten Messer abschneiden. Teigstücke aus dem Model schlagen, auf das Backblech legen und in den Backofen schieben.
      Backzeit: etwa 10 Min.
      Spekulatius mit Backpapier auf einen Kuchenrost ziehen und erkalten lassen.

      Hoffe, dir gefällt das Rezept - es kommt noch viel hat am Wochenende in Teilen von Deutschland geschneit und es ist kalt geworden.
      Liebe Grüße und frohes Backen,

    2. Wow, was fuer ein Service :-) ganz lieben Dank fuer das Rezept, es ist immer gut, wenn das jemand schon mal ausprobiert hat. Ich habe eine 'neuzeitige' Windmuehlenmodel aus Holland und ganz alte (19. Jahrhundert), kleine, die ich fuer Springerle benutzt habe.
      Mal sehen, mit welchen ich besser arbeiten kann. Mir gefaellt, dass gemahlene Mandeln in den Teig gehören. Der Kuchen sieht einfach phantastisch aus, ist auch ein tolles Geschenk, gut verpackt, haelt der sich doch eine Weile. Bis bald und liebe Grüße!

    3. Liebe Wally, manchmal treiben mich die Model in die Verzweiflung und dann greife ich auf auf schöne altmodische Keks-Ausstecher zurück - viel Freude beim Backen - bei mir piepst gerade der Ofen für den nächsten Post - und ja, der Kuchen hält sich ziemlich gut, da er sehr saftig ist.
      Liebe Grüße,

  2. This is such a lovely looking dessert. I really like the Speculaas spice mixture - so many of my favorite warming spices! I bet it's so delicious.

    1. Amy, you would love this wonderfully fragrant cake - full of wonderful warm spices and perfect for the season! My Speculaas Spice Mix is a "must"!
      Thank you for stopping by,

  3. Dearest Andrea - I can tell you now that this will be the treat on my table on Christmas Day. I am so excited about this version, and will certainly report back. What a combination of flavors! Thank you for this - and again for your spice mixture recipe. I used the spices you sent, and will now make my own! Liebe Grüße! David

    1. Dear David, I must admit to being flattered - you and Mark will love this cake. I know that we share a love for these wintry spices and for marzipan/almond paste, so I am convinced that you will really like this darling of a dessert cake. As far as the spice mix is concerned, feel free to use the mix that you got (maybe for a trial run) - it is also very good and one does not always have the time to mix fresh spices (I know how it is at this time of year).
      Liebe Grüße and thank you so much for your very kind words!

  4. Such a spectacular dessert, Andrea! I love the contrasting almond paste layer---just stunning, not to mention delicious!!! This time of year, I'm especially grateful for my blogger friends. I'm so glad we connected through FFwD!!! xo

    1. Dear Liz, same here - it certainly feels wonderful to have met all of you wonderful and incrdibly talented bloggers through the FFwD group, to have been able to become friends even from afar and to keep these friendships alive!
      Looking forward to the 2015 Christmas Card Exchange - I am already preparing some of the cards as I write this!
      And thank you for the kind comment!
      I would like to take this opportunity to wish you and your family a very Happy Thanksgiving 2015!

  5. I think I'd like your filled speculoos way more than the cookie version - yum!

    1. Gaye, we like it much better too - although we do enjoy the speculaas cookies as well. The Gevulde Speculas is a nice alternative to the usual seasonal baked goods.

  6. Hi Andrea, this is the kind of dessert that you can enjoy anytime of the day, looks and sounds amazing, love the spices you used.

    1. Cheri, yes, anytime of the day but with a good cup of coffee or tea alongside.

  7. Hi Andrea, I love your spice mix, it will come n handy for other baking . I plan of making the cake when I get home but I have a question, when you say wheat flour, is that like American whole wheat flour or regular white flour?

    1. Dear Gerlinde, it is the good old all purpose flour (plain and white) but you can use white spelt flour as well - I tried it and it works like a charm (if you like spelt flour that is). Hope that helps - I just like to write "wheat flour" because there are so many different flours avialbale around here, that I wanted to point out that I used wheat, not rice flour or another flour.
      Enjoy your trip and the X-mas markets! If you have any other question, feel free to ask!
      Liebe Grüße,

  8. Andrea dear, what a rich and luscious tart. I HAVE to make this, hopefully tomorrow when I'm home for our Thanksgiving holiday.

    And, I love your whimsical wooden cookie mold. xoxo

  9. Oh my gosh Andrea, this looks wonderful. You've done such a great job of explain Speculoos. I only was familiar with the cookies but I'm so smitten with them. In fact I need a pair of blinders when I see them at the store to help resist buying them. They're definitely a favorite with us so I can imagine how much we'd enjoy this lovely tart!