Whether you spell it speculoos (French and Flemish) or speculaas (Dutch), it’s utterly delicious and absolutely perfect for Christmas!
Speculoos are spiced shortcrust biscuits associated with the feast of Sinterklaas (Saint Nicholas) in early December. Made from flour, brown sugar and butter with cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, ginger, cardamom and white pepper, they are a key taste of the Christmas season, though these days, they’re available all year round.
A few years ago, speculoos spread came into the market – all the familiar flavours of speculoos biscuits in a spreadable form. The texture is much like Nutella, the much-loved chocolate hazelnut spread; the best way to imagine the flavour, if you aren’t already familiar with speculoos biscuits, is caramel toffee with Christmas spices added.
Ever since I enjoyed my first layered crêpe cake back in 2004 (in a tiny husband-and-wife restaurant in Knysna, South Africa) I’ve been thinking about making one myself.
To make this recipe super quick and easy, I used ready-made Dutch pancakes from Abra-Ca-Debora and combined them with the jar of speculoos spread I brought back from our trip to Amsterdam earlier this year. To cut through the speculoos sweetness but not the richness, I added mascarpone.
The good news is that speculoos spread (known as Biscoff in North America) is now more readily available in the UK. Waitrose are currently stocking it, though it helps to know that they list it on their website as Lotus Biscuit Spread and the jars are labelled Caramelised Biscuit Spread, with no reference to speculoos.
The Dutch pancakes I used come in packs of 6 and can be kept in the fridge for a few weeks, or frozen to store them longer term. They’re thicker than French crêpes but thinner than American and Scottish ones; about 3 mm or thereabouts. Of course, you can make your own pancakes for this recipe, if you prefer.
In the approach to Christmas, even more than other times of the year, I’m on the look out for dishes that are quick and delicious but impressive too. I think this one definitely fits the bill. All you need for my Speculoos & Mascarpone Pancake Cake are ready-made sweet Dutch pancakes, a jar of speculoos spread, two tubs of fresh mascarpone and a little icing sugar.
Although it’ll take a little time to spread and layer the pancakes, it’s simple to do and the result is pretty magnificent!
Quick & Easy Speculoos & Mascarpone Pancake Cake
24 (4 packs) ready-made sweet Dutch pancakes
1 x 400 gram jar speculoos spread
500 grams fresh mascarpone
About 2 heaped tablespoons icing sugar, sieved
Beat the mascarpone vigorously with a fork to loosen, and then beat in about two heaped tablespoons of sieved icing sugar. The aim is to add only enough to remove the savoury edge from the mascarpone, but not enough to properly sweeten it, as the speculoos spread is very sweet.
The speculoos spread is too solid to spread onto the pancakes straight out of the jar so spoon some into a mixing bowl and beat vigorously with a fork to loosen. Repeat this as and when you need more speculoos spread.
Evenly spread a thin layer of speculoos spread over a pancake and transfer onto a large flat plate, spread-side up. I found it easiest to spread onto the paler side of the Abra-Ca-Deborah pancakes, as it was more evenly smooth.
On the next pancake, spread a layer of sweetened mascarpone, and place the pancake carefully on top of the previous one. Take care, as the speculoos spread is sticky, so it’s difficult to lift and re-lay the pancake if you place it incorrectly.
Repeat in alternating layers to build up the cake.
Top the finished stack with a plain pancake, prettiest side up. Eagle-eyed pancake-counters will realise that, as I finished with a mascarpone pancake topped by a plain one, I only used 23 pancakes, not 24! Yes, I ate one whilst working. 🙂
Before serving, sieve some icing sugar over the top.I cut out a star shape from paper and placed it on top before sprinkling but because it wasn’t flat to the pancake, when I lifted it away, the outline was fuzzy, so I gave up on the idea and filled in the space with more sugar. And don’t sprinkle the sugar in advance of serving, as it melts into the surface of the pancake and disappears, as we discovered after carrying the cake with us to a friend’s place!
Use a large sharp knife to cut into thin wedges to serve.The cake is very dense and rich (and delicious), so a small slice per person is plenty. We ate a quarter of it between four adults (after a generous dinner). The whole cake would feed 10-15 people, easily.
Pete’s driving was non-too gentle – not completely his fault, to be fair, as there were some real morons on the road that evening – so the top half of the cake had slid to one side during the journey. It wasn’t difficult to push and pull it back upright again, though it wasn’t quite as neat as before. If you want to transport it, it may be worth finding a cake tin of similar diameter, and placing it upside down over the pancake cake.
Do you think using ready-made pancakes is a cheat too far? What fillings would you choose for a pancake cake? And what are your favourite speculoos spread recipes?
Kavey Eats received a sample of pancakes from Abra-Ca-Deborah.