The first time I ever encountered speculoos cookies, at a random potluck years ago, I thought that they were disgusting. I had heard so much about how awesome these cookies were from my in-the-know Dutch friends, but, disappointingly, the homemade versions that someone had left on the table were horribly over seasoned and tasted like a shovelful of dry curry powder and ground ginger being forced down my throat. Blech!
Thankfully, my friends later assured me that speculoos were by no means meant to taste that way and that they were indeed very good, so when Trader Joe's started selling speculoos spread this past Christmastime, I very hesitantly put a jar into my shopping basket to take home to try. Plus, how could I resist something labeled and marketed as "cookie butter"?!
To my delight, my second experience with speculoos unfolded much differently from the first: speculoos spread aka cookie butter, it turns out, is delicious. It's like eating cookies in the form of ultra-smooth peanut butter. Joe Black would undoubtedly have appreciated a spoonful of speculoos over a spoonful of peanut butter if he'd known about it, omgdoyourememberthatmovie. Of course, leave it to the Dutch to come up with something like cookie butter, you know, to accompany the chocolate sprinkles they eat on their toast in the morning. Forget fruit loops, this is how you do desserts for breakfast!
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Now, as much as I appreciate spreadable cookies, I decided it wasn't a very good idea for me to have an entire jar of it lying around in my cupboards (you know, dessert bloggers have to try to eat healthily every now and then, too!), so I thought I'd try using it up in a lemon speculoos layer cake, with dark chocolate sprinkles that my friend now studying abroad in the Netherlands brought back for me. The result of the combination of lemon and speculoos is bright and sweet, extra creamy with the addition of cream cheese in the frosting, a bit dense from the whole wheat flour in the cake, and punctuated by tiny nuggets of dark chocolate. It's a simple, no frills cake, perfect for an unassuming afternoon of tea-sipping-- or for breakfast, in what I suppose is befitting of the Dutch spirit (I won't tell, promise!).
For those of you in the US hoping to find speculoos spread at Trader Joe's, my local branch informs me that they are currently out of stock until the end of February. But, the good news is that (so the manager told me) the cookie butter isn't a seasonal item, so you won't have to wait until next Christmas to get your hands on some.
Read on for recipe....
Lemon Speculoos Layer Cake with Chocolate Sprinkles
makes one 6-inch, 3 layer cake
for lemon cake:
1 1/4 cups + 2 Tbspn (192.5 gr) whole wheat pastry flour
1 tspn baking powder
1/8 tspn salt
1 stick (8 Tbspn) butter, at room temperature
1 cup (200 gr) sugar
1 tspn fresh lemon zest
2 eggs, at room temperature
1/4 cup + 2 Tbspn whole milk
2 Tbspn freshly squeezed lemon juice
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and flour three 6 x 2 inch round cake pans, line the bottoms with parchment rounds and grease again. If desired, line the cake pans with bake-even strips. Set aside.
2. In a bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.
3. In a mixer bowl, cream the butter, sugar, and lemon zest together until light and fluffy, about 2-3 minutes on medium.
4. Add the eggs to the creamed butter one at a time, beating well after each addition.
5. Add the flour in three additions, alternating each with milk and lemon juice.
6. Pour the batter into the prepared cake pans. Bake for 35-40 minutes until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cakes come out cleanly. Remove from the oven and let cool on a wire rack for 15 minutes before turning out of the pans and cooling completely.
for speculoos frosting:
1 1/2 sticks (12 Tbpsn) butter, at room temperature
1 cup speculoos spread
3 cups sifted powdered sugar
6 oz. cream cheese, cold
dark chocolate sprinkles
1. Beat the butter until light and fluffy, about 2-3 minutes.
2. Add the speculoos spread and beat until well-combined.
3. Gradually beat in the sifted powdered sugar.
4. Gradually add small chunks of the cold cream cheese, beating well after each addition.
5. Frost cake, adding chocolate sprinkles between each layer and on top.
Note: I've been told that the Trader Joe's version of speculoos spread is less sweet that the versions available in Europe, so this frosting was just the right sweetness for me. If you happen to try out this recipe with non-TJ's speculoos, I'd be very curious to know what you think. To kick up the sophistication a bit more, you could also sprinkle the frosting with a small pinch of flaked sea salt.
Cake recipe is loosely adapted from Magnolia Bakery.