Belgium, has such a wonderful tradition to celebrate on the 6th of December, the Sint. Sinterklaas is a legendary figure based on Saint Nicholas, patron saint of the children. On his day, a feast erupts in most Dutch speaking countries offering presents to the children and countless sweets – mandarins, oranges, speculoos cookies, chocolate… Did I mention chocolate? Such a colourful and delightful occasion to be merry and most of all mark the start of the Christmas season. For me, it brings a sense of coziness and belonging, a reminder of the importance to be with family and friends. Time, to enjoy the sweet things in life. Yes, there is plenty of chocolate, but the real flavour of the feast is in the rich, indulgent scent of speculoos or gingerbread spices.
Traditionally, I would be baking speculoos cookies, but this year I am making something else instead. A Dutch gingerbread or as it is locally known speculoos cake filled with almonds. It is my first try and I am slightly nervous. The recipe however, seems to be ok. Make the spiced dough, press into a form, fill with almonds and roll the dough on top again. Nothing could go wrong, right? Just by opening my gingerbread spice tin box the kitchen is already saturated with a wonderful aroma. Like a genie coming from a bottle, the scent is impatient to join the party. I make the dough and the delicious smell is already hugging my very self – it is on my hands, my cloths, my hear. By the time the cake is in the oven, the scent transforms into something else – Christmas carols and promises of goodness, buttery sweet memories and a need for Christmas lights. Only 35 minutes in the oven and then the cake is left to rest. Rest, it most certainly does not. It fills the entire house with spices, it whispers to be seen, to be smelled, to be enjoyed. Once cooled, we finally dare to cut a slice – a perfect crisp golden-brown bake oozing of deliciousness and flavour and inside the heavenly softness of almonds and lemon. Three flavours, singing as one. We take a bite, we smile and delight in the knowledge that the Christmas season has finally began.
- 250 g self-rising flour
- 125 g dark caster sugar
- 2 tbsp gingerbread or speculaas spices
- ½ tsp of salt
- 150 g unsalted butter
- 2 medium eggs
- 190 g almond flour
- handful of white almonds for garnish
- handful of almond flakes for garnish
- 120 fine granulated sugar
- 1 lemon
1. Mix the self-rising flour with the caster sugar, gingerbread spices and the salt. Dice the cold butter and add. Split half of the eggs and add the protein. Keep the egg yolk behind. Knead with cool hands into a cohesive dough. Form a ball, wrap in cling film and let it rest for 1 hour in the refrigerator.
2. Preheat the oven to 170 ° C. Mix the almond flour and the granulated sugar. Scrub the lemon clean, grate the yellow zest and add it together with the second egg to the mixture.
3. Dust the work surface with some flour and roll out the dough with a rolling pin. Cover the baking tin with baking paper and then with the piece of dough. Mould and shape the dough to fit into the form. Cut the excess dough and form a ball. Spread the almond filling evenly over the dough in the mold. Roll out the rest of the dough into a disk the size of the mold and place on top. Press the and cut the extra dough from the edges.
4. Beat the egg yolk. Brush the top with the egg yolk using the baking brush. Push the rest of the almonds into the centre of the dough and sprinkle some almond flakes around the edges. Bake the gingerbread in the middle of the oven for 35 minutes. Take out of the oven and let cool on a rack.