Skip to content

Speculaas & Sinterklaas

December 6, 2009

Speculaas Shop in Antwerp City Centre

 This was a group effort Mickey wrote the story, Niki took the Speculaas Shop photos and Mary made the Speculaas Cookies – stick to it – the recipe IS at the end.  

In Belgium we have Sint Nikolaas and the Feast of Sinterklaas which starts today, December 6th. Here is an excerpt From The Story of Sinterklaas:  

All Dutch children know that Sinterklaas (the name is a corruption of “Sint Nikolaas”) lives in Spain. Exactly why he does remains a mystery, but that is what all the old songs and nursery rhymes say. Whatever the case may be, in Spain he spends most of the year recording the behaviour of all children in a big red book, while his helper Black Peter stocks up on presents for next December 5th. In the first weeks of November, Sinterklaas gets on his white horse, Peter (“Piet”) swings a huge sack full of gifts over his shoulder, and the three of them board a steamship headed for the Netherlands.  


Speculaas Shop Window

Around mid-November they arrive in a harbour town – a different one every year – where they are formally greeted by the Mayor and a delegation of citizens. Their parade through town is watched live on television by the whole country and marks the beginning of the “Sinterklaas season”. The old bishop and his helpmate are suddenly everywhere at once. At night they ride across Holland’s’ rooftops and Sinterklaas listens through the chimneys to check on the children’s behaviour. Piet jumps down the chimney flues and makes sure that the carrot or hay the children have left for the horse in their shoes by the fireplace is exchanged for a small gift or some candy.  


Speculaas cookie close up to read their names and see those prices in Euros.

During the day, Sinterklaas and Piet are even busier, visiting schools, hospitals, department stores, restaurants, offices and many private homes. Piet rings door bells, scatters sweets through the slightly opened doors and leaves basketfuls of presents by the front door. How do they manage to be all over the Netherlands at once? This is thanks to the so-called “hulp-Sinterklazen”, or Sinterklaas helpers, who dress up like the bishop and Black Peter and help them perform their duties. Children who become wise to these simultaneous “Sint-sightings” are told that since Sinterklaas cannot indeed be in two places at once, he gets a little help from his uncanonized friends. 

Homemade Speculaas

So, we see some similarities and differences between our Santa and Sint Nikolaas. Santa rides in a sleigh pulled by reindeer, Sint Nikolaas rides in a boat and then he rides a mighty white steed. Both keep track of naughty kids and good kids. Santa lives at the north pole, Sint Nikolaas lives in Spain (where else would he live?) Santa has elves, Sint Nikolaas appears to have a slave. How lovely, holiday traditions promoting racism. That’s what Christmas is all about! People here swear the helper is not a slave, he is black from going down the chimney. The good folks at wikipedia disagree. : 

Happy Sinterklaas, the season of clemetines, speculaas, chocolate, gluhwein and lighthearted racist iconography. 


Wooden Speculaas Molds Patty bought in Belgium circa 1970



this recipe may seem to have a lot of flour – and it does in order to keep it from sticking to the wood cookie mold.  You CAN add less flour without harming the outcome.  If you don’t have a mold you can also roll these out and cut them in rectangles.  One more note – these made four of the cookie molds – 17″ in length! – you may want to start with a half recipe.  


In mixer cream together  

     1 Cup Butter  

     3 Cups DARK Brown Sugar – no exceptions!<p   

     2 Eggs 

     3 Tbsp Cinnamon 

     1 Tbsp Ginger  

     1 1/2 tsp Cloves  

     1 tsp Baking Powder 

     1 tsp Salt 


Slowly add in  

     2 Cups Four  


Remove from mixer – pour dough on counter and BY HAND knead in one cup AT A TIME until it becomes nice and brown and pliable: 

      4 MORE Cups Flour 

Roll out onto floured surface and cut rectangular or with cookie cutters. 

Bake at 375 until good and done – CRISPY IS KEY! Time varies to size of cut-out start at 8 minutes and go from there. 

Rolling dough onto mold

Trimming the cookie before baking.

27 Comments leave one →
  1. Niki permalink
    December 6, 2009 7:12 am

    Looks Delicious! Nice work on those speculaas cookies, Mary! I had some Sinterklaas nostalgia myself last night, only this time I was on the other side, putting stuff ready for Bob and Helga’s kids. I could already imagine the smile on their faces this morning when they saw all the toys, chocolotes, speculaas and clementines. It brought back the feeling from when I was a little kid.

    Love your post!

    ps: zwarte piet really is black from going down the chimney

    • foododelmundo permalink*
      December 6, 2009 1:04 pm

      Thanks Niki! AND Thank YOU for the wonderful photos!

  2. December 6, 2009 1:08 pm

    Nothing says Happy Holidays like racism. Great story, great photos, and WOW! on the big ol’ cookies. What do they taste like? Gingerbread?

    Plus, I have to agree with Sinterklaas choosing Spain as his residence. So much wiser than living at the North Pole (or in Minnesota, for that matter).

  3. pat permalink
    December 6, 2009 2:52 pm

    This project was SO MUCH FUN!!! That’s probably because Mary did all the work! Fred and I have been munching away at the practice cookies. They’re delicious! Wonderful with a cup of tea in the afternoon.

    GREAT story Niki!!! Such fun to hear the traditions of another country! When we lived in Belgium we put out the kids wooden shoes (we called them clompers)and they got filled with candy on St. Nicholas Day morning……so Sinterklaas remembers even the American kids! See, no prejudice in Belgium…and no recism either, I’m sure.

  4. pat permalink
    December 6, 2009 2:53 pm

    er, that would be racism…..

  5. pat permalink
    December 6, 2009 2:54 pm

    I LOVE this post, Mary!!!

  6. December 6, 2009 8:53 pm

    Great project and thanks for sharing the story (and the controversy). Ah, Sinterklaas and the lump of coal….

  7. December 6, 2009 10:22 pm

    amazing art work awesome

  8. December 7, 2009 1:18 am

    That is so awesome. Hmmm, maybe I have some available pattern in this house.

  9. tastyeatsathome permalink
    December 7, 2009 9:38 am

    I love those molds. So pretty. And to make this recipe takes some talent! Good job!

  10. December 7, 2009 10:07 am

    I first learned about speculaas a few years ago from a show on the food channel. The molds are amazing, and I’ve actually met a few people recently who collect the molds (which are not easy to find here in Texas). What a beautiful way to celebrate the holidays. I hope they gain popularity here in the U.S.!

  11. December 7, 2009 6:33 pm

    mmm…speculaas. Lekker!Hebben jullie ook pepernoten?

  12. December 7, 2009 9:34 pm

    so cool! i love learning about the celebrations of other cultures, even if it’s just a moderation on a well known holiday many cultures share. i would love to try making this recipe…now to get my hands on some molds…

  13. December 8, 2009 6:04 am

    First of all, Thank you so much for voting for me. I totally appreciate it.
    YOu know how much I enjoy your recipes and website. Thank you!

  14. Linda permalink
    December 8, 2009 11:00 am

    It is fantastic how you enjoy our traditions. It is indeed a magical time! Congragulations with the speculoos!

    • foododelmundo permalink*
      December 8, 2009 2:48 pm

      Thanks Linda!
      Everyone meet Linda – Niki’s mom and our home away from home mom!
      Speculoos – Speculaas – that is the question – Niki PROMISED me it was SpeculAAS – but I’ve seen both!

    • pat permalink
      December 8, 2009 11:26 pm

      Hi Linda,
      Thanks for looking after my wild ones while they’re in Belgium! I’ve heard some wonderful things about your hospitality and your cooking!

  15. Niki permalink
    December 8, 2009 3:27 pm

    Looked it up on Wikipedia and the correct Dutch word is speculAAs. In Belgium it is also called speculoos sometimes but that would be more like a dialect. It sure is delicious!

    Sinterklaas is so much fun! I’m 26 years old (or should I say young ;o)) and the Sint (that’s the short version of his name) still brings me chocolate! I must have been good this year! 🙂

    @ Laura: are you dutch yourself? It is great to see some dutch on this post! We do have pepernoten but that’s more common for the Netherlands. Also pretty tasty!

  16. December 8, 2009 3:50 pm

    Hey Ivy! i’m from Romania but i live in Holland. Two months ago i’ve been in Antwerpen (in the haven with our ship)

    @about speculaas..i thought dat speculaas is made with sugar and speculoos without. Or is that the same?

  17. December 8, 2009 5:08 pm

    Those molds are so cool! I would love to get my hands on some 😀

  18. December 9, 2009 10:51 pm

    Definately speculAAs! I grew up in a Dutch bakery. Your speculaas looks wonderful. I have a batch right now sitting in my fridge. As soon as I can get my hands on a mold (my sister has one that my father used in the bakery), I’ll post my recipe and we can compare.

  19. December 14, 2009 8:21 am

    Whoo.. living in the Netherlands I surely had my share of speculaas this year! 😉 To top it off, we stocked up on speculaas & kruidnoten (the tiny ones) AFTER the celebration of sinterklaas, when everything was 50% off.

    We don’t really associate it with the party, since we don’t celebrate it anyway.. (which makes a GREAT excuse to eat speculaas all year long, *lol*)

    We just can’t condone the black slaves he brings each year.. and people that start about Pete being black from the chimneys.. puh-lease.. why is his suit brand sparkling clean, yet is face all black? Ohh.. and ehmm.. why does he come from Spain black? He didn’t wash all year? And the big afro.. the earrings.. the red lips.. funny accent? Hahaha.. ok, I rest my case 😉

    Greetings from the netherlands!

  20. Daphne permalink
    February 18, 2010 7:23 pm

    Wonderful story, I was looking for the recipe for speculaas and here you are. thanks so much. I have not had these cookies in about 16 years, that is how long ago I moved to America from West Vlaanderen.
    And also my mom always said that zwarte piet is black from the chimney. Makes sense to me… How come santa never gets dirty?

  21. Niki permalink
    February 19, 2010 3:07 am

    That’s a good question… But does he climb through the chimney as well? He seems a little ‘big’ for doing that 🙂 Anyway, you don’t have to think about it too much, just believe what you believe in!


  1. French Fridays with Dorie: Speculoos Cookies … and Speculoos Biscotti! | Good Bite In
  2. Biscuits for the Bishop of Ely - the loaf blog

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: