Dutch speculaaskruiden are an aromatic spice mix used for baking several types of Dutch biscuits and cakes, such as speculaas(jes), after which the spice mix is named (or is it the other way around?), kruidnoten and kruidkoek (though the later might also be made with a different blend of spices). Speculaaskruiden usually contain cinnamon, nutmeg, mace, ground ginger and cloves as a base, but the mix can additionally be flavoured with cardamom, (white) pepper, coriander seed, all-spice, aniseed, or caraway – all spices that did not become commonly available in The Netherlands and Europe until the 17th century.
Sadly, the history of how this spice mix became such an integral part of Dutch baking and cuisine is dark. In the 17th century, the Dutch set out to monopolise (meaning: steal) intercontinental spice trade and it is due to the establishment of the Dutch East India Company and the colonisation of Indonesia that Amsterdam eventually became a large ‘warehouse’ for Europe’s spices. As a consequence, the prices of spices such as nutmeg and clove, previously considered to be luxury items, started to drop in the Netherlands. It’s around this time that bakers started to experiment with making their own spice blends to flavour their biscuits and cakes, making such flavours more easily available to the public.
The exact recipes of those spice blends were often kept secret and every bakery ended up with their own more-or-less uniquely flavoured speculaasjes. Which explains why even nowadays most recipes for speculaaskruiden will also consist of different combinations of spices in varying quantities. Mine below is pretty heavy on the cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg, for example, but, of course, half the fun in making your own spice mix is that you can adjust the flavours according to your own liking!
Dutch Speculaas Spices / Speculaaskruiden (Spice Mix for Biscuits and Cakes)
- 8 parts ground cinnamon
- 2 parts ground cloves
- 2 parts ground nutmeg
- 1 part ground mace
- 1 part ground ginger
- 1 part ground cardamom
- 1/2 part ground coriander seed
- 1/2 part ground caraway seed, or aniseed
- 1/2 part white pepper