I was first introduced to speculoos — also known as Biscoff or cookie butter — during a college summer internship. My predecessor had left an unopened jar of the stuff in my desk (I worked at a food magazine, so that’s not as weird as it sounds) which I unearthed one day while looking for Post-Its. With its bright red lid, brownish insides, and confusing picture of toast on the label, I was quick to judge. What the heck is this? I said, and held the jar aloft for the photo intern one cubicle over to see. She gasped. Eat that, she urged. With a spoon. Right now.
It looked like peanut butter, and I was a college student, which meant that peanut butter-with-a-spoon was a weight-bearing pillar in my food pyramid. I had no real qualms. I peeled back the plastic and took a giant scoop.
If you’ve had speculoos—a spread made from the spiced shortbread biscuits of the same name—you know the rest of the story. My eyes bulged out of my head. It was the most delicious thing I’d ever eaten from a jar, Nutella included, and the cardamom-nutmeg-gingery warmth was delightfully surprising. I spent the rest of the summer rationing scoops from my drawer each day to spread on the apples I brought in from home. When my spoon finally hit plastic at the container’s bottom in September, I felt like throwing a tiny wake.
Before you get to the bottom of your jar—which I know you will surely run out to buy—try mixing the spread into batter and calling it breakfast cake.
More: If you're an ambitious person, you can even make your own speculoos spread.
It’s moist, subtle, and ideal alongside a milky cup of coffee. It’s the kind of cake you can throw together on a Sunday night and leave under glass on the counter all week; the texture holds, the speckled powdered sugar top stays dreamy-looking, and you will still be cutting small squares for yourself every time you pass through the room deep into Thursday, if the cake lasts that long.
Makes one 8-inch square cake
1/2 cup milk
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/4 cup water
1/2 cup creamy speculoos spread (a.k.a. Biscoff a.k.a. cookie butter a.k.a. the stuff of dreams)
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup flour
1/2 scant cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
Confectioners' sugar, for serving
Photo by James Ransom