68. Speculoos Kransekake Christmas Tree Cake – Norwegian Ring Cake

Vanilla Shortbread Kransekake recipe

Vanilla Shortbread Kransekake


Traditionally Kransekake (Norwegian Ring Cake) is eaten at Christmas or on special occasions.  It’s a stack of about 18 almond ring shaped biscuits held together with lashings of ornate royal icing.

Speculoos Kransekake

Speculoos Kransekake

Now as I can never leave a recipe alone I had to switch this up and make it even more festive with a (Speculoos Kransekake (recipe below) and Vanilla Shortbread Kransekake (recipe below) instead. The sweet spices blended together makes a moreish fragrant biscuit. I loved it so much I kept going and for Christmas day made an enormous shortbread version, which is closer in colour to the traditional almond version.

Although I’m straying from the Norwegian almond tradition my Speculoos and shortbread versions are much cheaper to make and meant I didn’t have to make another trip to the shop for expensive ground almonds. You can buy Speculoos spice already mixed but I enjoy grinding and blending my own fresh spices for an extra punch.

I always have an abundance of spices in my cupboard so this is a perfect Christmas bake for me. And as we just put our tree up. The combination of  pine needles and freshly baked Speculoos floating through our house is like a piece of Christmas Heaven.

The Kransekake is baked in a special set of tins, called Kransekake pans. I couldn’t get my head around how it would all fit together so ploughed on rolling out on the work top as many long Speculoos sausages by hand to press into the tin as i could eek out of the dough. You can make this without the special tin, if you feel like shaping the circles yourself and bake them directly on a baking sheet instead, but the tin makes it a bit easier. Each tin holds 3 biscuit rings.

Roll the dough into smooth sausages and place carefully in to the pans. Press the ends together to seal the ring.

Roll the dough into smooth sausages and place carefully in to the pans. Press the ends together to seal the ring.

The dough is a little crumbly and took a bit of perseverance to roll it long enough to fill the larger rings, but it’s worth the effort. It’s best to make thin sausages to get more out of your dough and also the dough puffs up as it bakes. If the rings are too thick they will merge, making it difficult to get them out of the tins and also leaving you with rough dishevelled edges.

Kransekake pans hot from the oven

Kransekake pans hot from the oven

In hindsight I should have doubled the dough recipe as I ran out so had to make do with 11 rings rather than 18. This meant that the rings didn’t quite taper off in size as they should and I had to employ some clever royal icing layering to get the rings to fit together.  So don’t look too closely at my piping skills please! (I’ve doubled the recipe for you at the bottom of this page so you’re good to go!)

Glue the rings together with a good slick of royal icing

Glue the rings together (starting with the largest ring on the bottom!) with a good slick of royal icing

I also probably should have decided on my piping pattern before launching headlong into the design on the kransekake. But I got a bit carried away as per usual and ad libbed. I think my favourite pattern is the zig zags as I wanted to make it look like a Christmas tree. I love the contrast of the stark white snow icing against the brown Speculoos hues.

I got a bit carried away with the icing patterns... zig zags, stripes, and polka dots

I got a bit carried away with the icing patterns… zig zags, stripes, and polka dots

My original plan was to use white chocolate to fuse the rings together to add to the decadence of the bake, however I forgot to buy any, so royal icing it had to be. Having only used royal icing to glue together the tiers of my wedding cake before (when I used the pre mixed merriwhite powder available from cake decorating shops) I wanted to try powdered egg whites to avoid using raw egg whites to bind the icing together. It worked really well, so well in fact I went on to ice a gingerbread house and my goddaughter’s christening biscuits with it too. (I used sachets of Dr Oekters powdered egg whites so pregnant ladies and children can eat as much icing as they like without the worry of salmonella.)

I also think dark chocolate icing would be stunning against the spiced biscuit. perhaps dusted with a little gold lustre powder/spray for extra festiveness.

When I made Speculoos last time I made a soft dough so it could be piped in shapes directly onto the baking sheet. This dough needed to be firm and malleable so it would hold it’s shape and support it’s own weight. I didn’t add any liquid to this dough and left out the treacle to make sure it wouldn’t spread too much during baking. Although a little treacle might help to roll it out as it is quite a dry dough and had a tendency to crumble when molding it.

To add to the depth of flavour and darkness of the biscuit I used a combination of light and brown sugars.  Feel free to use your preferred sugar to reach the colour biscuit you prefer.

Things I used to make Speculoos Kransekake

Speculoos Spice Blend

  • 4 TBS ground cassia (or cinnamon if you can’t get cassia)
  • 4 TSP ground ginger
  • 8 cardamom pods (discard the pods and grind the seeds)
  • 2 star anise (grind the seeds only)
  • 1/2 TSP white pepper
  • 1/2 TSP pink Himalayan salt (or any salt will do)
  • 1/2 TSP black pepper
  • 6 cloves (ground)
  • 1/2 TSP nutmeg

Speculoos Dough

This is double the quantity from my previous version of Speculoos biscuits so it should be enough to make 18 rings!

  • 220g butter
  • 400g light brown sugar
  • 100g dark brown sugar
  1. Beat the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. Bearing in mind you’re using brown sugars so the colour change won’t be as dramatic as when using white sugar. It looks more like a big lump of soft sugar…
Beaten brown sugars and butter

Beaten brown sugars and butter

2. Then beat the rest of the dry ingredients and speculoos spice mix in until it comes together into a ball. It is a slightly dry crumbly dough so it will take some work to bring it together.

  • 600g plain flour
  • 1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 2 eggs
  • splash of almond extract
  • splash of vanilla extract
Slightly crumbly spicey speculoos biscuit dough

Slightly crumbly spicey speculoos biscuit dough

3. Chill in the fridge for an hour.

4. Roll the dough into 18 smooth sausages and arrange in the greased kransekake tins. Gently pressing the ends of the sausages together to seal the rings. If you have any dough left over you may want to cut a little star out and bake to adorn the top of your stack.

5. Bake for 10 -12 minutes at 190 degrees c until slightly puffed up and firm to touch.

6. While the biscuits are baking beat together the royal icing as described below.

7. Allow the biscuits to cool in the tin before coaxing gently out of the tin. You may need to separate some rings that have merged as they bake with a knife.

8. Starting with the biggest ring on the bottom apply a thin line of royal icing to the underside of each ring, gluing it in place. Stack the rings one on top of the other working your way from the largest to the the smallest ring.

Glue the rings together with a good slick of royal icing

Glue the rings together with a good slick of royal icing

9. Once the full stack is glued together and fully assembled take a deep breath and with a steady hand and fine nozzle on your piping bag slowly pipe your chosen design directly onto the rings. Maybe throw some (edible) glitter on it as you go for extra pazzaz.

10. Stand back and admire your creativity.

11. If you can bear to eat your creation depending on how many people it needs to feed… You can either pull a ring off the stack with a knife or cut straight into it with a sharp knife.

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Things I used to make Vanilla Shortbread Kransekake

  • 250g butter
  • 110g sugar
  • 360g plain flour
  • splash of vanilla extract

1. Beat the sugar and butter together until light and fluffy.

2. Beat in the flour and vanilla until the dough comes together into a shiny ball.

3. Roll into 18 thin sausages and arrange in the greased kransekake tins as before. Gently press the ends of the sausages together to seal the ends.

4. Bake in the oven at for 15 – 20 minutes at 190 degrees c until slightly golden brown. (Keep an eye as you don’t want the biscuits to take on too much colour as they will look burnt and be dry.
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Royal Icing recipe

  • 250g icing sugar
  • 5g powdered egg white (one sachet of Dr Oekter’s powdered egg white)
  • 45 ml of cold water

*optional* you can add food colouring at this stage if you like but be gel or powdered colour would be best so it doesn’t add to much liquid. If using liquid colouring supplement some of the water with food colouring instead.

1. Beat the sugar powdered egg white and and water together for about 5 minutes on medium speed and then increase to high for 4- 5 minutes. The icing will be glossy and thick. If it is too wet or runny it will not set or be strong enough to support the weight of the kransekake.

Thick royal icing

Thick royal icing

2. Scoop your icing into and icing bag with a fine nozzle for piping your decoration. It’s handy to sit your piping bag inside a tall glass for this job to support the bag.

3. If using a plastic icing bag don’t forget to cut the end off the bag when you’re ready to start icing.

4. Put the largest Kransekake ring onto your plate/cakeboard first. Apply a thin layer (or pipe a ring) of royal icing on the under side of the biscuit to hold it in place on the board.

5. Pipe another ring of icing on to the top side of the biscuit so the next layer will stick to it. Repeat until you have assembled all of the biscuits in a tower, from the largest to the smallest. Don’t worry if any of the ring have break! You can sneakily glue them back together with a little icing. Once you stick the next ring on top no one will notice!

6. Apply even pressure to the bag with your hand and keep the nozzle about 1-2cm away from the biscuit. Squeeze the bag gently and with a steady hand pipe your chosen pattern directly on to the assembled Kransekake.

7. Whilst the icing it still wet sprinkle with a little edible glitter.

8. Allow the icing to harden and the Kransekake will become very sturdy and easier to transport. The biscuits will start to soften after a couple of days so cover it with tin foil if you’re making it in advance.

9. Impress all of your friends and family with the great reveal of your Kransekake. I liked using mine as a Christmas table centre piece before inviting everyone to removing a ring at a time to eat.

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58. Spectacular Speculoos

Spectacular Speculoos recipe

Who hasn’t tried Speculoos biscuits?? Anyone?? These little beauties are often found sitting on the edge of your saucer in coffee shops and are a Dutch favourite. They’re crisp, carmelly, sweet and spicy.  Perfect for festive celebrations.  I’ve looked high and lo for the perfect Speculoos recipe and then decided to create my own. It’s very quick to make too!

Beat everything together

Beat everything together – very spicy!

All that’s required is a vigorous beating together of the butter, sugar, an egg, treacle, water, flour and copious amounts of spices (I’m always liberal with my spices) then it’s good to go. Speculoos spread is legendary in foodie circles too. I’ve even managed to incorporate it into my lazy Crack Pie too…

I finally get to try out my biscuit gun

I finally get to try out my biscuit gun

Traditional Dutch Speculoos are usually rolled out and imprinted with pretty patterns and designs. I don’t own anything pretty to imprint them with so I finally got to try out my biscuit gun! Which promises over 100 different designs… considering I bought it for £2 I was’t convinced it was going to work. Oh ye of little faith.

It needs to be a rather liquid batter to get it in the gun...

It needs to be a rather liquid batter to get it in the gun…

I knew that the traditional Speculoos recipe wouldn’t be suitable for use with a biscuit gun as the dough would be to thick to pipe through the patterned nozzles. I did what I always do and modified my recipe to my heart’s content. Adding treacle until I got the shiny, thick, gloopy texture I was hoping for.

Piped speculoos biscuits

Piped speculoos biscuits

The tricky bit is working out how to force the dough/batter into the biscuit gun. I squashed it in with a spoon and had to refill regularly as there isn’t much space in the barrel, but this gave me the opportunity to try out a few different nozzles. I quite liked the star and flowers shapes. Once the dough is in the barrel you just press down on the level and force the dough out the end onto a greased and lined baking sheet. As the dough is a bit sticky it can be a tad awkward to cut off the dough so you can pipe a new biscuit… hence some of the more ‘interesting’ shapes I produced. Occasionally I resorted to chopping the dough from the nozzle with a knife, pushing the gun into the dough and pulling it away again quickly or twisting the  gun until the dough broke naturally.

Refrigerate your piped biscuits

Refrigerate your piped biscuits

Once you’ve experimented with a variety of patterns and piped the entire contents of your dough onto baking sheets, pop them in the fridge to harden for about 15 minutes. This means that the biscuits will hold their shape whilst baking, as the butter will be less likely to melt and spread.

The baked speculoos biscuits

The baked speculoos biscuits

Don’t worry if you don’t have a biscuit gun, I also experimented with using a normal piping bag and star shaped nozzle which also worked rather well to make pretty swirls (even if I do say so myself). Or if you can’t be bothered with messing around making them look pretty and simply want to fill your mouth with speculoos goodness you could just use a spoon and whack a dollop of the mixture on the tray. Alternatively you could chill the dough/batter in the fridge so it’s much firmer (maybe overnight if needs be) and roll it out like you would normally with biscuits and cut them out with your favourite cutter. OR if that’s not enough options roll the chilled batter into a sausage, chill it in the fridge wrapped in cling film and then simply chop it into discs. Simple round biscuits with very little fuss or tidying up afterwards!

Teeny tiny speculoos

Teeny tiny speculoos

This recipe was enough to make at least 12-16 large biscuits and a multitude of mini speculoos biscuits too. (Sorry I shovelled them into my face so fast I didn’t get a chance to count how many I actually produced!)

Speculoos selection

Speculoos selection

I absolutely love these speculoos biscuits. The thicker the biscuit the more chewy they are. The blend of spices is full and comforting, which the added sweetness of the treacle makes it my perfect winter bake.  In my haste to create Speculoos, I seem to have almost stumbled onto my own lebkuchen hybrid. The biscuits have a crispy sugar coating (without the need for any icing) and a chewy rich centre. Even the mini speculoos have a great snap and chew to them.  Speculoos biscuits freeze extremely well too so you can reveal wonderfully festive biscuits at any time of the day or night when friends or family call round.

Spectacular Speculoos

Tme for tea – Spectacular Speculoos

I plan on making my spectacular speculoos again very soon. Maybe for bonfire night and also when I perfect the recipe for rolling, I’m going to make speculoos baubles to adorn my Christmas tree with!

One speculoos or two?

One speculoos or two?

Things I used to make Spectacular Speculoos Biscuits

Prep: less than 10 minutes (if you have ground spices to hand , it will take a bit longer if you’re grinding them yourself)

Chill time: 15 -30 minutes

Bake time: 10-12 minutes

Makes: lots of spectular speculoos! (Approx 20 biscuits- more if you make mini ones too)

  • 110g margarine (is you want to use a biscuit gun marg will help!) or butter (if you want to roll them out)
  • 250g caster sugar
  • 2 tbs cinnamon
  • 1tsp ginger
  • 1/4 tsp cardamom
  • 1/4 tsp ground cassis bark (optional)
  • 1/4 tsp ground star anise
  • 1/4 tsp rock salt
  • 1/4 tsp white pepper
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp bicarbonate of soda

Beat it all together until fluffy then beat it

  • 1 egg
  • 1 dessertspoon black treacle (molasses)
  • 1and a half tsp vanilla paste/extract
  • 300g plain flour

Pipe biscuits and refrigerate for 15 -30 minutes or chill dough then roll and cut biscuits out

Place on greased and lined tray and bake at 190 degrees c for 10- 12 minutes until firm to touch

Let them cool (if you can!) and eat with a proper cup of tea.

They will keep in the freezer for a good month or so too if you want to save some for a rainy day,

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