If Nutella is crack, then speculoos cookie butter must be krokodil.
“Speculoos” doesn’t have the most appetizing name to English-speaking ears, but don’t let that stop you from trying what may be the one of the world’s best wintertime sweet snack. A traditional shortcrust biscuit popular in the Netherlands, Belgium, and Germany, this spiced cookie is a less overpowering cousin to the gingersnap, but is also zingier than any animal cracker. It also provides the perfect crunch. As a creamy spread, it rivals peanut butter for texture and flavor.
A few years ago I dreamed up the perfect holiday showstopper dessert: an all-speculoos cheesecake on a foundation of crushed speculoos cookies, filled with a cookie butter cheesecake swirl, topped by a thin layer of vanilla bean mousse, and decorated with butterscotch crumbles made with more cookie butter.
But I could never find such a recipe.
This year, after many consecutive Decembers of making this tried-and-true holiday confectionery delight, I finally decided to roll up my sleeves and invent my own. Having never made a cheesecake before, I researched the best ingredients and methods around. And what came out was astonishingly decadent.
I’ll be honest, it was a time-consuming process. But those who attended my holiday potluck this year said it was one of the best cheesecakes they’ve ever had. I promise, it will all be worth it.
- One package speculoos cookies (Trader Joe’s or Lotus brand work)
- 1/2 stick butter
- 2 cups whipped cream cheese, room temperature
- 2 sticks butter, room temperature
- 1 cup white sugar
- 1 cup sour cream, room temperature
- 2 TB corn starch
- 2 TSP vanilla extract
- 2/3 jar of cookie butter (Trader Joe’s or Lotus brand work)
- 2/3 cup heavy whipping cream
- 1/2 cup cream cheese
- 4 TB powdered sugar
- 1 vanilla bean pod, scraped
- 2 TB butter
- 1/2 cup brown sugar
- 1/3 cup heavy whipping cream
- Remaining cookie butter from jar
- 1 pinch salt
Lay out your diary ingredients ahead of time to let them hit room temperature. If they’re too cold, they won’t blend well in the mixer.
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. In the food processor, crush up the entire package of cookies along with the half stick of butter: the texture should be very sandy. Remove the crumbles and press into the bottom of a tightly-secure spring form pan until evenly spread. Bake in the oven for about 9 minutes, then remove and allow to cool on a baking rack.
Turn the oven down to 320 degrees Fahrenheit. In your mixer, beat the cream cheese, butter, and sugar until fluffy and smooth (try to get out as many lumps as possible.) Add the sour cream, corn starch, and vanilla extract, and continue to blend until the batter is creamy and loose. Pour half the mix into another bowl and set aside. With the remaining filling, whip in 2/3 of the jar of cookie butter until it is well-combined and a nice tan color compared to the other half of the cheesecake mix. Pour both fillings into the cooled spring form pan and use a skewer or a chop stick to swirl the batters. Smooth out the top.
Prepare a water bath for the cake pan by placing the spring form into a larger pan, and then placing that larger pan into a deep roasting pan. Pour water halfway up the side of the buffer pan. The purpose of the buffer pan is to allow the cheesecake to bake evenly while also making sure that water doesn’t leak into the spring form and make the crust soggy and gelatinous. Just placing foil around the spring form will not work.
Bake the cheesecake for an hour. It will still be jiggly when you remove it – this is normal. Place in the fridge to chill overnight or for several hours before serving. Add the cleaned mixing bowl to the fridge as well – you will want it to be cold before making the mousse.
The mousse should be added to the cheesecake right before serving, but feel free to make it ahead of time. In the chilled mixing bowl, whip up 2/3 cup of heavy cream until it forms soft peaks, then slowly blend in the powdered sugar. Add the cream cheese and scraped vanilla beans until the mousse is thick and creamy. Keep the mixture refrigerated until ready to spread over the cake.
To prepare the butterscotch cookie butter crumble, melt two TB of butter in a small saucepan over medium heat. Add in 1/3 cup brown sugar and 1/3 cup cream and stir continuously until you’ve formed a caramel-like consistency and color. (Do not let it burn!) Add in the remaining jar of cookie butter and stir it vigorously until thickened. Take it off the heat and let it cool. The consistency should be soft and fudgy, and at room temperature it will begin to crystalize. Use a wooden spoon to break it up into sandy crumbles.
When you’re ready to serve, remove the cheesecake from the fridge and spread on the thin layer of mousse. Evenly pour the butterscotch crumbles over the top until you cannot see any white. Remove the spring form sides and slice with a non-serrated knife.
Die from happiness.