Speculoos Spiced Apple Cake

Lotus Biscuits are the only reason for being nice to your hairdresser.

I am joking, of course; they are not the only reason.  If you are not nice to your hairdresser, they will pretend to listen to you and understand that you definitely just want a trim. They will then get 'distracted', cut three inches off, then make out that this was what you told them that you wanted.

But back to Lotus biscuits.  These are the only brand of speculoos biscuits that you can widely buy in the UK and they are delicious.  In certain hairdressing chains, you get a single wrapped Lotus biscuit with your coffee.  You eat this, then ask for another one. Then, when the receptionist goes to get you another one, you call them back and tell them that they may as well just grab a handful of biscuits, as you are hypoglycemic and can't sit in one position for more than 15 minutes without going into a coma.

Speculoos biscuits are a lovely, short biscuit, from the Netherlands, that taste of spiced brown butter. A few months ago, I learned from I Heart Cupcakes that there is such a thing as speculoos spread, or paste. Which reminds me:

Other Biscuits I'd Like to See Turned Into a Spread
Caramel Tim Tams
Tunnock's Snowballs (I know it's not really a biscuit, but also: what is it, if it isn't a biscuit? It isn't a sweet, or a chocolate bar...)
That's it. I can't think of any other biscuit which would be improved in spread form.  Feel free to tell me otherwise.

So I searched for speculoos paste online. I found a chain of shops in London called Belgique, which stocks more than one brand and type of speculoos paste, as well as loads of Belgian beer and chocolate.

I bought two jars.  The 'crunchy' one got eaten straight from the jar over the course of a week.  The smooth one was used to make this cake.  The 'burnt butter' quality of the paste matches very nicely with apple.  I was very happy, as I started making this, to remember that last year, I bought a jar of koekkruidden from Steenberg's.  Koekkruidden is the spice blend used to make speculoos!  If you can't find any (though I'd recommend an online shop with Steenberg's as an excuse to get some), mixed spice will do.

Speculoos Spiced Apple Cake
(adapted from The Hummingbird Bakery's Nutty Apple Loaf recipe)

For the Cake
175g softened unsalted butter
140g soft light brown sugar
50g speculoos paste (1 really well-heaped tablespoon)
2 eggs
140g plain flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon koekkruidden, or mixed spice
75g roughly chopped pecans, plus extra for decoration
2 eating apples, peeled, cored and grated

For the Icing
75g unsalted butter, softened
75g light brown sugar
50g speculoos paste
165g cold cream cheese

You will also need a 1lb loaf tin, greased and floured.

1. Preheat the oven to 170c / Gas Mark 3. Using an electric mixer (freestanding or handheld), beat the butter, sugar until pale and fluffy, then beat in the speculoos paste.
2. Add the eggs one at a time, scraping down the batter in the bowl to make sure it all gets incorporated.
3. In a separate bowl, sift the flour, baking powder and spices then beat in the butter and sugar mixture. Stir the nuts, and apple into the batter until mixed in.
4. Pour into the prepared tin and smooth the surface with a palette knife. Bake for 50-60 minutes or until brown. A skewer should come out clean when the cake is done.
5. Allow to cool in the tin for ten minues, then turn out onto a wire cooling rack.

To make the icing, simply cream together the butter and sugar until fluffy, beat in the cream cheese then finally, the speculoos. Do not overbeat, or the cream cheese will become runny. Top the icing with the leftover pecan nuts.

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