Traditional European St. Nicholas Cakes & Desserts

Miter Cake
St. Nicholas Miter Cake, Sint-Brass CD Cover St Nicholas Center Collection
Banket or Letterbanket (Dutch Almond Pastry)
St. Nicholas Pudding (English)
Tarte Normande Saint-Nicolas (French St. Nicholas Apple Tart)
St. Nikolastag Nusskuchen (German St. Nicholas Day Nut Cake)
Boterkoek (Dutch Almond Butter Cake)
St. Nicolaas Koek (Dutch Spice Squares)
Kruidnoten Cake (Tea cake with Kruidnoten) 
Fig & Apricot Orange Cake (Greek Fruit Cake)
Sinterklaas Vla (Dutch Custard Pudding)
Rice with Dried Fruit (Bulgarian)
Gevulde Speculaas (Dutch filled speculaas)

Other St. Nicholas Cakes & Desserts

Banket or Letterbanket (Dutch Almond Pastry)

Letterbanket - banket letters

This delicious pastry is often made for St Nicholas Day. It is also good at Christmas or any time! This version may be made in the food processor.

On the day before baking prepare both the crust and almond filling.


4 cups flour
1 lb good margarine (very cold or frozen)
7/8–1 cup ice water

With metal blade in place, add flour and margarine, cut into 1" pieces. Process 10 seconds or until margarine is in pieces no larger than peas. With processor running, pour ice water through feed tube in a steady stream. Stop processing as soon as dough begins to form a ball. Do not add more water than necessary. Chill over night. If you don't want to use a food processor, mix like pie crust.


1 lb. almond paste
2 large eggs
1 cup sugar

With metal blade in place, break up almond paste and add eggs. Process until beginning to blend. Add sugar; process until blended. Chill over night. If you are not using a food processor, combine almond paste and eggs; add sugar until well mixed.


Banket Letter
Banket Letter "S" for Sint
Order fromJaarsma's Bakery, Pella, Iowa

Divide crust dough into eight equal pieces. Roll piece into rectangle 9" long (it will be about 3" wide). Fold each end over the middle third, so that the piece is about 3" square. Turn it so the folded edges are on the left and right in front of you. Then roll into a rectangle 4" x 15", (the folded edges make it easy to have nice straight sides).

Divide filling into 8 equal pieces. On waxed paper, sprinkled with a little flour, roll with your hands into a snake 15" long.

Place roll of filling on prepared piece of crust, fold first one side and then the other so they overlap (making a double thickness of crust). Seal ends. Place on baking sheet with the overlapped side down. Brush top with slightly beaten egg white. Score top diagonally every inch using a sharp knife. Repeat with other seven pieces. Bake 450º for 15–20 minutes. (I bake four sticks while preparing the other four for baking.) Makes 8 sticks. They freeze well.

To make Letterbanket, divide into 8 equal pieces as for making sticks. When rolling the pastry to fold over, keep it narrower so the finished piece comes out between 3-4 inches. Fold crust pieces, overlapping the same way. Put on baking sheet and form into desired letter shape. Pierce the crust rather than scoring it. —Carol Myers

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St. Nicholas Pudding

St. Nicholas Pudding
St. Nicholas Pudding

A typical English pudding, subtly flavored with orange.


½ cup (125 g) butter
½ cup (120 g) sugar
1 orange
2 eggs
¾ cup (90 g) flour
½ teaspoon baking powder
½ cup (50 g) bread crumbs
½ lb. (200 g) plums, pitted
4 tablespoons prunes, pitted, chopped
1 teaspoon cinnamon
2 tablespoons golden syrup
6 plums or prunes, halved and pitted (for decoration)


1½ lb. (750 g) plums
1 cup (240 g) sugar

Cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy, then add the grated orange rind. Add the eggs gradually to the butter mixture. Sift the flour with the baking powder, mix with the bread crumbs and fold into the mixture. Stir in the juice of the orange, the plums and prunes and the cinnamon.

Grease a bowl with butter, coat the bottom of the bowl with golden syrup and arrange the halves of the 6 plums or prunes on top in a circle. Carefully spoon the pudding mixture into the bowl.

Cover with foil and waxed paper, secure with string and steam for approximately 2 hours.

To make the sauce, cover the bottom of a saucepan with a little water and slice the plums into it.

Simmer gently to prevent sticking. Remove pits, then puree the cooked plums in a blender before straining.

In a separate pan dissolve the sugar slowly with 4 or 5 tablespoons of water. When the sugar is dissolved, stop stirring and turn the heat up to full. Boil until golden brown, then remove from heat. Carefully stir in 6 tablespoons of water–the caramel can spatter. Put back on low heat until the lumps have dissolved. Add the pureed plums and cool a little.

Turn the pudding out and serve with its special plum sauce poured over it.

Serves 6 to 8

From Cooking with the Saints: An Illustrated Treasury of Authentic Recipes Old and Modern by Ernst Schuegraf. Copyright © 2001 Ignatius Press. Used by permission.
A beautiful collection with a bit of background and recipes related to seventy-three saints. Purchase from, or

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Tarte Normande Saint-Nicolas (French St. Nicholas Apple Tart)

Tarte Normande Saint-Nicolas
Tarte Normande Saint-Nicolas

This is best eaten while slightly warm.


2 cups (250 g) flour
1 tablespoon sugar
pinch of salt
4 tablespoons butter
4 tablespoons shortening
5 tablespoons ice water
1 teaspoon lemon juice


½ lb. (250 g) apples, tart
1 cup (240 g) sugar
1½ teaspoon cinnamon
1½ lb. (750 g) apples, sweet
1/2 c. (150 g) butter
½ tsp. vanilla
2 eggs
¾ c. (90 g) flour
½ teaspoon baking powder
2 tablespoons apricot jam
½ cup (50 g) raisins

First make the pastry. In a medium bowl combine flour, sugar and salt. Cut in butter and shortening until mixture resembles coarse bread crumbs.

In a measuring cup whisk together ice water and lemon juice. Sprinkle over flour mixture until moistened all over. Gather dough into a ball, wrap and refrigerate for at least I hour.

Line a 10-inch (25 cm) flan ring or pan with the dough to about 1½ inches (4 cm) high. Keep dough cool while preparing the filling.

Peel and quarter the tart apples. Make applesauce by simmering the apples with 2½ tablespoons sugar, 2 tablespoons of water and the cinnamon.

Peel, core and dice the sweet apples and saute in a frying pan with 2½ tablespoons butter, 5 tablespoons sugar and vanilla. Cook for 10 minutes on low heat, then allow to cool. Beat the remaining butter with the remaining sugar until creamy. Add the eggs 1 after another, then add the applesauce, the sifted flour and the baking powder.

Preheat oven to 400º F. (200º C).

Spread the apricot jam over the bottom of the dough, then place the raisins on top. Cover with the diced sauteed apples. Fill a pastry bag with the applesauce-egg mixture and pipe a spiral on the top to cover the diced apples completely. Bake for 30 minutes, remove from oven and allow to cool for 15 to 20 minutes. While still warm, remove from mold and serve. Serves 8 to 10

From Cooking with the Saints: An Illustrated Treasury of Authentic Recipes Old and Modern by Ernst Schuegraf. Copyright © 2001 Ignatius Press. Used by permission.
A beautiful collection with a bit of background and recipes related to seventy-three saints. Purchase from, or

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St. Nikolastag Nusskuchen (German St. Nicholas Day Nut Cake)

Nikolastag Nusskuchen
Nikolastag Nusskuchen

A nice simple cake for St. Nicholas Day

1 pkg. Pillsbury Cinnamon Streusel Coffee Cake Mix or
****2 pkgsPillsbury Cinnamon Swirl Quick Bread & Coffee Cake Mix (1 lb. 14 oz. each)
see below****to adjust recipe

2 teaspoons ground cardamom
¾ cup water
1/3 cup sherry (optional, if omitted, increase water to 1¼ cups)
1/3 cup oil or softened margarine
1 teaspoon almond extract
3 eggs
¼ cup coarsely chopped silvered almonds
2 teaspoons water

Heat oven to 350ºF. Generously grease and lightly flour 9- or 10-inch tube pan.* In large bowl, blend large clear packet of cake mix with cardamom, water, sherry, oil, ½ teaspoon almond extract and eggs at low speed until moistened. Beat 2 minutes at medium speed. Pour three-fourths of the batter into prepared pan.

In small bowl, combine small clear packet of streusel mix with almonds. Sprinkle batter in pan with ¾ cup of the streusel mixture, reserving remaining streusel for topping. Spread with remaining batter; top with remaining streusel mixture. Bake at 350ºF. for 40 to 50 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool upright in pan for 30 minutes. Invert cake onto cooling rack; invert again; streusel side-up, onto serving plate. Cool completely.

In small bowl, combine glaze packet, 2 teaspoons water and remaining ½ teaspoon almond extract, adding additional water a drop at a time until glaze is desired consistency. Drizzle over cooled cake. Store tightly covered. 16 servings.

****If using the two smaller mixes, use 2½ teaspoons of cardamom, 1½ cup liquid, 1/3 cup oil, ¾ teaspoon + ¾ teaspoon almond extract, 4 eggs, ½ cup almonds; sprinkle first layer of batter with 1¼ cup streusel mixture; bake 45—60 minutes.

*Cake can be baked in 13x9-inch pan. Pour two-thirds of the batter into prepared pan. Sprinkle with 2/3 cup of streusel mixture. Spread with remaining batter; top with remaining streusel mixture. Bake 35 to 40 minutes (or 35–45 minutes if using the two smaller mixes).

From International Favorites Cookbook, The Pillsbury Company, 1983. Permission pending.

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Boterkoek (Dutch Almond Butter Cake or Bars)


Boterkoek is another favorite in the Netherlands. Judy Vander Wilt bakes these for St. Nicholas Day and again for Christmas. They are delicious, but quick and easy to make. She bakes them in rounds to give at Christmas.

2 eggs
2 cups sugar
2 sticks butter or margarine ( 1 cup)
1 cup (½ lb.) almond paste
2 cups flour

Mix eggs, sugar and margarine—blend well. Slowly add almond paste; add flour. Bake in greased and floured 9x13" pan (or 3 8–9" rounds); brush top with evaporated milk or sprinkle with sliced almonds (2.25 oz) and sugar.

Bake 325º 35–40 minutes.

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Cake box
Mold for Cake, Germany
St Nicholas Center Collection

St. Nicolaas Koek (Dutch Spice Squares)

Small cakes without which no Dutch Sinterklaas season would be complete.

1 lb. butter
1 pound light brown sugar
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 cup water
4 cups flour
1 tablespoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon nutmeg
¼ teaspoon cloves
¼ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon mace
½ pound blanched walnuts (dry thoroughly and brown in 1 tablespoon butter, stirring constantly, drain)
½ pound sliced almonds, unblanched and unbrowned

Cream butter and sugar; dissolved baking soda in the water, add. Sift dry ingredients; add to butter mixture (will make a soft dough). Place on floured board, knead in almonds and roll out about ¼-inch thick. Fit into cookie sheets and bake at 350º about 30 minutes or until done. Cut into squares before cold. Yields about 5 dozen squares.

Originally from Eet Smakelijk, published by the Junior Welfare League, Holland, Michigan, 1964.

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Cake slices on plate
Kruidnoten Cake

Kruidnoten Cake

This nice twist on kruidnoten, a traditional Dutch Sinterklaas treat, makes a lovely tea cake. Chocolate covered kruidnoten may also be used. Kruidnoten, tiny crunchy spice cookies, are available in Dutch import shops.

Pound cake: mix, pound cake recipe or favorite loaf cake
1½ cups Kruidnoten
1 tablespoon Speculaas spice, purchased from a Dutch supplier, or make your own
2 tablespoons liquid, in addition to amount given in recipe
¼ cup sliced almonds

Prepare cake according to directions, adding spice with dry ingredients and increasing liquid by 2 tablespoons. Fold kruidnoten into batter. Pour into loaf pan and sprinkle almonds on top. Bake as directed.

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Fig & Apricot Orange Cake (Greek Fruit Cake)

St. Nicholas Day in Greece brings a round of name-day parties for children named in the saint's honor. As Nicholas (Nikolaos) is a popular name, there are many stops as people make the rounds from house to house. Adults are served brandy, wine and seasonal sweets, such as this cake. The cake is better on the second day, so it is good to make it a day ahead.

Cake slice
Fig & Orange Cake with Wine Syrup
Olive oil
3 cups all-purpose flour
½ cup almond flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 large pinch kosher salt
1 ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground cloves
2 ½ tablespoon orange zest
1 cup extra virgin olive oil
2/3 cup granulated sugar
1 ½ cups orange juice (preferably fresh squeezed)
½ cup brandy or 2–4 teaspoons brandy extract or ½ cup apple juice, white grape juice, or water
½ cup coarsely chopped walnuts
½ cup black raisins
½ cup chopped dried figs
½ cup chopped dried apricots
confectioner's sugar for dusting
extra orange zest for serving, in narrow strips
Wine Syrup (optional—see below)

Preheat the oven to 350º F.

Brush a deep loaf pan with olive oil and line with parchment paper that comes up out of the sides of the pan by at least 2 inches.

Sift together the flour, almond flour, baking powder, baking soda, kosher salt, cinnamon, and cloves. Sprinkle in the orange zest and stir to distribute evenly.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the olive oil and sugar. Add the dry ingredients with the orange juice and brandy and stir until just combined. Add the walnuts and dried fruit and stir briefly to combine.

Pour the batter into the loaf pan, place the loaf pan on a sheet pan to protect oven from overflow. Bake in the center of the oven for 1 hour – 1 hour and 20 minutes, or until a wooden skewer comes out of the center almost clean.

Cool cake on a rack for at least 30 minutes before removing from pan. Just before serving, dust with confectioner's sugar through a sieve. Slice and serve drizzled with warm wine syrup and topped with a few slivers of orange zest.

Wine Syrup

2 cups red wine
1 cup granulated sugar
4 whole cloves
2 cinnamon sticks
1 star anise pod
zest of 1 orange
zest of 1 lemon

While cake bakes, make the spiced wine syrup. In a medium pan, combine the wine, sugar, spices, and citrus zest. Place over low heat and stir until the sugar dissolves. Simmer over low heat until the liquid is reduced by half. Strain and reserve.

From Amanda Filippone Figs, Bay, & Wine. Used by permission.

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Sinterklaas Vla carton
Menken van Grieken Sinterklaas Speculaas Vla carton, Wassenaar, the Netherlands
St Nicholas Center Collection

Sinterklaas Vla (Dutch Custard Pudding)

Vla is a simple dessert, a thinner vanilla pudding, served in casual family settings. It wouldn't often be found on restaurant menus or served to guests.

1 quart (1 liter) milk
1/3 cup (40 gr) cornstarch
½ cup (60 gr) sugar
2 egg yolks, slightly beaten
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
8 small (about 4 ounces) speculaas or "windmill" cookies

Mix sugar and cornstarch in saucepan. Gradually stir in milk. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until mixture thickens and boils. Remove from heat. Gradually stir, or whisk, at least half of hot mixture into egg yolks. Then blend into hot mixture in saucepan. Boil 1 minute more, stirring constantly. Remove from heat and blend in vanilla.

To prevent skin forming while the vla is cooling, whisk every five minutes or so until it is lukewarm. Fold in broken speculaas pieces. Chill and serve in dessert dishes.

Adapted freely from The Holland Ring. Used by permission.

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Rice with Dried Fruit (Bulgarian)

This sweet dessert is served on Nikulden (St Nicholas' Day). During the cold winter season the Bulgarian people were (and are) accustomed to consume and prepare various kinds of dried fruit. Fruit is gathered in autumn and preserved in dry and airy places to be saved for the winter time when there is no fresh fruit.

500 g of dried cherries or apples
100 g of dried plums
300 g of rice
200 g of sugar
1 packet of vanilla powder

Wash and soak the fruit in cold water. Let it remain there for several hours until swollen, then take it out. Boil the water the fruit was steeped in. Add the fruit and the cleaned and washed rice.

When the rice is cooked, add the sugar. Mix, flavour with vanilla powder, and pour in little bowls.
Serve cool.

This dish is very popular in the Shoumen region; it was prepared for the first time by the women in the village of Dibich. It is suitable for the pre-Christmas season, because no animal products are needed. As you know, St. Nicholas' Day is celebrated in Advent time, which expires on 24 December.

From Wonderland Bulgaria Used by permission

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