Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Vanilla bean cupcakes with speculoos-mascarpone frosting

If you follow me on instagram you may have seen that Saturday was baking day; in the morning it was cupcakes and in the afternoon bread. Being tucked away in my little kitchen making sweet and savory things on the weekends makes me happy.

I made a bread loaf entirely with buckwheat flour for the first time ever, and it was a good start. It was dense, due to the lack of gluten in the flour, a bit crumbly, but held together very well, and we ate it mostly with some strong aged Gouda and fig jam. The recipe needs some tweaking so I’m not going to post it just yet, but what was a complete success was these cupcakes.

Saturday was not the first time I made these; they are my go-to cupcakes whenever there is a craving for speculoos biscuit paste, which doesn’t happen often, admittedly, but when it does, these cupcakes are the thing to make. I don’t enjoy speculoos paste on its own or on pancakes/bread etc. as I find it a bit too sweet, but incorporated in a mascarpone frosting for cupcakes, it is alarmingly good.

When I was in Belgium recently, I bought a speculoos paste whose flavor I really enjoy over those I find in the Netherlands, and Saturday was my chance to use it. Vanilla cupcakes are the best vessel to carry the flavor of the frosting, making an excellent combination, and I also had some speculoos cookies on hand, which I crumbled and sprinkled on top to accentuate that biscuit flavor.

The cupcake is fluffy and intensely aromatic from the fresh vanilla seeds whereas the frosting is creamy and airy with that spicy speculoos biscuit flavor. Overall, the flavors are not overly sweet, which is always a good thing when it comes to cupcakes in my book.

Give them a try! And if you can’t find speculoos where you live, how about substituting the biscuit paste for gianduia? Different flavor of course, but oh so incredibly good.
That’s what I did yesterday when I made another batch of these cupcakes.

Vanilla bean cupcakes with speculoos-mascarpone frosting

Speculoos paste is a paste made from the classic Belgian speculoos biscuits (similar to Dutch speculaas). Not all speculoos pastes are the same, so make sure to use one whose flavor you really like. Oh, and if you can’t find speculoos paste or gianduia (as mentioned above), then use nutella or another hazelnut-chocolate paste of your liking.

Yield: 12 cupcakes


for the cupcakes
110 g unsalted butter, at room temperature
120 g caster sugar
3 large eggs
1 vanilla bean, cut in half lengthwise and seeds scraped out (or 1 tsp pure vanilla extract)
200 g all-purpose flour
1½ tsp baking powder
¼ tsp salt
60 ml fresh whole milk

for the frosting
220 g mascarpone
200 g speculoos paste
70 g icing sugar, sieved
½ tsp pure vanilla extract

Speculoos biscuits, crushed, for sprinkling on top

Special equipment: stand or hand-held mixer, fine sieve, 12-cup cupcake pan, paper liners


for the cupcakes
Line your cupcake pan with paper liners.
Preheat you oven to 175°C.

In the bowl of your stand mixer (or in a large bowl) add the butter and sugar and beat with the paddle attachment (or with a hand-held mixer) on medium-high speed until you have a creamy and light mixture. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition to incorporate them fully. Beat in the vanilla seeds (or vanilla extract) and then sieve the flour, the baking powder and the salt directly into the bowl. Add the milk and beat on medium speed until the ingredients have just incorporated. Be careful not to overbeat the mixture or the cupcakes will be tough.

Empty the batter into the lined cupcake pan, filling each cup halfway up.
Bake the cupcakes on the middle rack of the preheated oven for 16-17 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Check them after 15 minutes because all ovens are different and it is best to be on the safe side and make sure that they don’t over-bake and become dry.

Remove the pan from the oven and place it on a wire rack. Once the cupcakes have slightly cooled, remove them carefully from the pan and onto the wire rack.

The cupcakes need to be completely cool before you frost them, otherwise the frosting will melt.

You can cut the pointy tops of the cupcakes off if you want a flat cupcake but I rarely do that.

for the frosting
In the bowl of your stand mixer (or in a large bowl) add all the ingredients for the frosting and beat with the whisk attachment (or with a hand-held mixer) on medium-high until you have a creamy, smooth and fluffy mixture. Give it a taste and if you can feel the sugar on your tongue or teeth, it means that the sugar hasn’t dissolved so beat a little more until it does.

Frost the cupcakes using a piping bag and nozzle of your choice (I used a star tip), or using an offset spatula.
The frosting will soften after a while but it should not be runny. You may put the frosting in the fridge to firm up a bit before you use it if you wish. If you leave it in the fridge for too long it will stiffen up, so before using it, leave it out of the fridge for 10 minutes and then beat it again.

In order to crush the speculoos biscuits, put them in a plastic freezer bag, seal it and beat the cookies with a rolling pin.

Sprinkle on top of the cupcakes and enjoy!

You can keep the cupcakes for a couple of days at room temperature, lightly covered, or if you make them during the summer, keep them in a paper box in the fridge for a couple of days.

P.S. If you’re using gianduia/nutella etc., make the frosting in the exact same manner. Sprinkle the cupcakes with dark chocolate shavings (very bitter preferably) instead of crushed speculoos biscuits.


  1. oooooh... legend, very keen on your buckwheat bread recipe once it's sorted!

  2. SO beautiful... but, alas, no speculoos paste in my larder. Off to see if Amazon carries it! xo

  3. Just found speculoos paste online. From what I have read, Nutella will need to move over - this stuff sounds wonderful!