Since November 15th, ‘Sinterklaas’ (Saint Nicholas) is on a visit in The Netherlands. He’s believed to stroll over rooftops on the back of his white horse, tossing presents and candy through our chimneys, into our shoes. He’ll stay in Holland until his birthday on December the 5th – Saint Nicholas’ Eve – on which he’ll leave us big jute bags stuffed with presents before returning to his castle in Spain. It’s the biggest holiday tradition known by the Dutch. It gets children bouncing with excitement for weeks and even grown-ups can’t help leaving their shoes by the fireplace before bedtime. And above all… it comes with A LOT of traditional Sinterklaas candy! Here’s a short overview of all Dutch candy we stuff our mouths with around Sinterklaas:
Marsepein (marzipan) is a mixture of ground almonds with a lot of honey or sugar. They come in all colors and shapes, often made into cute figurines of pigs, carrots, fruits or potatoes. You’ll find anything (!) in marzipan, from hamburgers (no kidding) to lipsticks, shoes or tools. If you can think of it, it’ll be made out of marzipan. It tastes very sweet and is loved by both children and adults.
Speculaas is a thin, crunchy gingerbread-like cookie with many spices like cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger. They have a variety of typical Dutch shapes stamped on them before baking: you’ll find them in the shape of a windmill, a farmhouse, a flower-girl… Large almond-covered speculaas cookies in the shape of a girl or boy are common around Sinterklaas as well and are usually given to a loved one.
A soft sugary candy that comes in a variety of colors and shapes. Schuimpjes are sweet, soft and foamy. Depending on the added tasting, they taste like vanilla, strawberry, banana and other fruits. The shapes they come in are all Sinterklaas related; shoes, Sint-hats, horses, boats or presents. Similar schuimpjes are eaten at Easter in the Netherlands as well.
This traditional Dutch holiday-pastry is crisp and flaky on the outside and has a center of soft almond paste on the inside. The term banketletter refers to the tradition of bending the pastry into the shape of letters. These baked letters were used to spell out messages on a holiday feast banquet table. Most banketletters are still to be found in the shape of the ‘S’ from ‘Sinterklaas’. If eaten warm, they’re even more delicious!
A truly traditional Dutch sweet. Borstplaat is a holiday tradition eaten for decades in the Netherlands. It consists of merely pure sugar, with just a little bit of butter, cream and flavor added. It’s one of the sweetest confections around, but truly addictive. Borstplaat is originally shaped into small round pastilles, but can be found in the shape of little harts as well. Most commonly found colors are white, brown and pink.
Pepernoten are often mistaken for kruidnoten (even by Dutchies), but they aren’t the same. Pepernoten are a kind of cookie-like chewy pieces. They are small, light brown and shaped in random square chunks. They are made from flour, aniseed, cinnamon, sugar and cloves. They tend to be fairly chewy, but if they are left out uncovered they will harden up a bit. Leave them uncovered for too long and you will break your teeth on them!
Kruidnoten are harder and crispier than pepernoten, have a darker colour and are shaped into tiny round cookies. They taste like speculaas, as they are made with mainly the same ingredients. Kruidnoten can be found with (or without) all sorts of coverings, from chocolate to yoghurt. They are extremely popular around Sinterklaas and are eaten a lot by Dutch folks. Many children will find them in their shoes by the fireplace or as a filling in their jute bag with presents.
These large letters made out of chocolate are commonly found in shoes (once left by the fireplace). People often receive their initial (or the ‘S’ from Sint). In earlier times, children were given letters made out of bread to learn them how to spell. Because chocolate is way more expensive, people now give only one letter. Chocoladeletters can be found in white, milk or dark chocolate and are often decorated with chocolate drawings.
Literally translated as ‘tough-tough’, taai-taai is an age-old cookie-like delicacy that is traditionally eaten around Sinterklaas. Taaitaai is tasty and sweet but very tough and chewy, as the name indicates. The dough is made with mainly the same spices as pepernoten which makes it similar in taste. Taai-taai is shaped into dolls of all sizes. Most of these dolls depict sinterklaas himself, though you’ll find random boys and girls as well.
Strooigoed is a mixture of typical Sinterklaas biscuits and -sweets, that’s traditionally strewn around during Sinterklaas celebrations for children to find and pick up. It contains mainly kruidnoten, schuimpjes, sugar-hearts and tumtums. The candy-mixture will be put into a jute bag before being scattered through the house and on the streets by Sint and his helpers. Children will pick these up and, well… eat them off the floor.
Want to know more about Dutch candy and try some yourself? Check out our Dutch candy subscription boxes to get unique sweets from the Netherlands delivered to your doorstep! Free shipping worldwide! Check out our special Sinterklaas box we ship in december: