My favorite store-bought prepackaged cookie/cake in France was pain d’épices, or Spiced Cake, or perhaps even more commonly translated as gingerbread. Like eggnog, this cake gets mixed reviews by most. And it is nothing like other versions of gingerbread that you might already be familiar with. If you stumbled upon this and were looking for that kind of recipe, you can try out these Chewy Gingery Molasses Cookies that I made the other day.
You see, the store-bought version is this chewy spongy cake layered in between two chestnut colored layers on the top and bottom. You can feel the honey just by touching this sticky bread, although inhaling deeply will also clue you in to its key ingredient.
This cake is also not limited to the holiday season and a lot of people give this to their children as snacks since it is a fairly healthy alternative to that French pastry that has butter to thank for its flaky goodness. What’s it called? Oh yes, the croissant.
So, since this cake is made almost entirely of honey, there is very little fat in this cake. Even the sugar content goes down thanks to the honey pot.
There are thousands of recipes for the French Spice Cake (pain d’épices) because I think different people enjoy different aspects of the cake. I myself like the sticky middle and the chewy outside. I didn’t care about light and fluffy. I wanted a moist, dense cake and and outside that would crack as I bit into it.
I’d love to attribute this recipe to someone (I did go onto Femme Actuelle, an actual French magazine, for the inspiration to this recipe) but actually, the instructions were so poorly written (an ingredient was even missing from the ingredient list) and the recipe so disastrously unable to rise, that I ended up researching half a dozen other quick bread recipes to find a nice balance for baking soda, powder, etc. (FYI, baking soda is not a regular appearance in most French recipes) This is perhaps my fourth attempt ever at making this cake…
With that said, I feel confident telling you that if slightly caramelized spice cake that will stick to your fingers is a good end game for you, you shouldn’t be worried about getting the perfect dome to your cake. This is a moist cake…even if it is perfectly even when you pull it out of the oven, it will sink in the middle. But that is okay-because it’s kind of like getting a slice of French baklava (sans phyllo and nuts). It will keep for almost half of a month. Baklava is NOT light and fluffy. It is sticky and dense. But it is always delicious.
The cooking time I’m giving to you is based on using mini bread pans. It only took about 25-30 minutes. The original recipe, for one loaf of French Spice Cake calls for 1 hour in the oven. I’m not sure I’d even try it mostly because I fear that the top of the bread would burn to a crisp before the insides were ready to be taken out, making for the opposite of a yummy dense and more like a gloopy dense…and nobody wants that.
If you’re feeling like really indulging yourself this afternoon, why don’t you make some Cooked Vanilla Eggnog?
- ½ cup honey
- ¾ cup sugar
- ½ cup water
- ¾ cup orange marmelade
- 1 egg
- 3 tablespoons oil
- 1½ cups flour
- 1½ teaspoons baking soda
- 1½ teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon baking powder
- ½ teaspoon powdered ginger
- ½ teaspoon cinnamon
- ½ teaspoon nutmeg
- ½ teaspoon ground cloves
- Parchment paper
- Preaheat oven to 190°C or 375°C
- In a bain marie or the microwave heat the honey, sugar, and water until the sugar disolves.
- In a separate bowl combine the flour, baking powder and soda, salt and spices.
- Take the hot mixture and add the orange marmelade, constantly stirring so that dissolves into the mixture and there are no big clumps of jam. Whisk in the egg and the oild. Then stir in the flour mixture.
- Grease a mini bread loaf or line it with parchment paper and pour the mixture in ¾ of the way up the side.
- Bake this in an oven at 190° C (375°F) for 25-30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean.
FOOTNOTE- I KNOW YOU ARE ALL BUSY THINKING ABOUT CHRISTMAS, BUT I WAS THINKING OF TRYING TO RALLY A SMALL GROUP OF PEOPLE FROM AROUND THE WORLD, or even living in different corners of the world, TO HOST AN INTERNATIONAL PROGRESSIVE DINNER PARTY IN THE NEW YEAR! IF YOU ARE INTERESTED EMAIL ME AT CURRIEDCANTALOUPE AT (@) GMAIL DOT COM