Friday 5 October 2012

Pain d'épices...

This is a spiced honey cake/bread, the dominant spice being ginger, but there are back notes of  cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, pepper and not forgetting aniseed, which is very important for the balance of spices.  In France it is eaten all year long, but we tend to see it used more around this time of year and at Christmas.  Often used with foie gras, it makes for a good marriage with the mixing of liver and the sweet, spicy taste of the "cake".  For this use, I like to slice it thinly and grill it, putting on the foie gras just after it has cooled a little, but warm enough to gently start melting the foie gras... I am digressing as I have made this for dessert, for dinner tomorrow.  I am not super organised -  it is just the draw back with this recipe is that it has to rest for TWO days!  I know you are going to slice a piece off (as I do every time) to taste, just out of the oven, but in two days' time, you wonder why you wasted that slice... control!  The honey needs to do its thing and soak itself into the loaf.  It changes from loaf to cake - day five is even better!  The plus point is there is no added fat and I have tried it with butter but liked it without, the waiting part helps it to moisten and infuse the aromas and develop the tastes, so why not!

For one loaf... 
 (tin size 28x10cms / 11x4 inches)

2 cups/250g  wholemeal (whole-wheat flour) (or a mix of half white and half wholemeal - it will come out lighter in colour, down to preferance).
2 teaspoons of baking powder
1 cup + 2 tablespoons/ 375g  honey (of your choice - darker ones giving a darker bake)
half cup/120ml of milk
1 egg
2 teaspoons of ground ginger
1 teaspoon of ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon of ground cloves
1 teaspoon of aniseed (crushed)
A  half teaspoon of black pepper or chilli for fun!
1 teaspoon of lemon juice 

1) Mix the flour with the spices evenly first, so you don't over mix the cake batter when the milk goes in.
2) If you have hard honey, melt it gently over a very low heat;  add in the milk off the heat and mix into the flour, adding the egg to the cake batter after the first turn (heat and  the egg white are not a good mix!). Just mix until it all looks the same consistency, but not too much.
3) Butter and flour your tin (use parchment paper if your tin is older!)
4) Pour in the cake batter, smoothing it over and place on the middle shelf of a heated oven at 170°F/340°C
5) Bake for 40 minutes. 
6) Cool on a baking rack and  once cold, double wrap in cling film/Saran wrap and keep in a cool place, but not the fridge.

I will be using this with sliced-spiced-marinated oranges tomorrow, see update below...


Slices of oranges, marinated in a syrup of honey, orange flower water and cardamom seeds...

The syrup
Bring to a simmer a quarter cup of water, half a cup of orange flower water and a teaspoon of crushed cardamom pods.  Cook for 5 minutes strain, then while warm but not hot, add in half a cup of honey.  Let this cool and pour over the oranges for at least 2 hours remembering to rotate the slices a few times.


  1. I love the idea of a loaf that turns into a cake if you wait a few days - it's all about delayed gratification!

    1. Hi Gillian,
      It is a strange one this, day five is good but there is only a slice left by then! (note to self to make two next time, to do more tests...)
      Thanks for dropping in. Hope you are enjoying your weekend.

  2. Hi Ivan! This recipe looks very 'doable' and just happens to have all our favourite spices....ginger and aniseed being at the top.
    One question for clarification: Is wholemeal the same as whole wheat flour? If so, then there are 2 cups of it? It's me, not you. Wholemeal here is a very coarse chopped up grain.

    I AM looking forward to this one. It has the potential of becoming a staple around here! I'll let you know.

    1. Hi Jim,
      Thanks for pointing that out, I have corrected it! Wholemeal is the Brit word for whole wheat. AS I have added, you can change the mix of flour if you are not a fan of whole wheat and even sift the husk out if you wanted a less 'earthy' cake. It does use a lot of honey but it is worth it!
      Have a good weekend and thank you again (my text checker will be sacked!)

    2. Thanks Ivan. We love whole wheat and use it a lot.....the earthier the better for us! And I just happen to have a new 'stock' of honey (Manuka).Thanks again.

  3. I can smell the fragrance radiating to my old farm house where me and moms live.
    And it looks so pretty!

    1. Hello Tweedles,
      Thank you, that is a very sweet thing to say. Aston is fast asleep at the moment as he has been running round too much today. He was not much help picking up the conkers, but helped with the twigs!!
      Ivan x

  4. I am intrigued by loaf and am anxious to try it! Since it is better if it sits for five days, I had better get my butt in gear as I would like to try it with liver pate this coming weekend! Thanks for sharing. :)

    1. Hello (again),
      It is worth trying, it really does get better after a few days and liver pate will go wonderfully with it. Thank you for stopping by. Puppies like a little taste as there is no sugar in it and honey is not so bad!! (well my Pug couldn't beleive his luck!)


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