Pain d’épices – Fruit and Spice Cake

Pain d’épices - Fruit and Spice Cake Recipe

If you replace molasses with honey and add rye flour to your old-fashioned gingerbread recipe, you’ll end up with a basic pain d’épices, the French take on gingerbread. As its name implies, “bread of spices” is all about the fragrance and warmth of ground aromatics. There are endless spice mix variations and each recipe seems to have its own distinctive blend.

This fruit and spice loaf cake from Pierre Hermé and Dorie Greenspan has the most interesting spice blend of all the pain d’épices recipes I’ve seen. Water is infused with star anise to start off, so immediately we’re given a preview of the arometherapy to come.

Hefty amounts of cinnamon, ginger, black pepper, coriander, cardamom, and nutmeg may seem like overkill, but the combination is surprisingly well-balanced in the suggested amounts. None of the spices stands out too much and as a whole, the effect is quite intoxicating.

The following pain d’epices recipe makes a dense and hearty loaf meant to be sliced very thinly. The bread itself is light on the honey but there is plenty of sweetness from the prunes and apricots. Walnuts and almonds are added for crunch and citrus zest brightens the deep flavors of the spices, rounding out the texture and aroma of the finished loaf.

recipe adapted from Dorie Greenspan’s Desserts by Pierre Hermé
A Fruit A Month: Apricot hosted by Siri

Pierre Hermé’s Pain d’épices
Fruit and Spice Loaf Cake

makes one 8 1/2 by 4 1/2-inch cake

Pain d’épices - Fruit and Spice Cake Recipe - Spices

Ingredients                  Volume          Ounces          Grams
water                   3/4 cup + 2 tbsp        7.0            198
star anise                       10        

honey                           1/3 cup         4.0            113
unsalted butter, melted       5 1/2 tbsp        2.8             78

all-purpose flour             2 1/4 cups       10.1            287
rye flour                       1/4 cup         1.1             32
baking powder                 2 1/2 tsp
cinnamon, ground                  1 tbsp
ginger, ground                    1 tsp
black pepper, ground              1 tsp
coriander, ground               1/2 tsp
cardamom, ground                1/2 tsp
nutmeg, ground                  1/2 tsp

walnuts, coarsely chopped       2/3 cup         2.8             80
sliced almonds, toasted         1/3 cup         1.4             40
pitted prunes, 1/4-inch dice     13             5.3            149
dried apricots, 1/4-inch dice    13             4.3            120
lemon zest                     from 1 lemon
orange zest                    from 1 orange



Infuse the water with star anise
                Bring the water and star anise to a boil in a small
                saucepan over high heat. Cover and infuse for about
                one hour.

Pain d’épices - Fruit and Spice Cake Recipe - Star Anise

Preheat Oven    300ºF / 150ºC

Prepare an 8 1/2 x 4 1/2-inch loaf pan
                Use nonstick spray or softened butter to grease the
                bottom and sides of the loaf pan. Line with parchment
                paper. Place the loaf pan on two stacked sheet pans
                or an insulated baking sheet.

Mix Dry Ingredients
                Place the flours, baking powder, and ground spices
                in a container with a tight lid. Cover and shake
                until thoroughly mixed.

Mix Wet Ingredients
                In another bowl, stir the honey and melted butter.
                Strain the star anise-infused water into the bowl
                and stir until well-blended.

Mix Fruits, Nuts, and Zests
                In a separate bowl, stir together the walnuts,
                almonds, prunes, apricots, and citrus zests.
                Toss the fruits, nuts, and zests in a tablespoon
                of the mixed dry ingredients.

Mix (Muffin Method)
                Sift the dry ingredients into a large bowl. Add
                the wet ingredients and stir with a rubber
                spatula or wooden spoon and stir briefly.

                Add the fruits, nuts, and zests and continue
                mixing only until the dry ingredients are
                moistened. The batter should be thick and lumpy.

Pan             Deposit the batter into the greased loaf pan.
                Place the loaf pan on two stacked sheet pans or
                on an insulated baking sheet.

Bake            300ºF / 150ºC for 65 to 75 minutes, until a
                wooden skewer inserted in the middle of the
                cake comes out clean.

Cool            Let the cake cool for about 10 minutes before
                removing from the loaf pan. Cool completely at
                room temperature, at least 2 hours.

Pain d’épices Storage:

Once the cake is thoroughly cooled, wrap tightly in plastic wrap. Wrapped airtight in plastic, pain d’épices will keep at room temperature for up to four days or frozen for up to a month.

To Serve Pain d’épices:

Let the loaf “ripen” for at least one day for a deeper flavor. Serve in thin slices with hot tea or cider.

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43 Responses to “Pain d’épices – Fruit and Spice Cake”

  1. PG says:

    when I see all these pictures of your i feel the amount of love and care you take to bake.
    looks wonderful , as always.

  2. Lore says:

    Gorgeous and simply perfect on all levels: flavours, texture and final look!
    Ooo that spice bowl is making me very very jealous right now! The only way I get a taste of an anise flavour is only when I buy pre-made spice mixes :( . As for the nutmeg and the cardamom, I can only buy them already ground *sigh*

  3. Lorraine E says:

    I can almost smell how good that would be! I’ve never tried one of these exactly but I definitely want to now :)

  4. joelen says:

    This looks wonderful and the spices I’m sure really make the cake sing!

  5. srilekha says:

    looks delicious!
    happy new year!
    first time to ur blog and it is very nice!
    do visit my blog when u find time !

  6. Mike says:

    That’s an interesting holiday appropriate bread and it sounds like it would taste incredible. I’m also impressed by how thin a slice you got–I have a feeling if I did that, I’d have a good pile of crumbs, instead, lol.

  7. Carolyn Jung says:

    what a hearty, satisfying way to start the New Year. So, did you buy your spices for the cake from Penzeys? ;)

  8. Colloquial Cook says:

    I was thinking of making the exact same recipe soon… You mind-reader! The colour of the bread’s innards is surprisingly golden – it’s always darker when we get it in France, I wonder if it’s the spices. Hm. Investigation will be needed :-)

  9. noble pig says:

    I have lots of star anise from the holidays…this looks like a wonderful way to use it!

  10. Katie says:

    How interesting…sounds delicious! Where would I find star anise?

  11. Soma says:

    I love all those spices and together make it better.not a overkill at all as u have written… I can almost taste it.

    I love the color of the bread.

  12. rainbowbrown says:

    Dang, I bet that’ll keep you warm through the winter. Looks hearty and tasty and I think I have to go make it now…

  13. giz says:

    I know it says to slice in think slices but how did you get it so darned perfect.

  14. bee says:

    wish you a happy, healthy, delicious 2009, dear jude.

  15. Cynthia says:

    Happy New Year!

  16. snookydoodle says:

    Oh my! these must have have left a really nice fragrance in your house while baking it. looks delicious i love spices :) Happy New year!!

  17. Meeta says:

    Jude this looks great. I really love fruit cake with spices and lots of fruit. Perfect! I had a great 2008 with you on this space. It was great discovering your blog and I so look forward to 2009 and more delicious creations from you!

  18. MyKitchenInHalfCups says:

    Gorgeous spices!

  19. grace says:

    “…dense and hearty loaf meant to be sliced very thinly”
    i was thinking those very words when i first saw your loaf. it looks delicious, and the star anise is beautiful!

  20. Miri says:

    Wow, this cake looks and sounds so flavorful! Happy 2009!

  21. Manggy says:

    Oh, I’m terrible. I never even realized this recipe was in this book– I’m too much a photo-person, heh :) Thanks for giving it a second look for me– it sounds great and I can only imagine how lovely it smells!

  22. Zu Murphy says:

    Wow! I love spice cake. But I usually buy the spice mix and never thought of grinding my own spices. Thank you for your recipe.

  23. robin // caviar and codfish says:

    I remember bookmarking this recipe a while ago (maybe passed it by because pine honey? Malaysian Sarawak black pepper?, but thanks for reminding me. A happy break from all the molasses I’ve been enjoying.

  24. CookiePie says:

    I love anything with lots of spice — this bread looks gorgeous! I bet it’s delicious!

  25. anudivya says:

    THis just looks lovely! Never seen a prettier bread than this before.

  26. Maya says:

    A nice hearty bread..I can just imagine the aroma in you kitchen!

  27. Carolyn – Yup! Some of the spices were from Penzeys.

    Katie – Most Asian grocers carry star anise.

    Benjamin – The lighter color is probably from the small amount of rye in the recipe. Some of the other recipes I saw had a lot more rye flour in it, as much as half.

    Robin – honey sweetened loaves are a nice break from all the gingerbread lately ;)

  28. Gay says:

    I love a good spice cake and this recipe seems something I could try. Got most of the spices in my kitchen already.

    Manigong Bagong Taon!

  29. Jesse says:

    I love the idea of the rye flour in there – sounds fantastic!

  30. ruth40 says:

    I’m a huge fan of Pierre Herme, anything French really! When I went to France last time, I stayed in Reims for a few days and I tried their pain d’epice. was so good I wanted to make pain d’epice myself, so I’ll definitely try your recipe. Thanks a lot for all the precise directions!

  31. ruth40 says:

    I’m a huge fan of Pierre Herme, anything French really! When I went to France last time, I stayed in Reims for a few days and I tried their pain d’epice.

    It was so good I wanted to make pain d’epice myself, so I’ll definitely try your recipe. Thanks a lot for all the precise directions!

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