The spices cake is a honey cake with various spices such as cinnamon, ginger, or star anise. It has been known in many civilizations but it seems that it finds its origin in a Chinese honey cake embellished with aromatic plants transmitted in the Levant countries and reported by the Crusaders.
This recipe, in particular, is delicious and incredibly moist, with a mixture of spices, and a texture that almost melts in your mouth! It’s quick and easy to make and does not require a mixer.
The story of spices cake (Pain d’épices) starts early. The Greeks knew a pastry that has sometimes been likened to it, but the preparation was different: in the preparation of spices cake, flour and honey are kneaded. Aristophanes’ melitounta, made of sesame flour (sometimes enriched with cheese and eggs), was coated with honey after cooking, as are the Loukoumadés today. In the same way, the panis mellitus of the Romans was fried then watered with honey.
Spices cake, as we understand it today, seems to be of Chinese origin. Indeed, the Mi-Kong, literally bread of honey, consumed in the tenth century already, was composed of wheat flour and honey, fragrant (or not) with aromatic plants, and baked. It was considered a food, not a pastry. In the thirteenth century, it is cited among the rations of the riders of Genghis Khan. The Arabs borrowed it from the Chinese, and Westerners knew it in the Holy Land, on the occasion of the Crusades.
Indeed, during the Crusades in the twelfth-thirteenth centuries, Europeans learn this honey bread and oriental spices: they then report the recipe in Germany and France where it is spread by monastic networks, especially by the Cistercian monks. Regions such as Alsace or cities like Reims and Dijon have acquired a great reputation in the manufacture of spices cake with specific recipes (the type of flour, number of spices …).
Here are some tips for preparing the spices cake:
- We use a combination of honey and brown sugar. The latter adds moisture to the cake. You can use only honey or only brown sugar (100g).
- We use a combination of ground cinnamon, star anise, ginger, nutmeg, cardamom, and cloves. If you don’t like nutmeg or cloves you can leave one of them out, but this mix of spices gives the most wonderful spicy flavor.
- If you find the top of the cake is browning too quickly in the oven, loosely cover it with aluminum foil.
- Wait at least 24 hours before serving (or at least 2 hours if you can’t wait).
- You can store this for a week, wrapped in foil.
- You can eat it nature, sweet: spread with marmalade, fig jam, butter, or salted with fois gras or cheese …
- 150 g white wheat flour
- 100 g rye flour
- 10 g baking powder
- 1 pinch salt
- 50 g brown sugar
- 50 g honey
- 50 g butter
- 100 ml milk
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 2 tsp cinnamon powder
- 1 tsp star anise powder
- ½ tsp ginger powder
- ¼ tsp ground nutmeg
- ¼ tsp ground cloves
- ¼ tsp ground cardamom
- Preheat the oven to 350°F (175°C) and grease a 10×4.7inch (26x12cm) pan.
- In a saucepan, mix the brown sugar, honey, butter, and milk.Boil the water then, let it cool.
- Whisk the white wheat flour, rye flour, salt, baking powder, cinnamon, and other spices together in a large bowl.Add the eggs.Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and whisk until combined.
- Spread batter into the prepared pan.Bake for 45-50 minutes. Baking times vary, so keep an eye on yours.The cake is done when a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.Remove the cake from the oven and set on a wire rack.Allow the cake to cool completely.
- Preferably, reserve the spices cake at least 24 hours before serving it, or at least 2 hours.