Friday, December 30, 2011

Almond-Orange Honey Cakes

In my family, nothing whispers "I love you" more tenderly on the breakfast table than a plump little honey cake fragrant with anise and ginger, so when I stumbled upon an orange-almond paste "pain d'épice" (literally spice bread) on Alter Gusto, a French blog with a myriad of attractive recipes, I decided to make it for New Year's Day.
There is something inherently happy about spices, don't you think? They are as old as time itself (nothing faddish about them); because of their medicinal value, most of them are considered beneficial; and finally they are wickedly delicious (the expression "to spice up your life" says it all). In other words, they offer the perfect paradigm for a New Year's resolution by making it easier to eat well.
Pain d'épice in France is traditionally made with rye. Carole (Alter Gusto's owner) used chestnut flour (which she had in abundance) because she couldn't find any rye flour. I had wholegrain rye flour and that's what I used (I have yet to find a good chestnut flour in the US). Also traditionally pain d'épice is made without fat or eggs and this one is no exception. Which is a huge plus in my book.
Pain d'épice is customarily sweetened with honey and here a word of caution seems appropriate. According to this article in Food Safety News, some of the honey sold in the US isn't honey at all and many of the big chain stores we'd think we could trust actually peddle junk under the honey label.
Ingredients: (the recipe was slightly modified to take into account the greater absorption capacity of the American flours compared to the French ones. I also added salt).
  • 160 g whole grain rye flour
  • 80 g unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 70 g almond paste (make sure almonds are listed as the first ingredient on the label)
  • 10 g baking powder
  • 40 g powdered milk (I had none and used whole milk instead to supplement the orange juice)
  • 2 untreated oranges
  • 160 g honey
  • 4.5 g of ground ginger (2 teaspoons)
  • 1.2 g ground cardamom (1/2 teaspoon)
  • 3 cloves
  • .6 g grated nutmeg (1/4 teaspoon)
  • 1 pinch of salt
  • a handful of roughly chopped almonds (optional)
  1. Wash and dry the oranges. Grate the zest of one of them and set it aside
  2. Squeeze the juice out of both oranges. Add enough milk (or water if using powdered milk) to obtain 200 g of liquid
  3. In a saucepan, heat the honey, the blend of juice and milk (or water), and all the spices. Mix until honey is well incorporated and the liquid hot. Remove from heat. Let stand for 30 minutes then drain out the spices
  4. Pre-heat the oven to 350°F
  5. In a food processor or a blender, mix flours, almond paste and orange zest until powdered. Transfer to a bowl. Add powdered milk (if using) and baking powder. Blend well
  6. Drain the orange juice infusion. Stir the liquid into the dry ingredients until just well combined. Do not overwork
  7. Divide into mini-molds or pour into a bread pan
  8. Garnish with chopped or sliced almonds if desired
  9. Bake for about 30 minutes (a bit longer if using a single large pan)
  10. Cool on a rack.
Happy New Year everyone!

Printable recipe


  1. Thank you for the wink. :)
    They look delicious. I especially like the photo with flowing honey ... Yummy !

  2. Farine, a Happy New Year to you too, or 'Sawadee Pi Mai' as we say here in Thailand. In 2012 we will bake a lot of delicious bread.

  3. @Carole, thank you so much for the recipe.. It is delicious. I'll be keeping an eye on your blog for more goodies!
    @Connie, thank you very much and "Sawadee Pi Mai" to you and yours as well. Happy baking!

  4. This looks terrific and I hope to bake it.

  5. Oh oh oh, ça faisait trop longtemps que je n'avais pas pris le temps de venir "te" voir ici, chère MC, quelle erreur. Bravo pour le look amélioré de Farine et les derniers billets, tous superbes. Je me suis abonnée par mail, pas question d'en manquer une miette.
    HAPPY NEW YEAR to all of you overseas!

  6. love the picture with the split cakes and the honey. this must taste simply amazing!

  7. @thank you, bookcasefoodie! I hope you get to baking them to but I know you have embarked on an ambitious cooking project. I'm going to try and emulate you!
    @Flo, merci de ta visite et de ton supergentil petit mot! Farine est encore en devenir. Disons que le blog se cherche... Si t'as des idées ou suggestions, c'est le moment (par courriel?). Bonne année à vous tous aussi et gros bisous!
    @Barbara, thanks for the visit! I must say I didn't have much of a chance to taste the honey cakes thoroughly because they disappeared faster than I could say Happy New Year!



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