Delicious and Sticky Pain d’épices: The French Classic Bread-Cake Hybrid

Pain d’épices is a delightful creation that sits somewhere between bread and cake, offering a sticky and irresistible treat. As it sits on your counter overnight, it becomes even more delicious and only gets better with time. This particular recipe combines the richness of spelt and rye flour with warm spices and honey, resulting in a wonderfully complex flavor that will captivate your taste buds.

A French Twist on Gingerbread

Although we often associate gingerbread with cookies, calling pain d’épices “French gingerbread” is a bit of a misnomer. It is, however, spiced in a similar way to gingerbread, lebkuchen, or speculaas. This version incorporates nutmeg, ground ginger, cinnamon, and a touch of cloves, along with orange zest and juice to add a hint of brightness to the mix.

This recipe is an adaptation of one the author used to make as a child. Unfortunately, the original recipe was lost in a house fire (not on purpose, of course), but the memory of pain d’épices remained. While this version is a looser adaptation, as it replaces butter and eggs with alternative ingredients, it still captures the essence of that childhood introduction to this lovely treat.

Why You’ll Love This Recipe

This pain d’épices recipe is a French classic that can be enjoyed throughout autumn and winter. However, it truly shines during the Christmas season, thanks to its perfect blend of orange and spice flavors. Here are a few reasons why this recipe is worth trying:

  • A bit less sweet: By using full-fat coconut milk, you can slightly reduce the amount of honey without compromising the taste. The subtle coconut flavor won’t overpower the other ingredients.
  • Perfectly spiced: The combination of cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and cloves creates a festive ambiance, making it a great choice for the holidays.
  • Egg and dairy-free: Instead of relying on butter and eggs, this recipe uses coconut milk and honey as the main binding agents. The result is a light and slightly sticky loaf, without any need for animal products.


Pain d'épices ingredients.

Ingredient Notes and Substitutions

  • Spices: Feel free to customize the spice combination based on your preferences. For example, cardamom could be used instead of cloves.
  • Spelt flour: If you don’t have light spelt flour on hand, you can substitute it with plain white flour. However, it’s important to keep the rye flour, as it adds a distinct element to pain d’épices.
  • Honey: While it’s hard to say whether this recipe would work without honey to make it vegan, using a different sweetener might alter the texture. It’s best to stick with honey for the best results.

Step by Step

  1. Mix dry ingredients: Whisk the dry ingredients together in a large mixing bowl.
  2. Mix wet ingredients: Whisk together the honey, oil, coconut milk, and orange. Don’t worry if the mixture curdles; it’s completely normal.

Pain d'épices steps 1 to 4.

  1. Transfer: Spoon the batter into a lined bread tin, ensuring an even distribution of the mixture.
  2. Bake: Bake for approximately 50 minutes. Once the loaf has cooled, wrap it well and let it rest overnight before serving.

Recipe Notes

One essential step in preparing pain d’épices is to wrap the bread and let it rest overnight before indulging. This allows the honey to infuse the loaf, resulting in a dense and sweet slice that’s simply irresistible.

Using full-fat milk is crucial as well. Opting for a lighter milk, such as oat milk or reduced-fat coconut milk, will lead to a dry and crumbly loaf. Similar to coconut bread, the fat content in the milk plays a vital role in the success of the recipe as it partially replaces the function of eggs.

A smaller loaf tin is recommended for this recipe, although a regular-sized one will also work. The author’s preferred loaf tin measures 9.5 x 22.5cm, producing perfectly shaped pain d’épices. While it will still taste great in a larger tin, the presentation may not be as appealing.

This delightful treat also makes a thoughtful gift. Consider wrapping it up in a pretty tea towel or beeswax wrap, creating an eco-friendly double gift. Both the reusable fabric and the homemade pain d’épices will surely bring joy to anyone’s doorstep.

How to Store

Storage: To keep your pain d’épices fresh, be sure to wrap it well and store it in a cool place. It should remain delicious for about a week. If needed, you can refrigerate it or keep it in a sealed container.

Freezing: If you’d like to freeze your pain d’épices, place the cooled loaf or individual slices in an airtight container. It should stay freezer-friendly for up to six months.

Bread with two slices cut, oranges and greenery around.

Expert Tips

  • Rest overnight: Allowing the bread to rest overnight is a crucial step in this recipe. To prevent the honey from evaporating, it’s recommended to wrap the loaf in something like beeswax wrap, which minimizes air contact.
  • Use beeswax wraps: Instead of relying on disposable plastic wrap, beeswax wraps are a great alternative. They work wonderfully in keeping your pain d’épices fresh, and they are reusable and environmentally friendly. You can even try making your own.
  • Don’t overmix: This recipe has a lower gluten content, so it’s important to avoid overmixing the batter. Overstirring can result in a tough loaf, so be mindful not to stir for too long.

More Recipes with Honey

  • Honey and Oat Spelt Sourdough
  • Honey Lemon Curd
  • Honey Oatmeal Cookies
  • Honey Oat Bread

If you decide to make this Pain d’épices or any other quick bread recipes from Occasionally Eggs, please take a moment to rate the recipe and leave a comment below. Your feedback is incredibly helpful for others who want to try the recipe. For more recipes, updates, and inspiration, follow Occasionally Eggs on Instagram, Facebook, and Pinterest. Don’t forget to check out the Occasionally Eggs cookbook and subscribe via email for new posts.

This post was originally published in December 2014 and has been updated in December 2020 with minor recipe adjustments, new text, and fresh photographs.

To learn more about BDK Restaurant, visit BDK Restaurant.

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