While pain d'épices (meaning "spiced bread" in French) was popularized in Reims, France, the origins of this honey spice cake can be traced back to China. A version of this spiced quick bread is said to have been brought to from China to Europe's doorstep during the crusades. Over the centuries, the French put their own spin on it and what is now known as pain d'épices is a holiday staple on many French tables (their love for this bread runs so deep that there is even a pain d'épices museum in Alscae, France!).
Gabriel Perronneau's honey spice cake is made in the style of Reims pain d'épices, which uses fermented rye flour as a base. The addition of the rye flour give the bread a delicate sour tang, which is balanced by plenty of honey and warming spices (cardamom, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, a hint of star anise, black pepper and ginger). This traditional pain d'épices is finished with sugar and walnuts for crunch and texture.
How to use
Reims-style pain d'épices' dense, moist crumb makes it ideal for slicing thick, toasting and slathering with French salted butter. The French also pair this honeyed bread with foie gras, but we can imagine it would equally delicious with a chicken liver mousse pâté. Pain d'épices also makes the perfect mate for cheese of all kinds, from rich triple crèmes and washed rind cheeses like Epoisses to blue cheeses like St. Agur and Fourme d'Ambert.