Pain D'épices (French Honey Orange Spice Cake)

This homemade spice cake recipe, also known as Pain d’épice. is a classic French Spice cake flavored with orange zest, honey and made with rye flour. Easy and made from scratch.

Belula December 08, 2019 November 20, 2020
Pain d'épices decorated with candied oranges and starred anis arranged in an irregular pattern

Pain d’épices is a French spice cake (or bread). A true pain d’épice must have honey, spices, and rye flour. It’s a well-known Christmas time pastry in the northeast of France: especially in the regions of Dijon, Alsace, and Reims. This homemade French Honey Orange Spice cake is flavoured with orange zest, cinnamon, anis, cloves, pepper, and vanilla. This orange spice cake is super moist thanks to the honey in this recipe. Your kitchen will smell heavenly!

The mini pain d'épices topped with candied oranges, starred anis, and cinnamon
A mini pain d'épices sliced with the background blurry and a cinnamon stick in the right bottom corner
The mini pain d'épices topped with candied oranges, starred anis, and cinnamon
A mini pain d'épices sliced with the background blurry and a cinnamon stick in the right bottom corner

Material & Ingredient Notes

Only a few things are necessary:

  • Mini cake molds pans. For this recipe I used this one Set of 3, 12 Cavity Medium Narrow Silicone Rectangle Molds. You can also use muffin tins. Or bake one big pain d'épice loaf.
  • Spices: star anis, black pepper, ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves.
  • Honey: use a kind that has pronounced flavour as it will be present in the final product. Honey also enhances the spice flavours, gives this spice cake a longer shelf and makes it very moist. Plus, it is a natural sweetener and it tastes great!
  • Rye flour: a small amount from the total flour gives the bread a distinctive flavour.
  • Orange and lemon zests: they should be freshly grated.
  • Egg: free range eggs.
  • Vanilla extract: use a good quality one. I recommend this one Rodelle Gourmet Pure Vanilla Extract.
The honey and the spices arranged nicely
3 mini pain d'épices and one small piece so we can see the inside

How to make this French Spice Cake recipe from scratch?

To make this honey orange spice cake recipe you must:

  • Prepare the materials.
  • Make the pain d’épice batter
  • Bake these mini cakes
  • Let them cool down and top with candied oranges. Or not! Up to you.
A bowl with the egg, sugar and honey mixture after beating 10 minutes
A bowl with the egg, sugar mixture plus flour, spices and citrus zests
A bowl with the pain d'épices batter ready
A piping bag filled with the pain d'épice batter
The mini cake molds buttered and ready to be filled
The mini cake molds filled with the pain d'épices batter and a pipping bag next to them.
The 2 pans of mini cake molds filled and ready to bake
The spice cakes in the mold just out the oven
Pain d'épices baked and arranged irregularly on a countertop

Recipe notes

  • It is important to whisk the eggs and the sugar until the mixture has gained volume. This is key to moist and fluffy cake.
  • Honey must be added in warm.
  • You can fill in the mini cake pans either using a pipping bag or a small ladle.
  • Bake until golden. To make sure the cake is properly baked insert a skewer or a cake tester at the centre. It should come out clean.

Expert notes

  • The baking time is approximate. Every oven is different, and it will also depend on the size of the mini cake pans you chose to bake the orange spice cake in.

Storage tips

This cake keeps at room temperature for up to a week covered in plastic wrap.

Freezer instructions

It keeps for 2 months in the freezer, properly wrapped and placed in an airtight container. To defrost, leave at room temperature overnight.

Variations to this recipe

You can make this into one big French spice cake loaf. Baking times should be adapted accordingly.

How to serve this Pain d'épices?

You can eat it all by itself as a snack, toasted with some jam or butter and you can also use to serve with foie gras during your holiday season aperitif hour 😊. It is a very versatile pastry and you will love having it around!

The ingredients used in all recipes on this site are measured using the metric system. I use a scale to be precise with my measurements and ensure good results. If you would also like to use a scale, here are some: USA, Canada, UK, Australia, France.
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 20 minutes
Total Time: 35 minutes

Servings: 24 mini cakes
Nutrition: 110 cal
Cuisine: French


  • Milk 150 g
  • Honey 300 g
  • Flour 300 g
  • Rye Flour 25 g
  • Baking Powder 20 g
  • Eggs (about 4 large) 200 g
  • Sugar 60 g
  • Ground Cinnamon 5 g
  • Nutmeg 1.5 g
  • Ground Starred Anis 1.5 g
  • Vanilla Extract 5 g
  • Lemon Zest (the grated zest of 2 lemons) 2
  • Orange Zest (the grated zest of 2 oranges) 2
  • Freshly Ground Black Pepper 1.5 g
  • Ground Cloves 1.5 g
  • Ground Ginger 5 g
  • Salt 1 pinch
  • Candied Oranges (optional) 100 g


  • 1. Prepare the materials/ingredients: Butter (or grease with baking spray) the mini cake moulds evenly and preheat the oven to 160 C°. Sift the flour and baking powder. Add the spices and set aside.
  • 2. Make the French Spice cake Batter: Over low heat warm the honey (about 50 degrees). Whisk the eggs and sugar until they have gained in volume and changed in colour. Add the warm honey and whisk some more until it has gained in volume once again. Warm the milk over low heat. At low speed (the lowest on your machine) add the flour/baking powder/spice mix, the vanilla extract, and the freshly grated citrus zests. Once everything is properly mixed in, add the warm milk very slowly.
  • 3. Bake the Pain d’épice: Fill the mini cake pans with the pain d’épice batter and bake for about 25/30 minutes, until golden. Insert a skewer at the center of the cake, if it comes out clean, then the orange spice cake is done. Let it cool for 5 minutes then remove from the cake pans and let it cool down completely over a wire rack.
  • 4. Decorate the cake: Top with candied oranges (optional)
If you made this recipe I would really appreciate it if you leave a rating or comment below! Also, if you share on social media please use #cookwithbelula, I would love to see what you create!
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