fa-la-la ludo's pain d'épices.

ludo pain d'epices

yes, it's from heem again, what of it? with the way things are going this holiday season could be a ludo christmas or a ludacrismas --it could go either way.


it's (eeeep!) only tweeks away from the 25th, and i'm still trying to decide what my christmas cake gift will be. truth be told, i'm not entirely sure anyone around here appreciates gingerbread, spice cakes, or fruitcake, but i so want to do one. or all. or, in the case of this ludo recipe, a spice and fruitcake rolled into one.

pain d'épices
--"bread of spices"--is a specialty of the bourgogne/burgundy region of france, possibly adapted from a chinese honey cake in the middle ages to satisfy marguerite de france's penchant for honey cake, depending on what you read. a combination of ideal geography and shrewd calculations gave the burgundian dukes control of the spice trade through europe, which accounts for the exotic, redolent spices found in pain d'epices: anise, cloves, cinnamon, sometimes ginger. since chef lefebvre is from burgundy, i thought, what better source is there? (of course it has nothing to do with the fact that the cookbook is at my bedside, no not at all.)

it is a simple recipe, despite the 20 item ingredient list; the majority of those are spices, and only in small quantities. rather surprising to me, though, is that ginger is not one of those ingredients, but with fresh orange and lemon peel, star anise and cloves among them, who needs it? also unnecessary are eggs and fat--this is a dairy-free dessert. unlike many of the other pain d'epices receipts i have found, this one has candied fruit in it, making it very much a fruitcake. i substituted traditional glacé fruits with a dried fruit blend to great effect--the candied texture is still there, but with much less sweetness. there is also a bounty of pistachios, hazelnuts, and almonds within. once all the ingredients have been assembled--dry items in one bowl, wet in another, nuts and bolts to the side--it really comes down to just mixing them all and baking, in the easiest possible way. whoo!

the cake is dark, dense, moist, intensely aromatic and flavoured; a thin slice is better than a thick one to savour all the flavours going on within it. i find it exotic and appealing, very we-three-kings frankincensey and jewellike. however, the gingerbread jury thought otherwise: "omg, is that a fruitcake?! bleurgh" or "blarrgh! wtf? is there cumin in this?!" pfftpfftpfft. why, ho ho ho, yes, there is cumin in there--a mere fraction of a teaspoonful--but apparently enough to make staunch cuminyfruitycake-haters fuel up on haterade (who knew there would be so many). *sigh* i could leave out the cumin. or, get new friends. but do i really want to do either?

back to the books.


Fruitcake is one of those things I don't really like, but I like to eat it anyway. Like you said, we three kings-ish or something.Or like all figgy-pudding is bound to be a disappointment, but we all want some.

Santos, I have been meaning to make pain d'épices forever - your photo is tempting me even more! :)

miss mary jane! happy holidays to you. i know exactly what you mean about both the fruitcake and figgy pudding. i definitely like the ideas of them, but when confronted with them, they don't live up to the hype. i blame the christmas carol industry! at least on the figgy pudding's behalf. do you know of a christmas song with 'fruitcake' in the lyrics?

hello miss patricia! i was just looking at those lovely chocolate cookies with maldon salt you've made; i don't know which one i'd like to try first--this or those beautiful madeleines. i look forward to seeing your pain d'épices efforts.

This looks very exotic and I can almost smell the spices!

good morning acornbud! the star anise and orange peel made it very chinese tasting, but the cumin, cinnamon and clove reminded me more of indian food. i think it confused a lot of people! it's definitely a cake that needs to sit for a few days to develop and marry the flavours. i think i made people try it a little too early. they could definitely identify the cumin!

Cumin makes me expect something savoury... But it sounds like a fine experiment! Wasn't going to make a christmas fruit cake this year, but yours has hypnotised me into considering it.

What about using cardamom instead of cumin? Chai flavours and all that...

You should definitely keep the nuts and bolts to the side. Always. :)

Hm. No cumin for me here, neither, not in a sweet thing. But I'm curious to hear if maybe it's mellowed a bit after a couple of days? Huh?

ha! ... fueled up on haterade ... love it!

I've never had pain d'epices but love fruitcake and have nothing against cumin. Think I'll take a peek at that recipe...

the cake looks beautiful! i've never had fruit cake but i guess if i ever do i'll have to have this pain d'epices! i like brambles's idea of using cardamom.

Here is ONE lyric I know with fruitcake in it.
Haul Out The Holly
Put up the tree before my spirit falls again
Fill up the stocking but deck the halls now

For we need a little christmas
right this very minute
Candles in the window
Carols at the spinet
Yes, we need a little christmas right this very minute

It hasn't snowed a single flurry
But santa dear we're in a hurry

Climb down the chimney
Turn on the brightest string of lights I've ever seen
Slice up the FRUITCAKE
It's time we hung some tinsle on that evergreen bough

For I've grown a little leaner
Grown a little colder
Grown a little sadder
Grown a little older

And I need a little angel
Sitting on my shoulder
Need a little Christmas now

For we need a little music
Need a little laughter
Need a little singing
Ringing through the rafter

And we need a little snappy
"Happy ever after"
Need a little Christmas now