David Lebovitz’s Pain d’Epices au Chocolat (Chocolate Spice Bread)

This is the third installment in a series on the French-themed trip I took this summer, which included two weeks in Paris.  In my first post, I fill you in on how I became such a Francophile.  In my previous post, I wrote about a Parisian food tour inspired by David Lebovitz.  Thanks for reading and please check back in, there’s a lot more to come!

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Until my trip this summer, I had never heard about pain d’épices, a honey-rich, dense spiced bread that is often served with a slice of paté and other savory accompaniments.  When I had a chance to try it, I found it to be sweeter and less spiced than I had expected.  I didn’t love it, to be honest.  But when I read David Lebovitz’s The Sweet Life in Paris, I was intrigued by his take on the classic recipe– his version has the untraditional but faultless addition of rich chocolate.  After all, I can’t think of many things chocolate doesn’t make better.  The recipe reminded me of the chocolate chai I so enjoy sipping, so I had to try it out. It was fantastique! I made only a few small changes: I omitted the whole anise seeds because I couldn’t easily procure any, so I increased a bit of the other spices (ground ginger, cinnamon and cloves).  He recommends serving this dense bread/cake with coffee and with fresh or poached pears.  Because California strawberries are in sweet season now, I am pairing this cake with strawberries instead, and a dollop of creme fraiche.

David Lebovitz’s Chocolate Spice Bread (Pain d’Epices au Chocolat)

Adapted from The Sweet Life in Paris, Broadway Books, 2009.

Makes 1 9-inch round cake.


7 tablespoons (100g) unsalted butter, cut into pieces (I used Kerrygold)

7 oz (200g) bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped (I used two bars of Valrhona Le Noir Amer 71% Cacao)

1 1/4 cups flour

3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder

1 tsp baking powder

3/4 tsp ground cinnamon

1/2 tsp ground ginger

1/2 tsp ground cloves

1/4 tsp salt

1/2 tsp whole anise seeds (if unavailable, substitute an equivalent amount of the above spices)

2 large eggs, at room temperature

2 large egg yolks

1/4 cup honey

2/3 cup sugar


1.  Preheat oven to 350F.  Butter a 9 inch round cake pan, line bottom with parchment paper, and butter that as well.  Dust insides of the pan with flour or cocoa powder (David’s genius tip!) and shake out excess.

2.  Melt chocolate and butter together in a double boiler (or in a microwave, as I do, 30 seconds at time at medium power and stirring well in between zapping in the microwave).

3.  In another bowl, sift flour, cocoa, baking powder, cinnamon, ginger, cloves and salt.  Add anise seeds, if using.

4.  In another bowl use an electric mixer to whip together the eggs, yolks, honey, and sugar until thick and mousselike, about 5 minutes on high speed.

5.  Fold half of the whipped egg mixture into the melted chocolate and butter.  Then fold in the other half.

6.  Add the dry ingredients one-third at a time using a spoon to combine slowly.

7.  Scrape batter into the prepared pan and bake 30-35 minutes, until it is barely set in the center, but still moist.

8.  Remove from oven and cool for 15 minutes in the pan.  Then cool completely on a rack.  Wrap completely in plastic wrap and let stand at room temperature for 24 hours to let flavors meld.

© 2011 Linda Shiue

8 responses

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