Chocolate gingerbread

This recipe is for a 'pain d'épice' [spice bread]  type of gingerbread - a French classic. Each country has its own version of gingerbread, but I love the French one best.

I wanted to do something a bit different for a special tea, as I'd invited the French conversation group I belong to. I decided to push the boat out, so instead of making just a normal cake looking gingerbread, I made it into a sort of millefeuille version, and added chocolate to it.

The basic recipe came from my French friend's mother, and unlike our English gingerbread, it uses several spices. It's not difficult to make, but making it into a millefeuille was a bit of a faff!

You need:
100g of dark chocolate
100g of honey
*200ml cold double cream
130g flour [my friend's Mum used rye flour but I didn't]
11/2tspns baking powder
2 tspns vanilla sugar
20g icing sugar

for the spices:
1 tspn of cinnamon, 1/2 tspn ground ginger, 1 tpsn freshly grated nutmeg and 1 star anise [crushed in a mortar or a grinder]

100g bar of chocolate to make chocolate curls - or buy some
4 tbspns of cocoa powder

a little flour and 1 tbspn of oil to grease the cake tin

Preheat oven 180C/gas4

Grease and flour a 15cm springform tin - the original recipe asked for a small 'moule à manqué, so I judged that this would be about the right size, and it worked out fine.

Melt the chocolate, honey and 10ml of water in a bowl over a saucepan. Add the spices and mix together.
Sift the flour and baking powder into a bowl then add to the chocolate mixture a little at a time. if the mixture seems too thick, add a little water.
Spoon into the tin and bake for 35-40 mins.
Cool on a wire rack.

It's best to make the pain d'épice the day before you need it, as it's easier then to cut it into disks. This is what I did, and it wasn't too difficult to cut the layers.

Whip the cream till thickish then add the icing and vanilla sugars at the end and mix in gently.

Cut the cake into disks using a bread knife. Make a layer with a disk of pain d'épice then some cream, another biscuit layer and finish with a layer of cream.
Decorate the top with the chocolate curls and sprinkle the cocoa over [I used an old tea strainer].

Everyone enjoyed this, and loved the subtle spice flavours mixed with the chocolate and then the cream layer. It really is a cake of contrasts.

*Sorry, I originally said 20ml of cream - it was 20cl of cream in the French recipe and I just typed 20ml, but it's 200ml of course.


Looks lovely - the chocolate is a lovely addition
I think this is the cake I've made more than any other over the years but I don't think I've ever added chocolate. It sounds like a very good option to me. The variation in spices in French recipes confused me for a while until I realised that every baker has an opinion and none of them agree. That's probably why you can buy pre-mixed spices in France - it saves any arguments.

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