A gorgeous Parisian style gingerbread cake recipe, Pain d’espices, from America’s reigning top chef Thomas Keller. A moist, dark, and dense cake, it ages beautifully and is more intense and gorgeous the next day. While it may be may in two loaf pans, it is so much more exciting when poured into an architectural baking bundt cake mold, piped with royal icing, and sprinkled with sugar snow (confectioner’s sugar). Snip a few branches from some backyard evergreens and this cake makes an enchanting edible holiday centerpiece. Kitchen Notes For the best results, do as bakers do and weigh the ingredients. It is a good idea to replace all your spices every six months and at the very least once a year. No better time than just before the holidays when spices are used for baking.
cuisine French
difficulty Moderate
season Winter
serves 10

Ingredients for the Cake

  • 2 1/4 cups plus 2 teaspoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinamon
  • 3/8 teaspoons ground cloves
  • 1/2 plus 1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 cup plus 1 1/2 teaspoons dark brown sugar, lightly packed
  • 1 cup plus 2 1/2 teaspoons unsulfured blackstrap molasses
  • 3/4 cup plus 3 1/2 tablespoons canola oil
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 1/4 cups plus 2 1/2 tablespoons boiling water
  • 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
  • non-stick baking spray

For Royal Icing

  • 1 3/4 cups confectioner's sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon lemon juice
  • 3 1/2 tablespoons egg whites


  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Liberally spray a 10- to 12-cup bundt-style pan (make certain no oil pools in the pan in the crevices).
  2. Place the flour in a medium bowl. Sift in the baking soda, ginger, cinnamon, and cloves. Add the salt and whisk together.
  3. Place the brown sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment and mix on low speed to break up any lumps. Add the molasses and mix for about 1 minute, or until smooth. With the mixer running, ad the oil in a slow, steady stream and continue to mix for about 1.5 minutes, until completely combined. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl. With the mixer on low speed, add the eggs and mix for 1 minute, or until the mixture is smooth.
  4. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl. Add the dry mixture in 2 additions, mixing on low speed for 15 to 30 seconds after each. With the mixer running, add the water 60 grams (1/4 cup) at a time, incorporating each addition before adding the next. Scrape down the bowl again. Fold in the lemon zest.
  5. Pour the batter into the bundt pan. Bake for 1 hour, or until a skewer inserted in the center comes out clean. Set the pan on a cooling rack and cool for 10 minutes. Turn the cake onto a rack and cool completely.—it is best to make the cake 1 day ahead, wrap in plastic wrap and sore at room temperature.
  6. To make the royal icing, place the powdered sugar and lemon juice in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. With the mixer running, slowly add just over half of the egg whites and mix until smooth. The icing should be loose enough to use as a glaze—add additional egg whites if needed.