Nonnettes (French glazed gingerbread cakes)
Updated: Dec 17, 2019
One of my favourite little treats around Christmas are French glazed gingerbread cakes filled with marmalade.
I love everything gingerbread and when few years ago my friend asked me to bake some Nonnettes for her mum - well, you know - I could not say no. I wanted these little cuties to taste like original thing. Went on to research what makes for great Nonnettes. I managed to find few original recipes: all had honey, some amount of rye flour (texture should be light but with closed-knit crumb), classic pain d’epices and… eggs. Went on to test these cakes. After comparing batch baked on water versus batch baked on milk, I decided to go with milk (milk is giving richer flavour than baking on water only and when mixed with honey and brown sugar it brings out lovely caramel notes from both). Then used a mixture of honey and brown sugar to bring gentle caramel notes. Added eggs. I was happy with the result. Brought these little cakes to my friend’s mum (lovely French lady in her early 70s) and she said they were OK. Not as good as the ones she used to have. Grand.
Next year - I was asked again to make the same. I approached this one with similar enthusiasm…No, I did not - I was dreading to get the same feedback - yay but nay! Started baking and.. I forgot to add eggs. I had no homemade blackcurrant or orange marmalade that I added before (apparently that was a must). Cakes had no eggs, I mixed quickly thick plum confiture with rose petal confiture (that was all I had at hand that would suit gingerbread) and brushed each cake generously with rum-lemon glaze. And you know what? These got rave reviews and were the closest to the original cakes her family remembers. So, I said - but these have no eggs, no blackcurrant (or orange) marmalade. This lovely lady looked at me - eggs? What EGGS? There should be no eggs in these cakes. You see, she said, these were baked in the winter, chicks would not lay eggs then. Whatever the explanation was - I took the feedback and now I am baking a share amount of these mini cakes every December, without eggs.
These little Nonnettes became my regular bake and always get rave reviews - whether you know what’s in them or not! :)
Preparation here is quick! Honey, brown sugar, milk and butter are cooked until melted and combined. Then, in your main mixing bowl you will mix all the spices, add lukewarm honey mixture, lemon zest, lemon juice, rum, vanilla extract. Then flours (sifted with baking soda, baking powder and salt) are added to all wet ingredients and swiftly mixed (I use simple tablespoon for that!). Literally - 15 minutes prep.
Once the batter is ready, line the baking tin with parchment paper (greasing sides with butter and dusting with flour) or with cupcake liners. Use muffin tin or mini cheesecake tin. I always use cupcake cases for these (obviously it will leave marks on cakes but it's the quickest fix).
What marmalade/jam to use? Blackcurrant, orange, plum, rose petal, apple marmalades all work well in this recipe. The thicker the jam/marmalade the better. The combination that always gets rave reviews is plum marmalade (or plum butter, or apple marmalade/butter) mixed with rose petal marmalade. Use 1 generous teaspoon per nonnette (1 Tbsp batter, 1 tsp marmalade, 1 flat Tbsp batter). Baking time is quick - 25 minutes.
Glaze here is not optional! :) It’s absolutely delicious and brings additional rum-lemon flavour to these little cakes. Not only it’s delicious but it will also keep your cakes fresh for longer. Wait for the cakes to cool slightly (usually half an hour), then take off the cupcake cases and when cakes are still warm, brush generously with the glaze (brush top and edges). If you love rum flavour and want to spike the glaze further - this recipe can take up to 1 Tbsp (15ml) rum.
Last but not least - a note on spices. Mixed spice is different from country to country. If you happen to have pain d’épices - great! If you don’t - use local pre-mixed spice or mix the spices as in the recipe (this will bring you very close to original flavour; there is no coriander and star anise in the below spice mix though - add 1/8 tsp each if you are a fan!).
These cakes will be enjoyable for 4-5 days (I doubt you will have these for long but, if stored properly and glazed thoroughly, these cakes can be enjoyed for a number of days). These little cakes mature with time and are actually even better from day 2 onwards (spices will fully infuse the cake). Store your cakes in airtight container in cool place (if you plan to store for longer, bring to room temperature before serving) or store at room temperature in airtight container (or under cake cover) for 4-5 days .
Nonnettes Recipe (French Glazed Gingerbread cakes)
Yield: 8-10 mini cakes
Tin: cupcake tin or mini-cheesecake tin
Time: 15 min prep + 25 min baking + 10 min prep (glaze)
- 165g good honey
- 120g light brown sugar
- 150ml full-fat milk
- 150g unsalted butter (but salted is more than OK)
- zest from 1 lemon
- 1 Tbsp (15ml) lemon juice
- 2 tsps (10ml) vanilla extract
- 20ml rum
- 1 and 1/2 tsps ground ginger
- 1 and 1/2 tsps ground cinnamon
- 1 tsp ground cloves
- 1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
- 1/2 tsp ground allspice
- 1/2 tsp ground cardamom
- 1/4 tsp ground black or white pepper
(OR use 1 Tbsp + 1 tsp pain d’épices or mixed spice)
- 250g all-purpose flour
- 50g rye flour
- 1 and 1/2 tsp baking powder
- 1/2 tsp baking soda
- 1/2 tsp coarse sea salt
- 50g plum marmalade/jam - the thicker the better
- 50g rose petal marmalade - the thicker the better
(Or use 100g blackcurrant/plum/orange/rose petal/apple marmalade)
- 20g salted butter (or unsalted with a pinch of salt)
- 80g confectioners’ sugar
- 1/8 tsp nutmeg
- 1 Tbsp (15ml) clear lemon juice
- 1 tsp (5ml) rum
1. Preheat the oven to 175C (160C fan forced). Line cupcake tray or mini-cheesecake form with cupcake liners.
2. Prepare honey mixture: In a medium pot, combine honey, sugar, milk, butter - cook on medium heat, stirring occasionally until melted and combined. Take off the heat and cool (you will use lukewarm). When lukewarm, add lemon zest, lemon juice, vanilla extract, rum and mix to combine.
3. Sift flour: Mix all-purpose flour with rye flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt and sift.
4. Combine: Place spices in your main mixing bowl, pour lukewarm honey mixture (from Step 2) and mix to combine. Cool the mixture to room temperature. Add sifted flour (from Step 3) and using spoon, with few swift moves, combine the batter. Don’t over-mix. Place 1 Tbsp of batter onto the cupcake liner, 1 generous tsp of marmalade (mix plum with rose petal) and cover with 1 flat Tbsp of cake batter (liners will be filled 4/5 high).
5. Bake at 175C (160C fan forced) for 25 minutes. When ready, take out from the oven and cool on the cooling rack for 20 minutes. When slightly cooled, gently take off the cupcake liners and apply glaze on warm cakes.
6. Prepare Lemon-Rum glaze: Sift confectioners’ sugar with nutmeg. In a small pot melt butter, take off the heat. Add rum and lemon juice to lukewarm butter. Add sugar with nutmeg and stir until combined. Brush cakes (tops and sides) generously with warm glaze. If you notice the glaze is setting - add few drops of hot water.
1. Famous/infamous eggs - if you want to see how these taste when eggs are added - add 1 large egg and 1 egg yolk just before adding flour. The feedback from all testers who were looking for THE taste was that the texture is closer to muffin when eggs are added (too light, fluffy, eggy). I am not too bothered but ever since my flop (forgetting eggs!) I have been baking these little cuties without eggs and really happy with results.
2. Honey - a little secret ingredient. The type of honey used may impact flavour of these cakes. Use good honey, you can use any type of honey. I usually go for rapeseed honey (deeper, stronger honey flavour) or lavender honey (subtle lavender aroma). If you want only subtle (to none) honey taste - go for acacia or linseed (gentle, neutral honeys).