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Feature

October 1, 2021
Cook Like A Restaurant: Tartine’s Honey Spice Cake
A recipe inspired by pain d’épice and the honey cakes served during Rosh Hashanah.
KH
Written by
Kathleen Hou

For all the times you’ve thought, wow I could totally go for [insert name of your favorite dish here] only to realize that it seems impossible to cook for yourself at home, this series is for you. Cook Like A Restaurant is dedicated to giving you the recipes from the places and chefs you love and also the tricks to make these recipes taste as close to the original versions as possible.

Next up is pastry chef Elisabeth Prueitt of San Francisco’s legendary Tartine Bakery (just try the morning buns). Prueitt is a James Beard Award-winning chef and was named San Francisco Magazine’s Pastry Chef of the Year. She started Tartine Bakery with her husband Chad Robertson, and the bakery now has outposts in Los Angeles and Seoul. Robertson and Prueitt are co-authors of two cookbooks, including Tartine: A Classic Revisited: 68 All-New Recipes + 55 Updated Favorites.

From that cookbook, Prueitt shares her recipe for Honey Spice Cake, inspired by the French pain d’épice and the honey cakes served during Rosh Hashanah. Unlike traditional cakes, spice cakes are flavored using an assortment of spices, such as cinnamon and nutmeg. (Carrot cake is a type of spice cake.) Prueitt calls this a “very fragrant cake.” Don’t be afraid of this recipe, which she calls “quick, satisfying, and straightforward, without any pitfalls for home bakers.” Here are her tips on how to perfectly execute the recipe.

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Use A Coffee Grinder

Like you’ve heard before, store-bought is fine. But if you want to go the extra mile, you can grind your own spices. “I grind my own spices and think it creates a better flavor - just like freshly ground coffee,” says Prueitt. She emphasizes that it’s not necessary though. And if you do choose to grind your own spices, you don’t need to get a spice grinder. “Electric coffee grinders work great!”

As for your blend, feel free to experiment. “You can adjust the spice levels to your taste or swap for ones you like, but if you’re new to baking with spices, just be aware that some are more potent - such as cloves and allspice - and some more subtle. Black pepper is a wonderful addition to this cake as well,” says Prueitt.

Add Some Tea

This recipe calls for tea and for good reason. “The tea adds a dimension of flavor that isn’t like any spice you can buy,” Prueitt explains. “It’s subtle but delicious and familiar.”

Cornstarch Is A Good Substitute

Although cornstarch isn’t a common substitution, it’s an integral part of this recipe. Through trial and error, Prueitt has learned that it creates a lighter cake crumb, and you can use this same trick for other recipes. “Even if using wheat flour in other recipes, substituting 2 tablespoons out of each cup of flour [for cornstarch] will create a lower gluten cake flour, yielding a less dense cake.”

Don’t Be Afraid of Gluten-Free

Many people may not know this, but Prueitt is gluten-free and has always loved baking with alternative flours. While gluten-free desserts can sometimes get a bad rap, she promises that you won’t miss the gluten, as baking without yields a “tender, moist crumb.” In addition, there’s never any danger of over-mixing. “Over-mixing typically becomes an issue when using wheat flour because it strengthens the gluten and creates a tough crumb. One of the advantages of baking gluten-free is that that is not an issue.”

Leave It Out

This cake will only get better with time. “The great thing about this cake is that it lasts for days at room temperature, even improving over time,” says Prueitt. There are multiple ways to enjoy it. Her favorites are: “Fresh from the oven, toasted, and served with cold salted butter, or at room temperature with softened cream cheese.” But either way, she counsels: “Choose your own adventure!”

Tartine's Honey Spice Cake

Makes one 9 by 5 in (23 by 12 cm) loaf or one 8 in (20 cm) round; 6 to 8 servings

  • 1⅔ cups (200 g) gluten-free flour blend OR 1⅓ cups (140 g) oat flour
  • ⅓ cup + 1 tbsp (45 g) cornstarch
  • 1¼ cups (120 g) almond flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • ¼ tsp ground allspice
  • ¼ tsp ground nutmeg
  • ½ cup (120 ml) neutral oil, such as canola
  • ½ cup (170 g) honey
  • ½ cup (90 g) brown sugar, packed
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • ½ cup (120 ml) strong black tea, at room temperature
  • ⅓ cup (95 g) greek or plan full-fat yogurt
  • 1½ tsp fresh ginger, grated

KITCHEN NOTES: To make this nondairy for Rosh Hashanah, you can substitute almond or cashew yogurt.


Preheat the oven to 325°F [160°C]. Butter the sides of a 9 by 5 in [23 by 12 cm] loaf pan or 8 in [20 cm] round cake pan and fit parchment paper into the bottom.

In a large bowl, combine the gluten-free flour, almond flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, allspice, and nutmeg. In a medium bowl, whisk together the oil, honey, brown sugar, eggs, vanilla, tea, yogurt, and ginger. Quickly whisk the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and transfer the batter to the prepared loaf pan.

Bake for 1 hour, or until a knife inserted into the center comes out clean. Cool in the pan on a wire rack for 30 minutes. Loosen the sides with a small knife, and turn out onto a wire rack to finish cooling.

Store the cake in an airtight container or tightly wrapped for up to 4 days at room temperature or in the refrigerator for 1 week.

Reprinted from Tartine: A Classic Revisited: 68 All-New Recipes + 55 Updated Favorites by Elisabeth Prueitt and Chad Robertson, with permission by Chronicle Books, 2019. Photographs © Gentl & Hyers.

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Tartine: A Classic Revisited: 68 All-New Recipes + 55 Updated Favorites

One of the most beautiful cookbooks around, Tartine: A Classic Revisited won the 2020 IACP Award for Best Cookbook, Food Photography & Styling. It features over 150 photographs and a foreword written by Alice Waters.

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A loaf pan with non-stick ceramic coating, and it comes in jaunty colors.

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Diaspora Co. Peni Miris Cinnamon

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Diaspora Co. Makhir Ginger

If you don’t feel like grinding your own ginger, you can buy some from this female-owned business. This ginger is described as very potent, containing hints of caramel that will make this cake incredibly aromatic.

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Bob's Red Mill Gluten Free 1-to-1 Baking Flour

A gluten-free flour that’s specially made to be substituted in any traditional baking recipe.

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