The honey cake or honey bread has a long history and is particularly valued and enjoyed by the French at Christmas time.
In ancient times, honey was the most available sweetener. The Greeks and Romans dipped cookies or dried fruit into it. They appreciated its invigorating effect, as did Genghis Khan's cavalry later, for whom honey bread was part of the iron ration. From the Orient, the strengthening sweet initially conquered southeastern Europe before penetrating further north to Flanders. When the Duke of Burgundy married Marguérite of Flanders in 1369, he became acquainted with the cake (boichet), made from wheat flour and honey, which the Duchess valued above all else.
First, a guild of pain d'épiciers was formed in Reims, which was recognized in the 16th century. In Dijon, honey bread gained a foothold from the 18th century. Brottier, a pain d'épicier from Champagne who settled in Dijon in 1796, gained reputation for the wide variety of shapes and flavors with which he offered honey breads and gingerbread. In 1838, the Mulot family took over his company and has survived to this day as the only honey cake factory in Dijon.
When perishable goods began to be transported by rail in 1852, the Dijon honey cake bakers became real manufacturers. Around 1900, around 3 tons of honey cake were baked in several companies. In Dijon people remained loyal to wheat, in many other regions rye flour was processed into honey or gingerbread.
The basic dough is made from white flour, sugar and honey and only kneaded for 12 minutes. It is either processed straight or mixed with dough that has rested in a cool place for a week or two. The dough is kneaded again to make it airier. Raising agents, eggs, milk, spices and candied fruits are incorporated. In Dijon, anise is added to the mix as a traditional spice, but lemon or orange peel or ginger and cinnamon are also popular ingredients.