Lemon And Cardamom Nonnettes

I've wittered on about nonnettes in the past  but I love them and I can't understand why everyone else in the world doesn't feel the same way. So apologies for nearly repeating myself but here's my current favourite variation on the nonnette theme, replacing the more traditional orange flavours with lemon.

Nonnettes are most commonly associated with the town of Dijon, although there are bakers elsewhere in France who seem a little unconvinced by this suggestion. Wherever the recipe originated, though, it's certainly been around a long time. In fact, it seems to  date from the middle ages. One notable feature of these cakes is that they don’t contain any eggs (well, not the way I make them anyway). I've used lemon curd in this particular version, but if you want to avoid eggs, substitute marmalade or jam (raspberry, blackberry or boysenberry will all work well).

Nonnettes are closely related to pain d’épices and so will often contain a more complex mix of spices and will also often use rye flour, at least in part. For this version I've stuck to a single spice and I've used a mixture of plain white and wholemeal flours. Nonnettes are usually baked in round tins and so smallish muffin tins will be fine. Just for a bit of variety I used a friand tin on this occasion.
Lemon and Cardamom Nonnettes
This recipe should make around 15 cakes.

200 g runny honey
100 ml water
100 ml milk
100 g light soft brown sugar
80 g butter
1 tsp limoncello (optional)
200 g plain flour
100 g wholemeal flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1 tsp ground cardamom seeds
zest of 1 lemon, finely grated
15 tsp (or one teaspoon per cake) lemon curd

For the glaze:
     5 tbsp icing sugar
     a little lemon juice

Put the honey, water, milk, brown sugar, butter and limoncello (if you’re using it) into a saucepan. Heat gently, stirring all the time, until the butter has melted, the sugar has dissolved and the mixture is smooth and uniform. Take off the heat and set aside.

Mix together the flours, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda and the ground cardamom. While the honey mixture is still warm, sieve the flour mixture onto it and whisk the two together until smooth. Stir in the lemon zest. Put the mixture into the fridge and leave it there for at least an hour until thoroughly chilled.

Preheat the oven to 180°C. Spoon the mixture into the muffin or friand tins until they’re somewhere between two-thirds and three-quarters full. Place a teaspoon of lemon curd on top of each nonnette. Bake for 15 – 17 minutes. It can be a little tricky to judge when the cakes are ready – they should be golden brown and, although still soft, they should spring back when pressed gently.

While the nonnettes are still warm and in their moulds, mix the icing sugar with enough lemon juice to create a thin icing. Pour the icing over the nonnettes or, better still, spread it on with a pastry brush. The idea is to create something resembling a thin sugar glaze rather than an iced cake. Allow the nonnettes to cool before removing them from the tin.

Nonnettes keep well in an airtight tin and, in fact, taste even better if allowed to mature for one or two days, if you can wait that long.
Lemon and Cardamom Nonnettes
I haven't entered many blog challenges in recent months because of a serious lack of time (and energy) but the theme for this month’s Love Cake challenge, hosted by Jibber Jabber UK is French. If you've read this blog before, then you might have noticed that French cake is a bit of an obsession with me, so I can't resist entering this particular challenge.
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  1. They look lovely Phil, but I'm not a fan of cardamom. I might use other spices instead, thanks for sharing

  2. These look lovely, and sound delicious! I'm always looking for cakes which keep well.

  3. A great list of ingredients. They look good, and love the idea of using lemon instead of orange.

  4. These have gone straight onto must must try list. They look just perfect and any cake that keeps well for a few days is worth knowing about for baking ahead.

  5. I I googled nonettes upon reading the title of your post- thank you for the explanation in the body of your post as my GCSE French is certainly not up to translating all the google results! These looks really lovely little treats Phil.

    1. Thank you very much but you might be implying that my command of the French language can be trusted. Many people, especially French people, have made that mistake and been driven to despair. Although I do make extra linguistic efforts for the sake of good cake.

  6. They look so delightful Phil and I loved the idea of lemon curd :)

  7. Lemon and cardamom are a heavenly combination and I feel it's time I made some nonettes. Especially as I am at the moment in France!
    Thanks for the recipe!

  8. Oooo these look very good. In all my time in France I've never come across a nonette, but then I tend to hang out in the South West so perhaps that's why? But we are going this summer so I will keep an eye out - and if I don't find any (and perhaps even if I do) I shall get myself some friand tins forthwith and have a go myself. Recipe looks great!

    1. I've spent many very happy times in the South West but I've had a think about it and I have to confess that I can't remember ever seeing a nonnette there. There are plenty around Dijon, of course, and no nonnette shortage in Normandy. Like many things in life, I have no sensible explanation for this.

  9. I shall ever be grateful to you for introducing me to these delights Phil. As you know, I've made a few variations now, but not for a long time, so this is a good reminder. Yours is still the only decent recipe I've seen for nonnettes. I think there is great milage in a cookbook for traditional French cakes (NOT patisserie) and my vote is for you to write it.

    1. Many thanks for the kind words and the vote of confidence. As for a book, there does seem to be a gap in the market but it's difficult to find time to update this blog (apologies - not many posts so far this year) and so unless somebody knows a place where I can buy myself a lot of cheap spare time, then I'm afraid that the book is never going to happen. Maybe someone else will have a go one day.

    2. I quite fancy some of that cheap spare time too Phil. I'll let you know when I find some and the book may happen yet ;-)

  10. I've never come across a nonnette before so thank you so much for making the effort to join in with this month's Love Cake. I don't think I've ever come across anything similar when it comes to ingredients and method.

  11. Wow! its a beautiful recipe! i want to make this one!

  12. Phil, naturally when I read your current post and mentioned having posted nonnettes before, I had to find them. Lovely!


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