Nonnettes for Early Summer

If you've had the misfortune of following this blog for some time, then it's just about possible you may remember that I've wittered on about nonnettes before. But it's nearly 5 years since I last featured them and, since they're one of my favourite cakes, I don't feel too guilty about wittering on again. After all, imagine how bad you'd feel if you went to see a band and they only played new songs and none of their hits. (It felt pretty bad, actually, but let's not go there).

This version started when my wife was given a jar of local honey produced in the spring. (I admit that my knowledge of honey is minimal at best). This honey is light in colour, less intense than a high summer honey but with some lovely, subtle flavours and I wanted to use it to produce a lighter and fragrant nonnette with some of the flavours of early summer.

I made 11 relatively large cakes with this mix using friand and medium-sized muffin tins. If you choose a small muffin tin, you'll get 15 or more cakes but remember to reduce the amount of jam per cake as well as the cooking time. Whatever tin you use, though, make sure that you butter it carefully because the honey makes these cakes very sticky as they bake.
Early Summer Nonnettes

200 g honey, a light and fragrant type 
100 ml water
100 ml milk (semi-skimmed will do)
100 g golden caster sugar
80 g unsalted butter
Zest of 1 lime (or lemon if you prefer)
200 g plain flour
100 g wholemeal spelt flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1 tsp gooseberry jam for every nonnette (cut down the amount for smaller nonnettes)

And for the glaze:
4 or 5 tbsp icing sugar
Elderflower syrup or cordial and lemon (or lime) juice

Put the honey, water, milk, sugar and butter into a saucepan. Heat gently, stirring frequently, 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 lime (or lemon) zest. While the honey mixture is still warm, sieve the flour mixture onto it and whisk the two together until smooth. 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 thoroughly buttered tins until they're somewhere between two-thirds and three-quarters full. Place a teaspoon of gooseberry jam on top of each nonnette. Bake for 15 – 17 minutes until they're golden brown and spring back when pressed gently. 

While the nonnettes are still warm and in the tin, combine the icing sugar with a mixture of a little elderflower syrup (or cordial) and 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 but will also freeze very nicely.


  1. I loved reading about your nonnettes first time around but never got around to making them. I did buy some in a touristy shop but they were not as nice as I expected so still have the intention to make some instead. These do sound delicious.

    1. I've come across plastic wrapped nonnettes in various tourist and gift shops in France and they aren't usually too inspiring. I think they're mostly designed for long shelf life and good profit margin. Fortunately the first time I tried nonnettes they were homemade by a small scale producer of honey in Normandy and it was one of those food experiences (I've had quite a few) that I'm unlikely to forget. They might not be to everyone's taste but if they're made with good honey and if you like pain d'épices then I'm pretty sure you'll really enjoy them.

  2. Phil, I can't believe there are no eggs in these, but if you say so. I'll be trying them very soon!

    1. I promise that there are no eggs in traditional or my less traditional nonnettes. I did once read an article in a French magazine that claimed that nonnettes were invented by nuns during an unexplained egg shortage. I don't really buy that. I think that it's more likely that they were invented as a way of using up excess bits of pain d'épices dough. Of course, since they don't contain eggs, the texture isn't a typical cake texture.

  3. Have never made any, so will definitely be trying these. Have got a jar of local honey that needs using.

    1. They're definitely worth a try. They're just a little bit different to most cakes and I'm very fond of them alongside good coffee or tea.

  4. I got right on these, Phil! Just posted.

    1. I'm very happy to see that you're trying the joys of nonnettes. You might have noticed that I'm a bit of an enthusiast for these little cakes.


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