Perfume With the Aroma of Gingerbread

For anyone interested in perfumery, blending a gingerbread spice mixture can be a useful exercise. You can learn to create top, heart and base notes and to understand how spices interplay to create an aroma greater than the simple sum of their parts. Most European countries have their own gingerbread recipe and a combination of spices that gives each regional variation its distinctive flavor. My great-grandmother’s Ukrainian version was scented with cinnamon, clove, nutmeg, star anise and a hint of saffron. When I blended it myself following her proportions, I realized that it was similar to the “gingerbread perfume” accord I learnt how to make as a perfumery student, although my liquid version didn’t have the voluptuous richness of saffron.

In FT magazine column Mouthwatering Scents of Gingerbread, I write about spices, pastries and perfumes, including my four favorite fragrances with a gingerbread accord. To read the full article, please click here.

More on gingerbread: Ukrainian Honeycakes with Cinnamon :: Gingerbread Spice Blends :: Belgian Gingerbread (Speculoos) :: Dutch Cinnamon Cookies (Jan Hagel).

I’d love your opinion on other gingerbread redolent perfumes. Also, if anyone has a favorite recipe for the dark, moist, soft gingerbread or honeycake, I’d be most grateful.  

Photography by Bois de Jasmin, to make the printed gingerbread, I used the dough recipe for speculoos.



  • Leslie: I made Nigella’s gingerbread recipe and it was really tasty. I’ll email it to you. February 23, 2018 at 11:18am Reply

    • Sandra: thanks for the link to the recipe below.. February 23, 2018 at 3:10pm Reply

      • Victoria: Do you bake for your little one? February 23, 2018 at 5:07pm Reply

        • Sandra: Yes, currently I have another one! Baking for 2 little ones 🙂

          Scones are a big hit, also madeleines, and they even taking a liking to your persian rice cookies.. February 23, 2018 at 5:18pm Reply

          • Victoria: Two little helpers! 🙂 February 26, 2018 at 10:45am Reply

    • Victoria: Thank you, Leslie! February 23, 2018 at 5:06pm Reply

  • Leslie: Oh, maybe others want it too, so here it is. February 23, 2018 at 11:19am Reply

    • Victoria: It does look very good. Thank you so much. February 23, 2018 at 5:06pm Reply

  • Kate: Bois des Iles, it almost goes without saying. A very non-gourmand gingerbread, but it sits so beautifully with the sandalwood and aldehydes. Every time I wear it I’m struck again by how beautiful a composition it is, although I know it only in the EdT concentration. The pure parfum I can only dream of.

    I really enjoyed reading your FT column, Victoria! February 23, 2018 at 11:36am Reply

    • Emilie: I find gingerbread like spices in Bois des Iles too Katie, hiding amongst the autumn leaves and dry woods. However I also find in the opening notes there is something fizzy and sweet that smells to me just like cola! Does anyone else get this impression in the beginning?

      I too have only tried the EdT and am curious about the pure parfum and if this ‘cola’ note is present… February 23, 2018 at 4:59pm Reply

      • Victoria: I think it might be the ginger and spice combination. I notice more of it in the EDT than in the parfum. February 23, 2018 at 5:10pm Reply

        • Emilie: Ah, thank you Victoria. I will have to build up the courage to ask the SA at David Jones if I may try a little of the pure parfum (they keep them all behind the counter here in South Australia *sigh* so you have to be brave.) February 23, 2018 at 5:25pm Reply

          • Victoria: Do ask them! It’s worth comparing the two versions, especially if you love the EDT. February 26, 2018 at 10:46am Reply

      • Kate: Yes, I agree about the cola aroma! The ultimate woods-and-cola for me is Donna Karan Black Cashmere, of course 🙂 February 23, 2018 at 5:24pm Reply

        • Emilie: Woods-and-cola. It sounds like a fun new category of scent 🙂 It could rival the fruitichouli craze! I’m not sure I love the cola accent but would like to smell Black Cashmere for comparison and to see if it grows on me. After all I find Bois de Iles EdT strangely addictive even though the top notes confuse my nose.

          Maybe I’ve just not smelled anything like it before. I don’t have any gingerbread memories or recipes I’m afraid 🙁 February 23, 2018 at 5:31pm Reply

          • Victoria: I’m still trying to recreate the storebought gingerbread we used to get when I was little. I suspect that it might have including vanillin and orange extract, rather than real vanilla and orange zest. My memory of it is so precise, but getting the right proportions of ingredients is tricky. February 26, 2018 at 10:48am Reply

    • Victoria: The pure parfum is beautiful, but I like the EDt too, and I wear it more often. It has more of a ginger note to me. February 23, 2018 at 5:08pm Reply

    • Michael: I have Bois des Iles in extrait de parfum and the drydown is simply gorgeous. It really smells like gingerbread, but also of other wonderful ingredients like the sandalwood. I notice the “cola” note more in the (now discountinued) EDT and newly formulated EDP though. February 28, 2018 at 10:02am Reply

  • Severine: I loved SL 5oclock Ginger Ambre. It is very polished, very English, perhaps a little toffee-nosed (pun intended! ;)). One of SL’s best. I didn’t find it dark or fudgey at all. I found it more “tea at Buckingham Palace.” Borneo is dark. To me it smelled like Cocoa-cola without fizz.
    A good one (at least to me): L Antichambre Speckloos. You would smell like a Dutch Willy Wonka! February 23, 2018 at 12:59pm Reply

    • Victoria: That sounds fun! I love speculoos. 🙂 February 23, 2018 at 5:10pm Reply

      • Severine: I just read your speculoos recipe. Where do you get the molds for the lovely, traditional designs? Do you grease the molds to get the baked cookie out? February 24, 2018 at 9:39am Reply

        • Victoria: From a woodworking shop in Chicago, but it was years ago. I don’t grease the molds after the first use. I only flour them, and that’s enough to make a design. February 26, 2018 at 10:58am Reply

  • Michelle: Pacifica Tibetan Mountain Temple smells like cutting into a gingerbread load straight from the oven.
    Tea for Two has a bit of gingerbread too. February 23, 2018 at 7:15pm Reply

    • Michelle: *loaf February 23, 2018 at 7:20pm Reply

    • Victoria: This is the time of year when I crave Tea for Two. February 26, 2018 at 10:49am Reply

  • rox: I adore gingerbread!! I always buy some at my local German market because my family isn’t crazy about it, so I don’t need to bake a ton. I love L’Artisan’s Tea for Two. I recently purchased Sticky Cake by Commes de Garcon, which isn’t completely gingerbread, but a nice spicy gourmand. I will only miss winter because of the fragrances. Don’t know why I am drawn to winter fragrances when I despise winter. February 23, 2018 at 10:41pm Reply

    • Victoria: Sticky Cake is great, especially when one craves something gourmand but not too sweet. February 26, 2018 at 10:50am Reply

  • Aurora: One of my aunts had a delicious recipe for gingerbread, I thought I had the recipe written down but can’t find it in my folder so sorry about it, but your article brought back lovely memories of tea time with all my family, and I always enjoy your writing about your great-grandmother.

    Gingerbread perfumes: Molto Missoni with the bonus of a lovely bottle (although I don’t usually care so much), I’ve just dabbed some on my wrist and I am struck again by its being edible, but not too sweet, a wonderful balanced scent which is so seldom the case with modern gourmands, I find. The Lutens you describe must be wonderful too. February 24, 2018 at 2:15pm Reply

    • Victoria: It does sound delicious! February 26, 2018 at 10:58am Reply

  • Ingeborg: I would love a recipe for that dense, spicy honeycake (Dutch? Belgian?). It is way spicier than our syrup/honeycakes here in Norway. For a while years ago a Dutch industry-made cake was for sale here, rather good. But it shouldn’t be to difficult to make, had I got the recipe. A slice of that cake lightly buttered was just very good to accompany a cup of black tea.

    Of the perfumes mentioned I own and use frequently in winter Five o’clock au gingembre, it also is tolerated by most people around me, despite being spicy and far from the clean musks so many use on a daily basis. February 24, 2018 at 7:27pm Reply

    • Victoria: I wonder which gingerbread it might be. Dutch gingerbread is definitely the adult variety, bold with pepper and fiery spices. It’s also one of the my favorites, but I never made it myself. February 26, 2018 at 10:59am Reply

  • Ariane: Mulot & Petitjean is a wonderful gingerbread shop in Dijon, making pain d’épice since the 18th century. I like the one in the shape of a fish for Easter. They have a website. Ariane February 24, 2018 at 11:23pm Reply

    • Victoria: Thank you, I will have to stop by when I’m in Dijon next month. February 26, 2018 at 11:00am Reply

    • rox: I am craving gingerbread at this moment! I didn’t get enough at the holidays because I was studying for an exam and didn’t bake any. This Mulot & Petitjean has my interest. Thanks to Google, I have discovered they carry a gingerbread with a jam filling at my local World Market (USA). I will be going there after work tomorrow. February 26, 2018 at 9:29pm Reply

    • rox: Oops to be more specific, World Market carries the Mulot & Petitjean gingerbread. February 26, 2018 at 9:30pm Reply

  • Catherine Barroll: Crosby’s Molasses One Bowl Gingerbread For. Crowd, is their original recipe that has graced their carton for over fifty years. My Grandma made it, my Mom, and I make it. We’ve all tried different things to add to it , walnuts,fresh grated orange rind. My Mom used to add shredded candied ginger to whipped cream to top it with, or a drizzle of Cointreau, or top it hot out of the oven with vanilla ice cream, but it was equally toasted under a grill the next day and buttered or spread with cream cheese as part of brunch, because it’s not too sweet. Google Crosby’s web site and you’ll find it. It’s a classic! March 8, 2018 at 11:55pm Reply

    • Victoria: Thank you very much! I just took a look at it, and yes, it sounds really good. March 9, 2018 at 6:09am Reply

      • Catherine Barroll: You are very welcome! I have loved your website for years, and am delighted to be able to add to it ( albeit in a somewhat illiterate manner, as I belatedly proofread my offering!) March 9, 2018 at 11:11am Reply

  • Angela: Kenzo Jungle L’Elephant, is redolent of gingerbread and honeycake. I adore it! August 14, 2019 at 1:31am Reply

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