German Lebkuchen

In my experience, there are more types of lebkuchen than there are Germans making it. This German lebkuchen recipe matches everything I’ve learned about it, but there are many, many other versions out there. The Oblaten version, for example, still uses a type of unblessed communion wafer as a base! Some are coated in chocolate, some are square with nuts on the corners, some are rolled and cut into shapes, some use honey or candied ginger, . . . the varieties are endless.

German Lebkuchen Recipe

One common factor in all the different versions of German lebkuchen is the homey, comforting flavor and unique texture. It’s not a cookie . . . but it’s not a cake, either. Soft and chewy, with a delicate glaze creating a subtle crunch as you bite into it, a lebkuchen is perfect for the holidays, or any time of year.

Making German Lebkuchen

Baking lebkuchen takes a bit of prep work up front, but the actual baking is simple. Once you have the batter prepared, you can either roll it out and place it in a baking dish, or – as shown here – you can form it into flattened balls and create individual cakes. Just remember, the baking time will be quite different depending on the shape or form you choose.

In my recipe, I first create mixtures from the three basic elements – powders, fruits and nuts, and liquids. The powders are all the flour, ground spices, baking powder and soda. The fruits and nuts are pulsed together in a food processor until finely chopped – you want your cakes to have a smooth, not chunky texture. The liquids are the buttermilk, molasses and anise extract. Please do not skip the anise . . . yes, it’s a strong flavor, but without it, your lebkuchen will simply turn out bland and pointless.

Once everything is combined, the dough will be rather sticky. You’ll need to handle it with flour-coated fingers. It’s OK, just brush off any excess flour before popping them in the oven.

How To Store Your German Lebkuchen

Lebkuchen can last a long time, if properly stored. Once cooled, place each lebkuchen in an airtight container, with each layer separated by parchment paper. You can freeze them for up to six months. Or, if storing in the refrigerator, it’s traditional to place a piece of apple on the top layer. This will keep your lebkuchen moist for days.

For other holiday favorites, try my Raspberry Thumbprint Cookies! They’ll bring some festive color to your holiday treats table this season.

German Lebkuchen

The traditional German holiday spiced treat. Rich with cinnamon, cardamom and other warm spices, and very lightly glazed for a subtle crunch, these soft treats will be the hit of any holiday party.
Prep Time25 mins
Cook Time25 mins
Course: Dessert
Cuisine: German
Keyword: German Lebkuchen Recipe
Servings: 3 dozen
Author: Don Herman

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup Butter softened
  • 1/2 cup Sugar
  • 1/3 cup Brown Sugar packed
  • 2 lg Eggs room temperaure
  • 1 cup Molasses
  • 1/4 cup Buttermilk
  • 1/2 tsp Anise extract
  • 4 1/2 cups All-purpose Flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp Baking Powder
  • 1 tsp Baking Soda
  • 1 tsp Ground Cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp Salt
  • 1/2 tsp Ground Allspice
  • 1/2 tsp Ground Cardamom
  • 1/2 tsp Ground Cloves
  • 1/2 cup Ground Walnuts
  • 1/2 cup Raisins
  • 1/2 cup Pitted Dates
  • 1/2 cup Candied Lemon Peel
  • 1/3 cup Sweetened Shredded Coconut
  • 1/4 cup Candied Orange Peel
  • 3 tbsp Candied Pineapple

For the Glaze

  • 1/2 cup Sugar
  • 1/4 cup Water
  • 2 tbsp Confectioner's Sugar

Instructions

  • In a medium bowl, whisk together the powders: flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, salt, allspice cardamom and cloves. Set aside
  • In a food processor, pulse together the fruit: raisins, dates, lemon peel, coconut, orange peel and pineapple until finely chopped. Throw in the ground walnuts. Set aside.
  • Preheat oven to 350°F. Line a half-sheet baking pan with parchment, or use a Sil-Pat mat.
  • In a mixing bowl, cream butter and sugars until light and fluffy.
  • Add eggs, one at a time and incorporate.
  • Beat in the liquids: molasses, buttermilk, and anise extract. Gradually add the spice mixture and beat well. Finally, fold in the fruit and nut mixture.
  • With floured hands, roll 1 tablespoon of dough into a ball and place on the parchment-covered baking sheet. Flatten with your palm to a slight dome shape (it will flatten out with baking). Don't let the cakes touch!
  • Bake for 25 minutes. The cakes will still be a bit soft when you take them out.
  • Loosen the cakes from the parchment with a spatula, but allow them to sit until just cool enough to handle. Transfer to a wire rack seated over a drip pan (to catch any wayward glaze).

For the Glaze:

  • In a small saucepan, bring the sugar and water to a boil for one minute. Remove from heat and whisk in the Confectioner's sugar. Spread the glaze lightly over the still-warm lebkuchen. Let cool completely
  • Store the lebkuchen in an airtight container, with each layer of cakes separated by parchment. Traditionally, slices of apple are placed on top of the lebkuchen and left to sit for two days. This helps keep the cakes moist and chewy.

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