The A to Z of German Christmas: L is for… Lebkuchen

Three Nürnberger Elisenlebkuchen on a wooden table with some nuts
Nürnberger Elisenlebkuchen | Image credit: Fotolia/Bjrn Wylezich

There’s really only one “L” when it comes to Christmas in Germany, and that’s the country’s much-loved Lebkuchen. Invented in the middle ages by monks in Franconia, a region that now lies mostly in Bavaria, Lebkuchen is not dissimilar to gingerbread: soft, warmly spiced and a little bit chewy.

As with just about every culinary specialty in Germany, there are countless regional variations of this festive baked sweet, and Lebkuchen can range from the heavily spiced to the mild and sweet. However, it generally contains some or all of the usual Christmassy spices – allspice, aniseed, cardamon, cloves, coriander, ginger, nutmeg and/or vanilla – as well as honey and ground nuts (almonds, hazelnuts, walnuts). Some Lebkuchen are given a clear sugar glaze and decorated with nuts; they’re also very popular covered in chocolate.

L is also for…

Lebkuchenherzen: a somewhat harder dough is used to create the large heart-shaped Lebkuchen decorated with icing that you’ll find dangling on coloured strings from the roofs of sweet stalls at Christmas markets – and at festivals throughout the rest of the year.


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    1. Funnily enough, having spent 12 months living in Washington, DC last year I can tell you that there is a very good German bakery across the Potomac in Arlington – the Heidelberg Pastry Shoppe. I can’t speak for their standard cakes and sweets, though my German husband thought their bread was very good, but at this time of year they do have a good stock of imported German baked goods, including Lebkuchen.

      Recipewise, I’ve linked to a couple of Lebkuchen recipes from my festive baking ideas post, otherwise both Dirndl Kitchen and Ginger & Bread have recipes on their blogs. If you’re after a book with Lebkuchen (and much more) in, I’d highly recommend Luisa Weiss’s Classic German Baking.

      Hope something out of all those helps!

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