Gingerbread made the original Nuremberg way

There are numerous recipes, varieties and shapes of gingerbread available all over the world, yet the Nuremberg Lebkuchen has a place of its own. /// by 

Photo: Lebkuchen Schmidt

Often loosely translated with gingerbread the Nuremberg Lebkuchen has its own unique position in the culinary world of Christmas delights. It does not resemble the widely known ginger bread man and its translation including the word ginger, which means Ingwer in German, can be confusing to some. The history of the Nuremberg Lebkuchen began about 600 years ago when it was still known by the name honey cake. Due to its nutritious ingredients monks baked the honey cake in convents during the fasting period in order to maintain a healthy and balanced lifestyle. When Nuremberg, which was the junction for the European spice trade at that time, gained a monopoly position in acquiring a wide selection of spices the original recipe of the honey cake went through significant changes. Flour and the precious honey no longer served as the main ingredients but were complimented by a selection of delicate and high-quality spices, which had become easily available such as cinnamon, cloves; cardamom and anise.

Photo: CTZ Nuremberg

From the 14th century onwards Lebkuchen began to be baked outside the convent walls. In fact a historical document shows that the first Lebkuchen baker in Nuremberg was registered in 1395. Ever since then the recipe has been copied countless times. Today strict quality regulations differentiate between the Elisenlebkuchen and Oblatenlebkuchen. Whereas the latter is mostly sold in supermarkets and contains a larger quantity of flour, the Elisenlebkuchen must be made with a minimum of 25% ground nuts and use premium-quality coatings such as couverture chocolate. At each of their renowned trade fairs the Nürnberg Messe delights its large number of international visitors catering a traditional Lebkuchen stall. Frequently copied but never equalled the Nuremberg Lebkuchen until today is amongst the city’s most famous and beloved trademarks and souvenirs.

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