Friday, December 19, 2008


In the annals of cookie baking, we all have our guarded favorites. Some of them are passed down through our grandmothers or aunties. Others are clipped from glossy magazines and stacked among yellowed newspaper clippings of years gone by. Some are tasted in distant and faraway foreign bakeries where we resolve to recreate them in our own kitchens, chewing slowly as we mentally calibrate the ratios of ingredients that might someday produce the right texture and unique flavor we hold in our memories. I can’t say that I remember where or when I tasted my first Lebkuchen Cookie, but it was love at first bite. It struck all of the favorite notes on my palate and for me, it is of the essence of this season. Deeply rich with spices, nuts, citrus and honey, cloaked in a veil of chocolate and crowned with a light glaze, these are among my very favorite cookies.

Since these delicious cookies are quite cakey in texture, this year I thought I’d see if I could make a Lebkuchen Cake. I think the Lebkuchen first baked by Medieval monks in the 13th century began as a cake, so I'm not too far off the mark. It does translate very well and comes together pretty quickly when you’d like a festive treat but perhaps don’t have the time to form, bake and decorate dozens of cookies. With all of these wonderful old world winter ingredients, this cake definitely brings the holiday spirit into sharp focus.

Bench notes:
- Since kuchen means “cake,” it’s a bit redundant to call this a Lebkuchen Cake, but I’m not sure how else to refer to it!
- This cake is not exceedingly rich, so would be a nice ending to any meal.
- The citrus element is really central. If you don’t have any candied orange and lemon peel, try adding zest.
- When blending the cream and chocolate for the glaze, let the mixture sit for two or three minutes before stirring so it has a chance to begin to melt the chocolate. Then stir slowly to prevent the mixture from cooling down too fast so you're not left with any lumps.
- If you aren’t comfortable with glazing a cake, make more glaze than needed to be sure you can generously flood the cake. Use 1 C heavy cream, 8 oz chopped chocolate and 1 T honey or corn syrup. The extra can be retrieved from the parchment, rewarmed and used for dipping cookies or chilled and rolled into truffles.

Lebkuchen Cake
Serves 8

1 C flour
1/4 C hazelnuts
1/4 C almonds
1 t baking powder
1/4 t baking soda
1/4 t salt
2 T cocoa
1 1/4 t cinnamon
1/2 t ginger
1/4 t cloves
1/8 t nutmeg
1/8 t cardamom
6 oz butter (1 1/2 sticks) @ room temperature
1 C brown sugar
2 eggs @ room temperature
2 T honey
1 T cognac or brandy
1 1/2 t candied orange peel, very finely chopped
1 t candied lemon peel, very finely chopped

Chocolate Glaze

6 oz. bittersweet chocolate
3/4 C heavy cream
1 T honey or light corn syrup

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Brush an 8-inch cake pan with butter and line the bottom with a parchment round. Butter the parchment and dust the bottom and sides with flour.

Place the flour, almonds, hazelnuts, baking powder, baking soda, salt and spices in a food processor. Process a couple of minutes until the nuts are very finely ground into the flour. Pour into a bowl.

Beat the butter until smooth. Add the sugar and cream the mixture on medium speed until pale, light and very fluffy, about 4 to 5 minutes. Add eggs one at a time, mixing thoroughly before adding the next and scraping down the bowl after each addition. Add the honey, cognac, orange and lemon peel. Using a large rubber spatula, fold in the nut flour by hand in three batches, mixing just enough to moisten and blend. The batter will be quite thick. Scrape into the prepared cake pan and smooth out the top.

Bake in the center of the oven for about 26 – 28 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Cool on a wire rack for 10 minutes. Run a thin blade knife around the cake to loosen and invert. Flip the cake back over to right side up and cool completely.

To glaze the cake, place the cooled cake on a an 8" cardboard round or removable tart pan bottom. Return the cake to the cooling rack and place over a baking sheet lined with parchment.

Chop the chocolate into very small pieces and place in a medium bowl.
Bring cream and honey or corn syrup to a boil, stirring to dissolve. Pour over chocolate and let stand a couple of minutes. Whisk slowly and gently starting in the middle and then working outward in concentric circles until completely combined.

Glaze the cake, pouring quickly in the center and around the edges. Tap the baking sheet on the work surface to encourage the glaze to run down the sides if necessary. Just as it begins to dry, run a small spatula around the underside of the cake to smooth the bottom edge and prevent “feet” from forming. Let glaze dry before serving.


Cakespy said...

This looks AMAZING! I wouldn't mind a couple of "feet" at the bottom though...the easiest part to walk away with! HA!

Aran said...

i worked for a German chef who always asked us to make lebkuchen around christmas, along with stollen, cinnamon stars... delicious!

Foodista said...

That really looks delicious. I'd like to invite you to take some time to drop by at Foodista and share this delicious recipe with us. We have launched an online food and cooking encyclopedia ala wikipedia. Add a recipe and you can win a $100 gift card to Sur la table. Don't forget to register first so we know who to thank the recipe for. Thanks! See you there!

Jesse said...

How beautiful! Lebkuchen cookies are some of my favorites, so I'm sure I would love this.

Pam said...

Rich, delicious and kind of dessert.

Sylvia said...

I was drolling for Lebkuchen recipe and yours looks fabulous. Thanks for share

Y said...

I loooove Lebkuchen, and love the idea of making the one cake as opposed to many little cookies (for those who are time poor.. like me!). Merry Christmas to you, by the way!

pastry studio said...

YAY to all Lebkuchen fans! It's fun to see I'm not alone.

Happy Holidays to all you curious cooks!

rootbeerlady said...

The lebkuchen made by my grandmother came from a very thick dough which aged a week or so before it was baked. She usually put it in 9x13 pans and made bars that were frosted with a white powdered sugar icing.

I was really looking forward to trying this version of lebkuchen. I'm virtually certain I followed all the directions but my cake rose over the edge of the 8-inch pan and took much longer to finish cooking kind of browning too much on the top before being done in the middle. Any ideas where I went wrong?

Merry Christmas! Froehliche Weihnachten!

pastry studio said...

Rynda - Oh, I'm so sorry this didn't turn out for you. How high are the sides on your 8" cake pan? Also, do you have a temperature gauge in your oven? Sounds like your oven may have been too hot. Every single oven is different and they each have their hot spots. Did you bake in the center of the oven? Sometimes if the cake is in the upper third it will brown too quickly before the center is baked. I hope this helps.

Merry Christmas to you as well!

rootbeerlady said...

The pan is 1-1/2 inches deep. I did use the center of the oven but I can't vouch for sure about the accuracy of the oven temp. I'll get a thermometer and check it.

I've nibbled on a couple of the edge crumbles and think the cake tastes very good. I'll try making it again and perhaps use a 9-inch pan.

We have lots of cookies here and a coconut cream pie that my mother is bringing over tomorrow so we will certainly survive with the less-the-optimal lebkuchen. Not a problem.

Kevin said...

Nice looking cake!