Elisenlebkuchen – the finest German Gingerbread

Glazed Lebkuchen Rounds in BavariaIf the abbots in Franconian monasteries had been more discreet, the finest of German gingerbreads would not have been invented. The nuns and monks in monasteries around Nuremberg used wafers made for celebrating the Eucharist as a base for gingerbread dough, based on their own secret recipes. But the word—and recipes—spread quickly, and around the year 1345, a whole new industry of specialized gingerbread bakers (Lebküchner) developed in and around the city of Nuremberg, which became the world gingerbread capital and remains so today.

Looking to buy authentic German gingerbread? Visit our sister site,  TheTasteOfGermany for a large selection.

A prestigious designation

It was no coincidence that Nuremberg played this important role. The city was at the center of many important medieval trade routes, including an old spice route, so the necessary ingredients were available. Within the EU today, only gingerbread made in Nuremberg can legitimately be labeled Nürnberger Lebkuchen, which is marked with the prestigious “Protected Designation of Origin.

 

Elisenlebkuchen – the crown jewelGlazed Lebuchen with Almond Citrus Decorations

The finest of those gingerbreads are the flourless Elisenlebkuchen, the masterpiece of the trade since the early nineteenth century. According to local lore, the name goes back to 1720, when the daughter of one of Nuernberg’s master lebkuechner fell violently ill. Her desperate father baked an especially fine lebkuchen, made only with hazelnuts, honey and spices and named it after his daughter Elisabeth: the Elisen Lebkuchen. Today, top-notch bakers use up to 10 percent flour to create a more stable version which is placed on pre-cut edible paper—also called rice or oblaten paper—which is readily available, especially around Christmastime. Elisenlebkuchen is made in three varieties: plain, or glazed with sugar or chocolate. Follow our recipe to make your own Elisen Gingerbread.

RELATED CONTENT

22 Traditional German Christmas Cookies

Guide to German Christmas Cookies