Lebkuchen: that most classic of German Christmas treats. But thanks to the likes of Aldi and Lidl, more and more Brits are catching on to the joy of Lebkucheny goodness. And they’re never looking back.
Luckily for us Hosie kids, we’ve grown up in the loop thanks to Mother Dearest being half German. So yes, it’s a Christmas tradition for us to make Pfefferkuchen/Lebkuchen.
When we were little, mum would make the dough and we children would use Christmas cookie cutters to make scrummy spiced biscuits (so much better than the gingerbread of all our friends) in the shapes of Christmas trees, candy canes, stockings and stars, before smothering them with melted chocolate and going crazy with the sprinkles to decorate.
Mother, on the other hand, always makes a slightly more sophisticated (but oh-so-delicious) traybake with the Lebkuchen dough – two thin layers of cake, sandwiched together with apricot jam and covered in melted dark chocolate.
And that, dear friends, is what has inspired my chocolate Lebkuchen cupcakes.
Rich, spiced chocolate-Lebkuchen cake, filled with fruity apricot jam and topped with light chocolate cinnamon icing. There are a fair few flavours going on, but I (and my friends – both German and English!) think they work really well.
I’m really into cream cheese icing of late. If you use the light stuff, it’s so much better for you than buttercream, and I simply adore the slight tanginess. It’s still sufficiently sweet (obvs, this is me we’re talking about), but the lightness compliments the spices of the cake beautifully.
Lebkuchen Gewürz (Lebkuchen spice mix) is a staple ingredient in German supermarkets, but alas, is not in the UK. It’s a unique blend of various different spices, and despite what dodgy translations may tell you, it’s not the same as gingerbread. To me, it just tastes of Christmas. Maybe keep an eye out when next doing your grocery shop - and let me know if/where you find some - but if you can’t find anything, it would appear you can buy the spice mix here.
As easy as it is to find Lebkuchen Gewürz in Germany, finding cupcake-making tools proved to be more of a challenge. After searching in many a shop, I finally found a muffin tray, but even then, it was only big enough for six and wasn't quite the right shape - you can probably tell from my pictures that they're rather shallow cupcakes. Germans just don't seem so into cupcakes - apparently they don't really have a word for 'icing', and I had to explain to my housemates the difference between muffins and cupcakes...
Oh, and sorry for the lighting in some of the pictures, what with it getting dark so early now, I unfortunately didn't have any natural lighting to work with as I baked (and ate.)
I left mine with a home-made looking swirl of icing (definitely on purpose and not just because I didn't have any decorations. Ahem), but of course you could top with whatever ya fancy. Why not embrace your childhood and go mad with the sprinkles?
|Fresh from the oven (six at a time)|
As I made mine with German ingredients, I unfortunately can't say for sure what the British equivalents would be, but I'll give my suggestions below. Please do let me know how they work out for you or if you have any other ideas.
This recipe made 18 little cupcakes for me, but I imagine it would make 12 standard sized ones.
Ingredients - Cake:
85g unsalted butter, softened
1 packet vanilla sugar (try a tsp of vanilla extract instead)
75g caster sugar
2 eggs, at room temperature
a pinch of salt
165g plain white flour
1 packet backpulver (try a teaspoon baking powder)
2 tbsp cocoa
2 tsp Lebkuchengewürz
a few splashes of milk
apricot jam for the filling
100g cream cheese
3 tbsp icing sugar
2 tbsp Lindt chocolate icing (try 1 tbsp cocoa instead)
1 tsp cinnamon
1. Preheat the oven to 175C and line your muffin tray with paper cases. Cream together the butter, sugars and salt with a handheld electric whisk until creamy. Beat in the eggs one at a time. Sift in the flour, cocoa, baking powder and spice mix and slowly mix in until well combined. Add milk a splash at a time until you have a thick but creamy batter.
|The finished mixture|
Sample the batter, obvs.
2. Spoon the mixture into the paper cases filling each one about 2/3 and bake in the preheated oven for 16-18 minutes (but probably longer if your cupcakes are bigger than mine.)
|Ready for baking|
The cupcakes are ready when a skewer inserted into the middle of one comes out clean. Remove from the oven, carefully take out of the tin and leave to cool fully on a wire rack.
3. Once cool, carefully cut out a little cone shape in the centre of each cupcake (and eat it.)
Spoon a little bit of jam into each core.
4. Make your icing: Either using an electric mixer or just a spoon, beat together all the ingredients. I'll be honest with you, I was slightly improvving so my quantities are kind of guesswork, buuuut you can just do the same - if it needs thickening, add more icing sugar, if you want it runnier, add a splash of milk. Beat well to ensure lightness, then swirl on to the cupcakes using a teaspoon.
5. Enjoy the taste of German Christmas with your friends and family.