Why Germans Go Nuts for Nuremberg’s Gingerbread

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Nuremberg’s exquisite nut‑filled flourless gingerbread is the decadent treat to warm you up this winter.

The Backstory

Lebkuchen (gingerbread) was first made by Nuremberg monks as a honey‑cake adaptation in the 13th century. Honey from nearby forests and spices arriving via trade routes transformed Nuremberg into the sweet spot for baking lebkuchen, and in 1643, the city’s gingerbread baking profession was officially recognized with the creation of the “League of Lebkuchen Bakers.” Legend has it that Elisenlebkuchen, the most sought‑after flourless variety, was named after a baker’s daughter whose mysterious illness was cured by the peppery treat. Mixed with sugar, spices, candied citrus peel and other ingredients, the result is a gingerbread that is soft but crunchy, sweet but spicy.

January 19, 2021
A gif of a shaking gingerbread cookie tin depicting a scene from Germany

The Cookie Crumbled

  • Essential ingredients — The cookies must contain at least 25‑percent nuts and almost no flour – city officials inspect bakeries to ensure the ingredients comply. Elisenlebkuchen bakers never reveal their secrets, but the mix invariably includes cardamom, ginger, cloves, candied citrus peel and honey.

  • Dough makers — In 1643, baking lebkuchen was officially recognized with the creation of the League of Lebkuchen Bakers. Lebkuchen now falls under the EU’s Protected Designation of Origin certification, which means only gingerbread baked within the city limits can use the name Nürnberger Lebkuchen or Elisenlebkuchen.

  • Toppings — Elisenlebkuchen are often covered with chocolate or a frosted sugar glaze, and three or more decorative almonds.

Where to Try Them

  • Cafe Glückswinkel —

    Hidden away in a quiet alleyway, this café‑bakery looks like a gingerbread house with cheerful red shutters. Its bakers have stuck to the same Elisenlebkuchen recipe for at least 100 years: a warming blend of spices and marzipan‑infused dough that’s perfect with a cup of milchkaffee.

  • Bäckerei Konditorei Lebküchnerei Düll —

    In the gingerbread game since 1934, this bakery’s cookies are made with Belgian chocolate and whole candied oranges.

  • Fraunholz Elisenlebküchnerei —

    This former cakeshop now specializes in flourless Elisenlebkuchen, which are made from a dough mix that contains 50‑percent almonds and hazelnuts.

How to Order

Some bakeries, including Bäckerei Konditorei Lebküchnerei Düll and Fraunholz Elisenlebküchnerei, ship to Canada.