This Lebkuchen Biscuits Recipe is a traditional German recipe baked at Christmas. It’s a soft version of a gingerbread biscuits made with honey and gingerbread spice.
Traditionally iced with rum sugar icing and dipped in chocolate.
This recipe is moderately difficult to make (mainly because of the different steps), but I’ve given you plenty of options for shortcuts, so if you don’t want to go follow the traditional recipe, you don’t need to.
These Lebkuchen biscuits improve with time and are great to give as little gifts at Christmas time.
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What are Lebkuchen Biscuits ?
Lebkuchen Biscuits (or cookies) are traditionally made at Christmas in Germany, but these days you can buy them any time of the year. They are usually soft inside, have a light gingerbread taste and also hint of spiced sugar on the top (the rum icing).
There are many variations of this german Christmas biscuits recipe. I’ve chosen the soft German gingerbread cookies recipe version with chocolate (dipped bottom), because it works great with the flavour and also keeps the biscuits soft (they don’t dry as quickly as if you don’t dip them in the chocolate or the icing sugar).
Lebkuchen biscuits are sometimes also called: German Honey Cookies, German Cookies, German Christmas Cookies or German Soft Gingerbread.
Once made these traditional German biscuits are fairly firm and can be packed as a gift in large cellophane bags or pretty paper or tin boxes. They last a long time (1-2 weeks), which means you can make them and gift them to your friends and family.
What’s the difference between Gingerbread and Lebkuchen biscuits?
Whilst Lebkuchen biscuits are very close to gingerbreads, they are usually much spicier and often include candied orange, lemon peel, hazelnuts, walnuts or almonds.
Gingerbread biscuits are made from a firm dough using either honey or sugar molasses but they don’t include any dried fruit or nuts. Gingerbread dough is often used to make gingerbread houses, gingerbread men and other shapes, that are decorated with lemon icing and other sugar decorations.
How does this soft Lebkuchen cookies recipe taste like?
Since there are so many different types of Lebkuchen recipes about, I thought it might be useful to let you know how my version of the Lebkuchen cookies taste like.
This is the soft version of the biscuit with a fairly mellow gingerbread taste and a slightly crunchy icing glaze on the top that just sinks in to the biscuit. The bottom of the biscuit is dipped in the chocolate, so as you are biting in, you also get a hint of chocolate coming through.
My top tips on making Lebkuchen Biscuits recipe
Don’t substitute the ingredients too much, as it changes the biscuits flavour and you might also have problems with your biscuits spreading too much and not holding their shape
Leave the dough to rest overnight (rather than just for 30 minutes) if you have the time
Dip the biscuits in your icing immediately when they come out from the oven. This makes them nice and soft and you get the icing crackle on the top.
Weigh the individual pieces of biscuit dough before you roll them out. This will help them to bake evenly and you won’t end up with some biscuits slightly underdone and some too brown.
Roll the biscuits dough into perfect balls and don’t squash them. They will gradually spread out into a dome shape.
If you want the biscuits as a present, I would recommend that you dip them in the chocolate. This seals the biscuit in with the rum icing on the top and keeps the biscuit protected (it doesn’t dry or go mouldy)
This recipe makes about 20 6cm round biscuits, so if you are planning to make more, just double or triple the recipe.
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Notes on Ingredients & Substitutions
Although I tend to use gluten free flour for most of my baking now, I’ve used plain white (gluten) flour for this recipe to make sure that it comes out perfectly.
I’ve not tried any other types of flour with this recipe, but next time I’ll try a bit of spelt flour as I think it would work really nicely with the gingerbread spice.
The traditional ginger bread spice mix is quite spicey, so if you prefer you can use mixed spice, which is slightly milder or even just a mix of cinnamon and any other festive spice mix like nutmeg, cloves, pepper or ginger or different mixes like Christmas Stolen Spice Mix.
The intensity of flavour depends on personal taste.
The traditional Lebkuchen Biscuits can be quite peppery, but if you prefer a slightly lighter taste, add less spice or leave the strong spices out.
I always make this recipe with honey and don’t substitute it for anything else. This is mainly about the tradition and taste.
Technically you can substitute the honey for maple syrup, coconut or date syrup, golden syrup, light corn syrup or other golden syrup alternatives. It will change the taste of the biscuits, so just bear this in mind when you are going rogue.
Using icing sugar as opposed to any other sugar makes a huge difference. It makes the biscuits softer and blends straightaway into the dough mix.
Although the icing is made with real rum, the rum disappears pretty quickly the minute you dip the biscuits into the icing. To get the lovely crackling effect on top of the biscuits, it’s best to dip the biscuits in straight out of the oven.
If you don’t want to use rum, you can use lemon instead or water.
I’ve also used a bit of egg white to make sure that the icing sticks really well to my biscuits. This is particularly useful if you are thinking of giving the biscuits as a present and you want them to last a bit longer.
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How to make soft German Lebkuchen Biscuits
Mix all dry ingredients (flour, spice, salt, baking powder, baking soda, cocoa powder, icing sugar) together first in a medium size bowl.
Melt gently butter in a small bowl (in the microwave for few seconds) or leave out next to a warm oven to melt.
Add honey into the butter and mix
Pour the honey and butter into the flour mixture and add the egg.
Stir everything together and work into a soft dough. It will be fairly sloppy, but it shouldn’t be runny type of dough. Wrap in a plastic bag and leave to rest (min 30 minutes, but better overnight or 8-12 hrs).
Preheat your oven to 160C (electric fan oven).
Divide the dough into 20 pieces. I’ve weighted mine and they were 20 grams each (I ended up with 21 pieces).
Roll each piece into a ball and place on the lined tray. Keep apart at least 10 cm as the biscuits will spread.
Bake in the middle shelf for 15 minutes (they should be golden brown and only slightly darker on the edges).
Whilst the biscuits are in the oven, prepare your icing by mixing together the icing sugar, rum and egg white.
When your german Christmas biscuits are baked, take them out of the oven and immediately dip them into the icing. Leave to set on a cooling rack set over another large oven tray (to catch the rum icing if it drips).
When your biscuits are completely dry (this might take 2-3 hrs), melt gently about 100 grams of dark chocolate and carefully dip just the bottoms of the biscuits into the chocolate. Leave to set on clean baking sheet.
How to keep Lebkuchen Biscuits
The Lebkuchen Biscuits improve with time, as the rum icing softens the biscuits and also makes it more flavoursome.
I usually keep them in a large biscuit tin in layers (in between greaseproof paper). I’d like to say that they last 5-7 days, but truly, we eat them a lot quicker than that! These German gingerbread cookies should be kept in the fridge as the glaze picks up humidity from the fridge and might run down and also the chocolate might bloom if it’s too cold.
Ideally, you want to store your Lebkuchen cookies in a cold, dark cupboard (ideally around 18 Celsius) in an airtight container so that the cookies don’t dry out.
Can you freeze soft German Lebkuchen Biscuits ?
What I know for sure, that this version of Lebkuchen Biscuits is not suitable for freezing. I’ve tried that and it really doesn’t work!
The chocolate doesn’t freeze well (and breaks off as you defrost it) and the rum icing goes too soggy when you defrost it (and slides off).
What would work is to freeze the biscuits before you dip them in chocolate or rum icing. This way, you could freeze them for up to 3-6 months and take them out as and when you need them.
They would taste O.K even without the icing and the chocolate, so you could eat them out straight from the freezer (when they defrost) or finish them with fresh icing glaze and dip them in chocolate.
Lebkuchen Biscuits – Traditional Soft German Gingerbread
- 200 grams plain flour cake flour (all purpose flour)
- 80 grams icing sugar confectioners sugar (fine sugar)
- 1 egg
- 60 grams honey
- 30 grams unsalted butter
- tiny pinch of salt
- 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 teaspoon cocoa powder
- 1 teaspoons gingerbread spice
- 100 grams icing sugar confectioners sugar (fine sugar)
- 1-2 tablespoons rum
- 1 teaspoon egg white optional
- 100-150 grams dark chocolate
- Mix all dry ingredients (flour, spice, salt, baking powder, baking soda, cocoa powder, icing sugar) together first in a medium size bowl.
- Melt gently butter in a small bowl (in the microwave for few seconds) or leave out next to a warm oven to melt.
- Add honey into the butter and mix
- Pour the honey and butter into the flour mixture and add the egg.
- Stir everything together and work into a soft dough. It will be fairly sloppy, but it shouldn't be runny type of dough. Wrap in a plastic bag and leave to rest (min 30 minutes, but better overnight or 8-12 hrs).
- Preheat your oven to 160C (electric fan oven).
- Divide the dough into 20 pieces. I've weighted mine and they were 20 grams each (I ended up with 21 pieces).
- Roll each piece into a ball and place on the lined tray. Keep apart at least 10 cm as the biscuits will spread.
- Bake in the middle shelf for 15 minutes (they should be golden brown and only slightly darker on the edges).
- Whilst the biscuits are in the oven, prepare your icing by mixing together the icing sugar, rum and egg white.
- When your biscuits are baked, take them out of the oven and immediately dip them into the icing. Leave to set on a cooling rack set over another large oven tray (to catch the rum icing if it drips).
- When your biscuits are completely dry (this might take 2-3 hrs), melt gently about 100 grams of dark chocolate and carefully dip just the bottoms of the biscuits into the chocolate. Leave to set on clean baking sheet.
This blog post was originally written on 10 November 2020 and last updated on 2 April 2023