Lebkuchenherzen (German Cookies)

Woah, did time ever get away from me!  That’s December for you, isn’t it?

You guys – I have so many fantastic recipes to share with you!  I started off with good intentions!  Then there was crazy weather Thanksgiving weekend, so we hunkered down and decorated for Christmas.

Then we were just getting back in the swing of things and Hubs came down with not-the-flu.  Not-the-flu is identical to influenza (high fever, body aches, sleeping all day, etc) but with a negative flu test.  Poor guy, he was super sick (feeling much better now, thankfully), but I was thrown into a super busy week, being both parents, cooking, cleaning, carting the kids everywhere, and obsessively bleaching the house to keep anyone else from getting the crud (and we’re all blessedly healthy, thank you Jesus!)  Needless to say, I was exhausted at the end of each day and had no brain power left for blogging.

So here we are at this month’s installment of the Eat the World recipe challenge hosted by Evelyn at CuturEatz.  Usually, a country is assigned each month and we choose a recipe from that country to stretch our culinary skills.  But this time, (like Halloween once before), it was flipped and participants were tasked with creating a Christmas recipe from their country of choice.

I almost went with Norwegian Lefse, since I just taught myself how to make that (look for a recipe sometime in the future), but decided I wanted to make something that represented my family history instead.

I’ve highlighted Ukraine a couple of times on the blog, because though I am about 75% German ancestry, the baking grandma is “German from Russia” (most likely modern-day Ukraine, due to similarities between grandma’s Easter Bread recipe and Easter breads around Europe).

I grew up with recipes that would definitely qualify as “American”.  Baking grandma reminisces that her parents (and their friends) spoke German, but never taught my grandma or her sisters.  My great-grandparents wanted their daughters to be American, so the language and (presumably) many traditions were not passed down.

However, as a nod to my German heritage, I decided to make the Christmas classic: gingerbread!  I’ve read many historical-fiction novels that mention Lebkuchen, likening it to gingerbread.

So I began my research, and as often is the case, there are a million variants to lebkuchen.  Here’s what I learned…

Lebkuchen is a big deal in many parts of Germany and recipes are often closely guarded secrets.

While I’ve always thought of gingerbread as a Christmas cookie, in Germany, Lebkuchen is a “special occasion” cookie (holidays) because of the extensive number of spices some recipes include.

Most recipes for lebkuchen were written in grams and I didn’t have the energy to convert it (I made these while Hubs was down with the flu), so we all have to weigh ingredients for this one.

Lebkuchen is especially popular during Octoberfest, when cookies are often  cut in a heart shape, hung on a string, inscribed with endearments, and given to a sweetheart.

And finally, lubkuchen is NOTHING like American gingerbread.

When I think gingerbread, I think molasses and ginger.

The common threads I found in the lubkuchen recipes I found online were citrus, honey, and spices (usually cinnamon and clove (only sometimes ginger), but often many more).

I decorated my lubkuchen to emulate the Octoberfest lebkuchen, even though it’s Christmas.  Google translate assured me of the spellings of Merry Christmas and Eat the World.

So what was the verdict?  Hubs most definitely prefers gingerbread.  The citrus flavor was dominant, along with the clove, for a very interesting flavor profile.  I liked them a lot better when I thought to myself… “lemon cookie”.

All in all, these aren’t making the annual Christmas cookie list, but I’m glad I gave them a shot!

Check out all the wonderful Christmas/holiday dishes and sweets prepared by fellow Eat the World members and share with #eattheworld.

Click here to find out how to join and have fun exploring a country a month in the kitchen with us!

Culinary Adventures with Camilla: Glædelig Jul, Nisser, and Mormor Agnes’ Æbleskiver
Literature and Limes: Makowiec
Palatable Pastime: Danish Asier Pickles
Amy’s Cooking Adventures: Lebkuchenherzen (German Cookies)
Chipa by the Dozen: Pepperkaker (Norwegian Christmas Cookies)
Evelyne: Oliebollen, the Dutch Doughnut
Loreto and Nicoletta: Sandbakkelse, Norwegian Christmas Cookies
Simply Inspired Meals: Classic Christmas Spritz Cookies
A Day in the Life on the Farm: Bohemian Potato Salad
Making Miracles: Scottish Steak Pie
Margaret at Kitchen Frau: Basler Leckerli, Swiss Christmas cookies

Disclaimer: This post contains a recipe highlighting a different country or culture. While I strive for authenticity, I sometimes need to make adjustments to recipes due to ingredient availability.  

Adapted from My German Recipes

175 grams honey
150 grams sugar
100 grams butter
Zest from 1 small lemon
1 egg
500 grams flour
2 tablespoons cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon cinnamon
¼ teaspoon cloves
¼ teaspoon salt

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F and line baking sheets with parchment or silicon mats.

Place the honey, sugar, and butter in a small saucepan over medium heat.  Cook, just under a boil, and stir until the butter and sugar are melted.  Set aside to cool slightly.  Once cooled, stir in the lemon zest and egg.

Place the flour, cocoa, baking powder, cinnamon, cloves, and salt into a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment.  Stir to mix.

Pour the liquid ingredients into the dry and mix on low until combined.

Turn the dough out onto a floured rolling mat.  Roll out the dough evenly.  Cut heart shapes from the dough and move to the prepared baking sheets.

Bake in the preheated oven for 12-15 minutes.  Remove from the oven and cool on the trays for 5-10 minutes, then move to wire racks to cool completely.

Once cooled, the cookies can be decorated with frosting.

Amy Eats the World in...

Cuba: Ropa Vieja (Slow Cooker Beef)
Thailand: Chicken Satay
Kenya: Crunchy N’Dizi (Peanut Crusted Bananas)
Sweden: Rodbetssallad med Getost (Grated Beet Salad with Goat Cheese)
New Zealand: Kiwi Burge
France: Fougasse (Provencal Flatbread)
Argentina: Chimichurri Sauce
Mexico (Halloween Special): Pan de Muerto (Day of the Dead Bread)
India: Spiced Golden Mil
Poland: Chrusciki (Angel Wing Cookies)
Ethiopia: Buticha (Hummus)
England: Wizarding World of Harry Potter Leaky Cauldron-Style Mini Cottage Pie 
Georgia: Lobiani (Bean-Stuffed Bread)
Mexico: Crispy Pork Carnitas
Cambodia: Loc Lac (Shredded Beef with Lime)
Israel: Chicken Albondigas (Chicken Meatballs)
Finland: Sima (Lemonade) 
Puerto Rico: Arroz con Tocino  (Rice with Bacon)
Egypt: Ghorayebah Cookies
Ukraine: Scuffles (Rohalyky) Cinnamon Crescent Rolls


  1. Such adorable cookies! I prefer the European gingerbread cookies, so warmly spiced and with a lovely citrus flavor!

  2. Amy! You know me and gingerbread, right?!? I can't wait to try these. Thanks for sharing. I think we'd like the citrus-clove combination.

  3. Glad Mike's feeling better Amy, see you in a couple of weeks.

  4. Your Lebkuchen Herze look very authentic! Love the bright colours. I grew up on Lebkuchen, so I love it, but I can see how people raised on our North American version of gingerbread would find it a totally different flavour! Merry Christmas!

  5. OMG I can't believe you translated Eat the World, so touched. These cookies sound awesome and so different.