Lebkuchen have been made in Nuremberg since medieval times. This recipe for Nürnberger Lebkuchen (Nuremberg Lebkuchen) is from 1553! Isn’t that awesome? 😀
Lebkuchen have a long tradition in Nuremberg. The first Lebküchner (Lebkuchen maker) was recorded in 1395 in Nuremberg. Medieval Lebkuchen were made with honey, sugar, flour and spices – no nuts, no eggs, no candied citrus peel. Nuremberg was one of the two largest trade centers on the route from Italy to Nothern Europe in medieval times. So there was no shortage of imported cane sugar and spices. Honey hunters gathered honey from wild bee colonies in the large forest that surrounds Nuremberg (old drawing of honey hunters). The Nuremberg forest was also called “The bee garden of the Holy Roman Empire”. More about the history of Nürnberger Lebkuchen.
Niernberger Lezeltlach – Nuremberg Lebkuchen
- 1 Maß honey
- 1 1/2 Pfund sugar
- 1 Vierling flour
- 1 Lot cinnamon
- 3 Lot nutmeg
- 1 1/2 Lot cloves
- 6 Lot ginger
- 1 Quintel mace
The recipe was published in The Cookbook Of Sabina Welserin: Recipe 163 – Niernberger Lezeltlach zu machen (in medieval German). Here’s the English translation of the recipe: To make Nürnberger Lebkuchen.
The strange weights and measures puzzled me for some days: Maß, Pfund, Vierling, Lot, Quintel. In the 16th century, the Maß in Augsburg isn’t the same as the Maß in Munich. And the Nuremberg Pfund in 1550 is different than the Nuremberg Pfund in 1810.
Sabina Welser or Welserin lived in Augsburg or Nuremberg in 1553 when she published her cookbook. So I searched for weights in Augsburg and Nuremberg in the 16th century.
Medieval Weights And Measures
Maß or Maaß: unit of volume; used to measure wine, beer & honey
1 Augsburger Maß (in 1537) = 1.428 liter (according to this source, pdf, p. 7)
(I used this weight and volume conversion to convert liter to kilogram)
1 Maß honey (Augsburg, 1537) ≈ 2.1 kg / 4.5 lbs.
Pfund: unit of weight; used to measure sugar etc.
1 Nürnberger Pfund (in 1558) = 483 g (according to this source, pdf, p. 6)
1 1/2 Pfund sugar (Nuremberg, 1558) = 725 g / 1.6 lb.
Vierling: unit of volume; used to measure grains, flour etc.
1 Schaff = 8 Metzen (picture of Garser Metzen, 1344) = 32 Vierling = 128 Viertel = 512 Mäßle
1 Schaff = 205.3 liter (according to this source, pdf, p. 8)
1 Vierling = 6.42 liter
1 Vierling flour ≈ 2.7 kg (wheat flour) = 3.5 kg (whole wheat flour)
1 Vierling whole wheat flour (Bavaria, 16th century) ≈ 2.8 kg / 6.2 lbs.
Lot & Quintel: unit of weight; used to measure spices etc.
1 Pfund = 16 Unzen = 32 Lot = 128 Quintel = 512 Sechzehntel = 7680 Grän (according to this source, pdf, p. 4)
1 Lot (Bavaria, 16th century) = 15 g
Quintel = 3.75 g
Original Medieval Nürnberger Lebkuchen Recipe
- 700 g / 1.5 lb. honey (honeydew, heath or wildflower honey)
- 240 g / 0.5 lb. muscovado sugar
- 930 g / 2.1 lbs. wheat flour (I used sifted home milled wheat grains)
- 2 tsp cinnamon
- 1 tsp nutmeg (I reduced the amount of nutmeg and mace because nutmeg is toxic in large amounts)
- 1 tbsp cloves
- 3 tbsp ginger
- optional: blanched almond halves
- optional: rosewater
Instead of the spice mix above, you can also use the following medieval Nürnberger Lebkuchen spice mix. This recipe is also from the 16th century and can be viewed in the Germanisches Nationalmuseum in Nuremberg.
Medieval Nürnberger Lebkuchen Spice Mix Alternative
- 4 tbsp cinnamon
- 2 tbsp ginger
- 1 tbsp cardamom
- two pinches of pepper
- two pinches of nutmeg
Both spice mixes are delicious but I prefer the second spice mix just a little bit more because it’s so cinnamony! 😀
How To Make Medieval Nürnberger Lebkuchen
Combine honey and sugar in a pot and bring to a boil. Pour the hot honey over the flour and coarsely ground spices. Stir everything together and let the dough rest for about 30 minutes or 1 hour. Then roll the dough out 1 cm/ half an inch thick on a floured surface. Cut out rectangles with a knife. Decorate the lebkuchen with blanched almond halves if you want. Let the lebkuchen rest overnight.
Preheat the oven to 180°C / 356°F. Optional: Brush the top with rosewater. (I brushed the top and bottom of the lebkuchen three times as in the original Nürnberger Lebkuchen recipe, but the lebkuchen with rosewater didn’t taste different than the lebkuchen without.) Bake the lebkuchen for 20 minutes.