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A Family Favorite For Our Cookbook: Nan's Grandmother's Lebkuchen

Multiple pieces of Lebkuchen cake.
Nancy Klingener
A piece of German Lebkuchen cake is moist. There's lots of hints of orange and lemon both in the cake and in the icing.

WLRN's Florida Keys reporter Nancy Klingener shares a recipe from her grandmother for our community cookbook.

My grandmother was an incredible baker and for the holidays she would make lots and lots of different kinds of cookies. My favorite was always the lebkuchen — bars made out of a heavy cake with dates and nuts and orange icing. It's moist and chewy with citrus flavors from the dates marinated in orange and lemon juice and rind, and from the icing made with orange juice.

It's a pretty common German recipe and you can find lots of them online but I've never seen one with this ingredient: instant coffee! Fortunately you can now buy that in little packets so you don't have to buy a big jar just to get a teaspoon.

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The family recipe calls for "long pans or a large roasting pan." I've been using a jelly roll pan, which is basically a sheet pan with inch-high sides, and it comes out pretty well.

And a heads up, you need to start a day early. I don't know why the recipe specifies that the dates are cut up with scissors instead of a knife but that's the way my grandmother did it, so that's the way I do it, too.

A close up of German lebkuchen cake.
Nancy Klingener


4 c. flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1 lb. brown sugar
4 eggs
1 c. nut meats (inside of nuts; I use chopped walnuts)
1 lb. dates, pitted
1 large orange
1 lemon
1 tsp. instant coffee
2 tsp. cinnamon

Ingredients for the icing:

2 c. confectioner's sugar (reserve some of the sugar in case you need it to get the icing texture right)
3 Tbsp butter
Rind and juice of a large orange (add just a couple tbsp to start)

The day before:

Cut up the dates (with scissors), grate the rinds and juice of the orange and lemon. Mix well and let stand overnight. I put it in the fridge.

On the day of baking:

1. Preheat the oven to 375. Grease the pan(s).

2. Beat eggs and sugar until light and fluffy.

3. Sift together flour, cinnamon, baking powder and coffee.

4. To the sugar-egg mixture, alternately add the dry ingredients, the date mixture and the nuts.

5. Spread in pan(s). Bake about 20-25 minutes, or until a tester shows it's done.

6. Cool, cut into bars, ice.

Nancy Klingener covers the Florida Keys for WLRN. Since moving to South Florida in 1989, she has worked for the Miami Herald, Solares Hill newspaper and the Monroe County Public Library.