Now, I know my next sentence is going to make a lot of you never want to read my blog again, but I’ll type it anyway: I don’t like mince pies or Christmas pudding, or anything that tastes like them. There, I said it. (I hope Father Christmas still brings me my presents tomorrow after I have admitted to such a heinous Christmas crime!)
Of course this means I have spent my whole life missing out on traditional cakes at Christmas. That is, until I lived in Germany for a year, and discovered a truly great love – Lebkuchen. It’s a very similar taste to English gingerbread, warm and spicy but with a slight twist (which – I have discovered this week – is honey and almond) and the consistency varies depending on what sort of Lebkuchen you are buying. For example, anyone who has ever visited a German Christmas Market will have seen the large brightly coloured biscuits below –
These are called Pfefferkuchen but are basically large Lebkuchen biscuits. Smaller chocolate covered Lebkuchen tend to be much softer and airy –
You can also get Lebkuchen loaf cakes, sometimes called Hoenigkuchen (honey cake), as well as more modern versions such as Lebkuchen tray bakes. Of course, I decided to go for Lebkuchen cupcakes!
All the Lebkuchen recipes I have come across have had varying ingredients, although all of them have involved honey and almond, and so when I was deciding on my recipe I mixed honey and almond extract with traditional Christmas spices and lemon. I also chose vanilla buttercream to top the cupcakes, to balance out the spice of the cupcakes with something a bit sweeter.
So to everyone who isn’t a fan of Christmas pud and fancies having a go at making something different between Christmas and New Year, here is my recipe for Lebkuchen/Christmas Cupcakes. Please feel free to chop and change the spices to your taste; after all, every Lebkuchen recipe is different!
For the sponge:
- 8oz unsalted butter
- 8oz golden caster sugar
- 8oz self raising flour
- 2tbsp clear honey
- 2tsp ground cinnamon
- 2tsp ground ginger
- 1tsp mixed spice
- 2tsp almond extract
- Zest of 1 lemon
- 1tbsp lemon juice
- Half tsp black pepper
For the buttercream:
- 5oz unsalted butter
- 10.5oz icing sugar
- 1tsp vanilla extract
- 1tsp milk (optional)
For the sponge:
1. Preheat the oven to 170 degrees (fan) and line a 12 hole cupcake tin with muffin (or large cupcake) cases.
2. Make sure your butter is at room temperature, cut it into cubes and cream until smooth. Add the caster sugar, and mix with the butter until the mixture is light and fluffy.
3. Whisk the eggs well in a separate bowl or jug, then pour them into the butter and sugar mixture, and whisk until smooth (if there are a few lumps, don’t worry).
4. Sieve the flour into the mixture, then add the honey, almond extract, spices, pepper, lemon zest and juice and stir them through the mixture well. Don’t over beat at this stage!
8. Leave the cakes to cool in the tray for a few minutes, and then transfer them on to a wire rack to cool thoroughly.
For the icing:
1. Cube the butter and cream until smooth.
2. Sieve the icing sugar in to the bowl and mix with the butter.
3. Mix in the vanilla extract.
4. You can either pipe the icing on to the cakes using a piping bag a nozzle or spread over the top using a knife.
5. If you like, add Christmas decorations to make them look more Christmassy.