I was researching gingerbread a few weeks ago and I came across a really unique type of gingerbread from the region of Lucerne, Switzerland. This gingerbread is a cake and, instead of using honey or molasses for the sweetener, it is made with Birnendicksaft, or concentrated pear syrup. This is a regional product from this part of Switzerland and, though the consistency of honey, it is made by boiling down the juice of cider pears.
Being in the United States, I do not have access to this product, but after a little more research, I discovered that I could actually make it myself. I made it by boiling a couple bottles worth of pear juice that I bought at my local grocery store and after 2-3 hours bubbling on the stove, I was able to reach a consistency similar to honey.
The cake also has a product that is commonly sold in the German-speaking countries, called Lebkuchengewürz, or gingerbread spice. It is a spice mixture used for gingerbread baking that usually has a proportion of 20% cinnamon, 20% anise, 18% coriander, 14% cloves, 14% dried ground ginger, 9% nutmeg, 5% cardamom. I’ve linked the product below and have also included a homemade recipe if you want to make the spice mixture yourself.
Swiss Gingerbread Cake / Luzerner Lebkuchen
- 300 grams whole wheat flour 2 2/3 cups
- 300 grams all-purpose flour just under 2 1/2 cups
- 20 grams Natron 4 tsp (see recipe notes)
- 20 grams Lebkuchengewürz 1/4 cup (gingerbread spice/see recipe notes)
- zest of 1 lemon
- 250 grams Birnendicksaft + extra for glazing 3/4 cup (concentrated pear syrup/see recipe notes)
- 400 grams whole milk 1 2/3 cups
- 250 grams heavy cream 1 cup
- 150 grams unsalted butter 2/3 cup
- In a mixer (or by hand), whisk together the flour, gingerbread spice, Natron, and lemon zest.
- In a small saucepan on the stove, combine the milk, cream, butter, and pear syrup. Gently heat on medium heat. As the butter begins to melt, stir in the granulated sugar. Gently heat everything until melted and well combined but do not boil. Remove from the stove and set aside.
- Using the paddle attachment of your mixer, put the mixer on low speed and slowly pour the warm milk mixture into the dry ingredients until it is well-combined. You may need to scrape down the sides of the bowl occasionally.
- Divide the batter between two, parchment-lined 9 inch (22cm) round baking pans (or two loaf pans) and bake in a 375F/190C preheated oven for 25-30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
- Place on a rack to cool but while they are still warm glaze the top of each cake with some warmed pear syrup. Let cakes cool completely before slicing and enjoying. En Guete!