This recipe is adapted from Classic Home Desserts by Richard Sax (Chapters, 1994), a treasury of wonderful recipes. Lebkuchen can be labor-intensive and elaborate, but his version, containing honey rather than molasses, is quite manageable. It is dense, rich, redolent with spices and gilded here with bittersweet chocolate—so cut the servings small.
Makes 5 or 6 dozen servings.
For the cake:
For the chocolate glaze:
Make the dough 1 day before you plan to bake the Lebkuchen. Combine the sugar, honey, water and butter in a large saucepan. Bring to a boil, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Immediately remove the pan from the heat and stir in the almonds, candied fruit, preserved ginger, beaten egg, orange juice and almond extract until smooth. Sift together again the flour with the baking powder, baking, soda and all the spices. Stir them into the honey mixture until blended. Place a sheet of plastic wrap directly on the dough and let it cool thoroughly. Seal with a tightly fitting lid or plastic wrap and let the dough stand at room temperature overnight; do not chill.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter and flour a square or rectangular pan: 7½- by 11½-inch Pyrex works fine. With a large spatula spread the dough evenly over the bottom; the dough is extremely sticky but will smooth out in baking. Bake until the edges shrink away from the sides and a toothpick comes out almost clean, 27 to 30 minutes. Let the cake cool completely.
To make the glaze, combine the chocolate and butter in the top of a double boiler. Pour the boiling water over and stir until the chocolate is melted and smooth. Spread it evenly over the cake. Let the Lebkuchen set. Before serving, with a steady hand and sharp knife cut the Lebkuchen into 1-inch squares or diamonds.