Bee Sting Cake Recipe aka Bienenstich
Hi, Chef Dennis and his Wonderful Readers! I’m Debby, of A Feast for the Eyes. At first, I couldn’t decide what recipe to make—sweet or savory? A friend of mine suggested that I go with what my German roots (my other half is Mexican). I pondered about what to make and finally settled on making a traditional cake called “Bienenstich” or “Bee Sting Cake”. My father was military, and my mother was born and raised in Bavaria. They married and we lived in Hawaii and California. As a kid, our family was stationed in Germany for a few years. The bonus was that we were able to visit my “Oma” often, while we were there.
I remember this cake, fondly, because of the sticky and sweet honey almonds and the creamy filling. My “Oma” would buy one of these cakes, at the local bakery and serve thick slices with coffee. There are many versions as to how the cake got its name—
According to Wikipedia: “the cake may have earned its name from its honey topping: according to one legend, a bee was attracted to it, and the baker who invented the cake was stung. Another source cites a legend of German bakers from the 15th century who lobbed beehives at raiders from a neighboring village, successfully repelling them, and celebrated later by baking a version of this cake named after their efforts.”
The cake isn’t quite like an American cake. It’s more of a pastry texture and it is filled with a pastry cream and topped with honey glazed almonds. This was my first attempt at making this cake. I made the pastry cream, the night before. You could take some shortcuts by using vanilla pudding, or Bird’s Eye Custard Powder, and I wouldn’t tell anyone. However, pastry cream really isn’t that hard to make, from scratch. I used an easy recipe from “Joy of Baking”.
You’ll want to organize and measure your ingredients, milk (whole or 2%), vanilla bean paste (or pure vanilla extra or ½ vanilla bean), egg yolks, white sugar, flour and cornstarch. This is optional, but you can add either Grand Marnier (which I did), Kirsch or even Amaretto.
In a saucepan bring the milk just to boiling (just until milk starts to foam up.) Remove from heat and add slowly to egg mixture (tempering), whisking constantly to prevent curdling. Then pour the egg mixture into a medium saucepan and cook over medium heat until boiling, whisking constantly. When it boils, whisk mixture constantly for another 30 – 60 seconds until it becomes thick. Remove from heat and immediately whisk in the liqueur (if using). Stir in vanilla bean extract, or extract) Pour into a clean bowl and immediately cover the surface with plastic wrap to prevent a crust from forming. Cool to room temperature. If not using right away refrigerate until needed, up to 3 days. Whisk or stir before using to get rid of any lumps that may have formed.
The brioche dough isn’t too complicated to make. If you have a stand mixer, it’s really easy to do. You can mix this, by hand, because the dough is much thinner than making a bread dough. I warmed whole milk (110 F) and some honey and added Active Dry Yeast to it. 10 minutes later, the mixture was foamy and ready to make dough. To the yeast mixture, 2 (room temperature eggs) are added, sugar, a little salt, a mixture of all-purpose flour and bread flour and then 1 stick of softened butter, until just blended. It will be very soft. Place the dough into a buttered bowl, and cover with plastic wrap. Allow the dough to double in volume (about 2 hours). Gently press the dough down, and knead a few times (you’ll want to flour your hands). Cover and refrigerate for at least 4 hours, and up to 12. (I made this a day ahead of time, too).
The next morning, I removed the dough, and placed it into a 9” buttered springform pan. Shape into a ball, and gently, press the dough to fit the pan. Cover and allow it to puff up—about an hour. NOTE: I turn my oven on WARM for 2-3 minutes, then turn it off and place the covered dough into it. (This gives the dough a warm environment and helps to speed up the process.) Preheat the oven to 350, when the dough has risen.
For the Honey-Almond Topping: Combine ¼ cup, each, unsalted butter, sugar, honey and a pinch of salt. Bring to a gentle boil, on the stovetop, and remove from heat. Add ¾ cup sliced almonds and pour over the dough.
Place the pan on a parchment covered baking sheet (the honey mixture will seep through the bottom) and bake for 22-25 minutes, until golden and bubbly. Place on a cooling rack and remove from the pan after 10 minutes.
The aroma of the cake is intoxicating—butter and honey…wow! There is a beautiful sticky caramelization on top and all around the cake. You’ll be tempted to cut into it, but let the cake cool, completely.
Carefully slice the cake in half, with a serrated knife, and add the pastry cream. Now, brew a fresh pot of dark roast coffee or make a pot of tea.
Slice with a sharp knife and serve.
A flood of childhood memories, in Bavaria, has just come back. This looks like as I remembered.
TASTING NOTES: The cake is not very sweet. It has the texture of pastry, and the pastry cream is mildly sweet. The honey almonds…oh, that is really what makes this cake so special! It’s sticky and honey sweet, with just the right amount of richness of butter—I could eat a bowl of the almond topping all by itself. I wish my Oma was still alive, so she could see what her Granddaughter learned to make, in the United States. An unorthodox variation I will make the next time, is to add a layer of either apricot or raspberry jam, before adding the pastry cream.
This would be perfect to serve for Brunch, and I’ll be making this for Christmas morning.
- 1 ¼ cups milk whole or 2%
- ½ teaspoon vanilla bean split lengthwise or 1 pure vanilla extract or vanilla bean paste
- 3 large egg yolks
- 1/4 cup ( granulated white sugar
- 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 2 tablespoons cornstarch corn flour
- 1/2 tablespoon liqueur (Grand Marnier Brandy, Kirsch or Amaretto) (optional)
- ¼ cup whole milk
- 1 tablespoon honey
- 1 ½ teaspoons active dry yeast
- 2 large eggs lightly beaten
- ¾ cup all-purpose flour
- 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons bread flour divided
- ½ cup unsalted butter at room temperature
- ¼ cup unsalted butter (4 tablespoons)
- ¼ cup sugar
- ¼ cup honey
- pinch of salt
- ¾ cup sliced almonds
In a medium-sized heatproof bowl, mix the sugar and egg yolks together. (Don’t let the mixture sit too long or you will get pieces of egg forming.) Sift the flour and cornstarch (corn flour) together and then add to the egg mixture, mixing until you get a smooth paste.
Meanwhile, in a saucepan bring the milk and vanilla bean just to boiling (just until milk starts to foam up.)
Remove from heat and add slowly to egg mixture, whisking constantly to prevent curdling. (If you get a few pieces of egg (curdling) in the mixture, pour through a strainer.)
Remove vanilla bean, scrape out seeds, and add the seeds to the egg mixture. (The vanilla bean can be washed and dried and placed in your sugar bowl to give the sugar a vanilla flavor.)
Then pour the egg mixture into a medium saucepan and cook over medium heat until boiling, whisking constantly. When it boils, whisk mixture constantly for another 30 – 60 seconds until it becomes thick.
Remove from heat and immediately whisk in the liqueur (if using). (Stir in vanilla extract if using instead of a vanilla bean.) Pour into a clean bowl and immediately cover the surface with plastic wrap to prevent a crust from forming. Cool to room temperature. If not using right away refrigerate until needed, up to 3 days. Whisk or stir before using to get rid of any lumps that may have formed.
Makes about 1 cup
In a small saucepan (or a small cup if you want to use the microwave), combine milk and 1 tablespoon honey and heat until it registers between 110 degrees F to 115 degrees F on an instant-read thermometer. Pour the mixture into bowl of an electric mixer and sprinkle over yeast. Let mixture stand for 10 minutes, until yeast is creamy/foamy.
Transfer bowl to mixer stand and attach paddle (or hook) attachment. While mixing at low speed, gradually add eggs, all-purpose flour, sugar, and salt, and mix until blended.
Gradually add all but 2 tablespoons of bread flour. Mix at medium speed until dough is smooth and elastic, about 5 minutes. Dough should not stick to sides of bowl; if it does, add some of all of remaining 2 tablespoons of bread flour until dough cleans sides of bowl.
Add butter 1 tablespoon at a time, mixing at medium speed until it is blended into dough. (Dough will be very soft.) Transfer dough to a work surface and knead by hand a few times to ensure that butter is completely incorporated into dough. Shape dough into a ball and transfer it to a medium buttered bowl. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and set aside in a warm place for 1 1/2 to 2 hours, until it has doubled in volume.
Punch dough down to deflate it, and knead it a few times. Return dough to bowl, cover, and refrigerate for at least 4 hours (or up to 12 hours). Dough should have doubled in volume. If it hasn't, let it stand at room temperature until it has. (NOTE: I made the dough the night before.)
Butter bottom and sides of a 9” spring-form pan. Shape dough into a ball and arrange it, smooth side up, in center of pan. Flatten ball gently with your palm until it covers bottom of pan. Cover pan and let dough rise until it is puffed, about 1 hour.
Combine the butter, sugar, honey, and salt, and bring to a gentle boil on the stovetop.
Remove from the heat, and stir in the almonds. Evenly pour over the dough and place the pan on a parchment (or foil) covered baking sheet.
Position a rack in center of oven and preheat oven to 350 degrees F about 22-25 minutes, until golden brown and bubbly.
Place on a cooling rack, and allow to cool four 10 minutes. Remove from the Springform Pan and allow to cool completely.
Using a serrated knife, cut the cake in half. I place the cake on a rotating cake stand, and being by rotating the cake and creating a cut line midway through the cake. Continue rotating, allowing the knife to cut deeper until the cake is completely sliced in half.
Spread the pastry cream, leaving a narrow edge. Gently replace the top layer of the cake. Serve with coffee or tea.
NOTE: I make the pastry cream and prepare the dough a day of ahead of time.