November 26, 2012

Bienenstich (Bee Sting Cake)

"Bienenstich" means bee sting.  Now, why is this cake called "bee sting"?  According to one legend, a bee was attracted to the honey topping of the cake, and the baker who made the cake was stung.  Another legend describes Bavarian bakers propelling beehives at raiders from a neighboring village; after the raiders were repelled, the Bavarian bakers celebrated by baking this cake named after their "sting."

This recipe involves three parts: (1) creating the Bavarian buttercream; (2) making the brioche cake; and (3) creating the almond topping.  I'm pretty sure this might be my longest recipe yet, but it is worth it, my friends!  This brioche cake is filled with a creamy Bavarian buttercream and covered in a sweet, crunch honey almond topping.  The brioche cake is light with the right amount of sweetness.

Many recipes called for vanilla pudding mix to create the filling, but I was worried that the vanilla pudding mix would be too runny for the cake.  I wanted to go all-out authentic and do this completely from scratch, and a recent Cook's Illustrated issue just happened to include a recipe for Bavarian buttercream.  Now, how could I say nein to Bavarian buttercream for this German dessert?  ;-)

The Bavarian buttercream is a custard-based buttercream that has the flavor of a luscious vanilla ice pudding.  It is stabler and thicker than a pudding, and it is creamier and not as rich as a standard buttercream.  The almond topping has a honey caramel flavor that is not overly sweet.  The cake itself is a light brioche.

Enjoy a sliver of this cake with your afternoon tea--with honey, of course.

Bienenstich (Bee Sting Cake)
Yields 1 cake

For the cakes:
2 1/4 cups (9 1/2 oz.) all-purpose flour
4 tbsp. unsalted butter
2 tbsp. sugar
1 1/2 tsp. instant yeast
3/4 tsp. salt
2 large eggs
1/4 cup water, room temperature

For the topping:
6 tbsp. butter, unsalted or salted
1/3 cup granulated sugar
3 tbsp. honey
2 tbsp. heavy cream
1 1/2 cups sliced almonds

For the Bavarian buttercream filling:
3/4 cup whole milk
4 large egg yolks
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1 1/2 tsp. cornstarch
1/4 tsp. salt
2 tbsp. pure vanilla extract
16 tbsp. unsalted butter, softened

First, make the filling.  Heat milk in a small saucepan over medium heat until just simmering.  In a separate bowl, whisk the yolks, sugar, cornstarch, vanilla extract, and salt until smooth.  Remove the milk from the heat, add add half of the milk to the yolk mixture.  Whisk constantly, and return the tempered yolk mixture to the remaining milk in the saucepan.  Remove the saucepan to medium heat and cook, continuing to whisk constantly, until the mixture bubbles and thickens to the consistency of warm pudding, 3 to 5 minutes.  Transfer the pastry cream to the bowl.  Cover and refrigerate until set, at least 2 hours.  Using a stand mixer with the paddle, beat butter at medium speed until smooth and light, 3 to 4 minutes.  Add cooled pastry cream in 3 batches, beating for 30 seconds after each addition.  

Second, after completing the filling, begin the dough.  For the dough, if using a stand mixer, add all ingredients into the bowl of the stand mixer.  Using the dough hook, knead for 4 to 7 minutes at medium speed.  Once combined, place the dough into a lightly oiled bowl, turn to grease all sides, and cover the bowl with plastic wrap.  Allow the dough to rise for an hour, and it will become puffy.

If using a bread machine, place all of dough ingredients into the pan of your bread machine.  Program the machine for dough or manual.   During the cycle, check the dough's consistency to ensure that the dough is fairly smooth, slightly sticky, and not dry.  Adjust with additional flour or water, if needed, and allow for the bread machine to complete the cycle.

After the dough is finished (using either the stand mixer or bread machine method), transfer the dough to a lightly oiled work surface.  Fold the dough over, and divide it in half.  Roll each piece into a ball, and then part and stretch each ball into an 8-inch circle.  Place the circles into two lightly greased 8-inch  or 9-inch pans.  The dough might shrink away from the edge of the pans, but no worries! :)  Allow the dough to rest for 30 minutes.  After the dough has rested, it will be easier to work with; you can then stretch and pat it so that it reaches the edge.

Third, while the dough rises, make the topping, and preheat oven to 350ºF.  Melt the better in a small saucepan over medium heat.  Add the sugar, honey, and cream.  Bring the mixture to a boil, and allow it to boil for 3 to 5 minutes.  It will become a light gold.  Stir in the almonds, allow to cool slightly, and then spread over the dough in the pans.

Bake the cakes in the preheated oven for 25 to 30 minutes, until the edges become a golden brown and the topping bubbles.  Remove the cakes from the oven, and allow them to cool for 30 minutes in the pan.  This will allow the topping to firm.  After the cakes have cooled, run a knife around the edges of the pan to loosen any stuck dough.  Flip each cake over onto a plate, and then flip each cake back onto a rack so that the almond topping is face up.  Cool completely before filling.

Spread an even layer of the filling between the cakes.  Serve immediately, or refrigerate until ready to serve.

Source: Cake and topping directly adapted from King Arthur Flour; filling directly adapted from Cook's Illustrated November 2012 issue


  1. This cake looks really delicious! The topping looks so sticky and yummy.

  2. Love this recipe & your creation is gorgeous ... BTW, Happy National Bavarian Cream Pie Day :-)

  3. I'd risk being stuck for this beauty---sounds and looks amazing! (too amazing to pass up)!!

  4. Intimidating! But it looks beautiful :) I love the little stories behind it too...I'd run off if someone pelted me with beehives, fo sho!

  5. My brother loves this cake, it looks simply beautiful :D
    Thank you!

    Choc Chip Uru

  6. Hi,you don't mention how much cornstarch to use in the filling recipe. Thanks!

  7. This comment has been removed by the author.

  8. can not wait to make this. Your recipe looks closest to the one I remember. Thank you for your research and detail.


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