A light and fluffy yeasted cake dough, filled with a creamy custard and topped with a caramelized honey and almond topping. There is just something so special and unique about this cake. It’s sweet, but not overly sweet, it’s soft, but it also has some crunch, it’s a cake, but it is made with a yeasted dough. It really is just one of those cakes that are so truly unique and beautiful. It is a true German classic that will always be a favourite in our household.
In my childhood neighbourhood there is a German bakery and deli we used to frequently visit. Apart from their delicious bread and deli meats, their pastries were always mouth-watering. But our favourite was always the bee sting cake (bienenstich in German). My sister and I always begged our mom to buy us a slice and it was always just so amazing. We moved away about 10 years ago so I’m not sure if the bakery is still going, but their bee sting is a special food memory for me. So I’ve adapted this recipe to come as close as possible to the bee sting we always had as kids. And this recipe I put together comes really close.
It might seem daunting as it has many steps and each component requires a bit of effort. But it is do-able and so worth it. If you have never had bee sting before prepare for your life to be changed. It seriously is amazing.
The cake tastes even better the next day, so you can make it the day before.
How to make a bee sting cake:
The cake has three different components: the cake dough, the custard filling, and the honey-almond topping. It might seem daunting altogether, but when you break it up into three components it is much more do-able.
Making the custard:
I choose to make the custard first as it needs to set and cool completely. The custard is a basic thick vanilla pastry cream (or crème pâtissière as the French would say). It’s basically bringing milk to boiling point and whisking it together with an egg yolk and sugar mixture. Corn flour and cake flour is added to the egg yolk and sugar mixture to help thicken the custard. The custard is then cooked over a low heat until it has thickened and the flours and eggs have been cooked.
Making the dough:
The cake dough is very similar to an enriched dough as it contains honey, an egg, sugar, milk and butter. It’s easier to do it with a stand mixer and the dough hook attachment, but you can also mix it by hand. First you mix the flour, sugar, salt and yeast together and then you pour the warm milk over it and allow it to stand. While it stands for 5 minutes the yeast will be activated by the warm milk and the sugar. You then add the honey and beaten egg and mix it all together. Then you can add knobs of the butter to the dough until it is mixed into a homogenous mixture. Knead the dough for 2-3 minutes until you have a soft smooth dough. The dough should be covered and allowed to prove in a warm place for 40 minutes.
Making the topping:
The topping is made by combining butter, honey, sugar and cream and making a caramel syrup. You boil these 4 ingredients together and allow it to darken slightly and thicken. Once it has been caramelized you add the almond flakes to the syrup. It should cool for a few minutes before you add it onto the dough. Be careful not to burn yourself with this syrup as it will be quite hot.
Baking and assembling the cake:
When the dough has proved you have to roll it out into a rectangle on a floured surface. First use your hands to flatten it into a rough rectangle. And then use a rolling pin to toll it out into a big rectangle that will fit into the baking dish (40x30cm). Then gently place it into the greased baking dish. Spread the slightly cooled almond-honey topping over the top of the dough, but be careful not to press it into the dough too much. The cake then has a second prove for 20-30 minutes, and it is then baked.
Once the cake is completely cool, cut it in half so that you have two layers. Try to cut as straight as possible with a long bread knife. If this seems to daunting, you can also cut the cake into smaller blocks first. Pipe or spoon the custard over the bottom layer of the cake. Gently place the the top layer over the custard and gently press down. Cut the cake into equally sized squares, serve with some hot coffee or tea, or refrigerate in an airtight container for later enjoyment.
- The cake takes some time to cool off and set, so it needs to be made a few hours before you need it. You can also make it the day before and keep it in the fridge for the next day. It does taste even better the next day.
- Using a piping bag to pipe the custard on the bottom layer is much quicker and will give you a more polished look.
- If cutting the whole cake in two seems too daunting, cut the cake into the serving sizes first. And then cut each of those into two separate layers and assemble then individually.
Challenge yourself with this German classic. I promise you it is well worth the effort and time.
For the yeasted dough:
- 500 g cake flour
- 8 g dry active yeast
- 8 g vanilla sugar
- ½ tsp salt
- 1 cup full cream milk (luke warm)
- 70 g honey
- 1 large egg
- 100 g butter (softened at room temperature)
For the topping:
- 100 g butter
- 100 g honey
- 8 g vanilla sugar
- 30 g white sugar
- 3 tbsp cream
- 120 g almond flakes
For the custard filling:
- 500 ml full cream milk
- 5 large egg yolks
- 75 g caster sugar
- 25 g cake flour
- 20 g corn flour
- 1 tsp vanilla
- pinch of salt
For the custard filling:
- Get started with the custard first as it needs to cool down. In a bowl, add the egg yolks and caster sugar and whisk until it thickens and changes to a light yellow colour. Add the corn flour, cake flour and a pinch of salt and whisk into the eggs. Add the milk and vanilla to a pot and put it on the stove over a medium heat, stir it as it heats up, making sure that it does not scald.
- As the milk starts steaming and is just about to boil take it off the heat and pour a little bit of the milk into the egg yolk mixture. Whisk immediately until incorporated and add the rest of the milk while whisking. Once all the milk has been added pour the custard back into the pot and put it over a low heat.
- While whisking wait for the custard to slowly thicken, put the heat on medium and continue whisking until the custard has thickened considerably. The custard should start to boil very slowly and should be thick. Pour the custard into a bowl and place cling film directly onto the custard so that it does not form a skin. Place the bowl in the fridge.
For the dough part 1:
- Warm the milk in the microwave for 30 seconds. Mix the flour, vanilla sugar, salt and yeast in the bowl of a stand mixer. Pour the warmed milk over the flour and let it stand for 5 minutes.
- Warm the honey in the microwave for 15 seconds. Beat the egg in a small bowl. And then add the honey and the egg to the flour mix and mix well with the dough hook attachment of the stand mixer. Once you have a homogenous dough add small knobs of the butter until it has all been mixed in and you have a soft smooth dough.
- Cover the bowl with cling film and let it rise is a warm place for 40 minutes or until it has doubled in size.
For the topping:
- When half of the proving time has passed, start making the almond topping. Add the butter, honey, white sugar, vanilla sugar, honey and cream to a small pot over a high heat and stir until it starts to boil. Let it boil for 3-5 minutes, or until it turns a shade darker. Watch it carefully and turn the heat down if it is darkening too quickly. Take the pot off the heat and stir the almonds in, let the mixture cool slightly.
For the dough part 2:
- Butter/grease a 40 x 30 x 10 centimetre baking tray. Once the dough has proved and doubled in size. Take the dough out of the bowl and briefly knead it on a clean working surface. Roughly shape it into a rectangle and then roll it out into a 40 by 30 centimetre rectangle with a rolling pin. Gnelty place the dough into the greased baking tray.
- Gently spread the topping over the top of the dough, cover the tray and let it rise again for 20-30 minutes. Preheat your oven to 190C/170C fan.
- Bake the cake for 15-20 minutes or until the topping has turned golden brown and the cake has baked through. Remove from the oven. Remove the cake from the baking tray and let it cool on a wire rack.
- Once the cake has cooled, use a long knife to cute the cake in half into two separate layers.
- Scoop the cooled custard into a piping bag and pipe it onto the bottom layer of the cake. Put the top layer on top of the custard and refrigerate for 30-60 minutes before slicing into smaller pieces.
- Enjoy with a steaming cup of tea.