For those who have been reading along here for years, you know that I come from German heritage and that I love nothing more than to play around with recipes that nod to just that…
So, it wouldn’t surprise you then that as we geared up to celebrate the first birthday of the year in our family – my wonderful mom’s – that I took an idea I stumbled upon in a random conversation with her nearly a month ago and ran with it.
She was reminiscing about a cake she hadn’t had in years and years… since she’d lived in Germany, really… Bienenstich Cake. Perfect, I thought. Her birthday was coming up and that meant that I didn’t have to quiz her endlessly about what kind of cake she wanted! Instead… I could surprise her. Even. Better.
The Bienenstich (Bee Sting) Cake gets its name from the sweet, crunchy, honey-almond mixture that tops the cake. Traditionally, the pastry is a yeast-based brioche but, because yeast and I have kind of a rocky relationship, I opted to go with more of a traditional cake base. I’ve never had “the real thing” but I’d say this is still pretty amazing.
There are three components and what feels like many steps to this recipe. But I promise you, it’s not as hard as it looks and it’s worth every ounce of effort. You can even make the cake and pastry cream the day before and assemble everything the day you need it.
The cake is sweet, but not too sweet. Some of the honey and almonds sink down into the cake as it bakes leaving little gooey/crunchy pockets on the sides and bottom. The pastry cream is thick and rich and complements the slightly dry, large crumbed cake perfectly. We paired our slices with cups of coffee and it was a wonderful birthday afternoon snack.
Happy birthday, Mom!! xoxo
Bienenstich (Bee Sting) Cake
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour, sifted
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
8 tablespoons (1 stick) of unsalted butter
2/3 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
6 tablespoon whole milk
1/4 cup (4 tablespoons) unsalted butter
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup honey
pinch of salt
1 cup sliced almonds
2 cups milk
1/2 cup sugar
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
pinch of salt
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
3 tablespoons cornstarch
3 egg yolks
Powdered sugar for dusting (optional)
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Line the bottom of a 9-inch spring form pan with parchment paper and grease and flour sides and bottom of lined pan.
In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder and salt. In a separate large mixing bowl cream the butter and sugar until fluffy, approximately 2-3 minutes. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in vanilla.
Add the flour mixture in 3 additions alternating with the milk. Beat only enough to blend – do not overmix. Batter will be thick. Carefully spoon into the prepared pan and smooth to the edges. Set aside while preparing the honey-almond topping.
For honey-almond topping, combine the butter, sugar, honey, and salt and bring to a gentle boil over medium heat. Remove from the heat, and stir in the almonds until fully coated. Spoon over the cake batter.
Bake the cake on center rack for 25-30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool on a wire rack. Prepare the pastry cream filling while the cake cools.
For the pastry cream filling, bring the milk, 1/4 cup of the sugar, 2 tablespoons of the butter, and salt to a gentle boil in a medium saucepan over medium-low heat.
Remove from heat and add extracts.
In a small bowl, whisk together the cornstarch and the remaining 1/4 cup of sugar. Add the egg and yolks to the cornstarch and mix into a smooth paste.
Slowly temper the egg mixture by whisking in some of the hot milk – about 1/4 cup at a time – until the egg mixture is warm to the touch. Once warm, pour the tempered egg mixture back into the remaining milk in the pan.
Return the custard to the stove and bring to a boil, whisking continuously for 2 to 3 minutes. The pastry cream will begin to thicken almost immediately but it is important to cook out the starch so that it isn’t grainy and so your pastry cream won’t separate. When the pastry cream is done it will be smooth and glossy. Remove from heat and whisk in final tablespoon of butter until melted and incorporated.
Pour pastry cream into a wide, shallow container and press plastic wrap onto the surface to prevent a skin from forming. (If the pastry cream is at all lumpy, pour through a mesh strainer into the container to remove the lumps.) Refrigerate until cool.
When both cake and pastry cream are cool, it’s time to assemble the cake.
Remove the ring of the springform pan and carefully lift the cake from the bottom/parchment and onto your serving plate (the bottom may be sticky in some places and the cake will be a little delicate – use care for this part of the process).
Using a long, serrated knife or a piece of unflavored dental floss, carefully cut the cake in half horizontally. Move the top layer to the side while you layer on the pastry cream (again, be very careful – I used two large spatulas to help me move the top layer off and back on without breaking it in half).
Remove pastry cream from refrigerator and stir or whisk until smooth. Spoon onto bottom layer of cake and spread evenly to within 1/2 inch of the edges.
Place top of cake onto the pastry cream layer and carefully press down until pastry cream reaches the edges of the cake.
Dust cake lightly with powdered sugar and refrigerate until ready to serve. When ready to serve, cut carefully… the honey-almond topping makes the top a little difficult to cut.