Bienenstich (Bee Sting Cake)

One popular offering at our cafe in Norwich, Vermont is Bienenstich, a yeasted, buttery pastry dough, German in origin, filled with a rich vanilla custard cream, and topped with honey-glazed sliced almonds. Enjoy a sliver of this "Bee Sting Cake" with your afternoon coffee or serve as a fitting end to a light early-summer dinner.

Prep
35 mins
Bake
25 to 28 mins
Total
3 hrs
Yield
two 8" cakes
Bienenstich

Instructions

Prevent your screen from going dark as you follow along.
  1. To make the dough: Combine all of the dough ingredients and mix, then knead — by hand, mixer, or bread machine — until the mixture forms a smooth, supple dough.

  2. Place the dough in a lightly oiled bowl, turn to grease all sides, cover the bowl with a proof cover or plastic wrap, and let it rise for 60 minutes, until it's puffy.

  3. To shape the dough: Transfer the dough to a lightly oiled work surface, fold it over to expel any excess gas, then divide it in half. Roll each piece into a ball, then pat and stretch each ball into an 8" circle. Place the circles into two lightly greased 8" cake pans; don't worry if the dough shrinks away from the edges of the pans.

  4. Cover with plastic, and allow it to rise/rest for 30 minutes — the gluten will relax, making the dough easier to work with — then gently stretch and pat it to reach the edge. Make the topping while the dough is rising.

  5. To make the topping: Melt the butter in a small saucepan set over medium heat. Add the sugar, honey and cream. Bring the mixture to a boil, and boil it for 3 to 5 minutes, until it's taken on a very light gold color. Stir in the almonds, let cool slightly, then spread over the dough in the pans.

  6. Preheat the oven to 350°F.

  7. Bake the Bienenstich in a preheated 350°F oven for 25 to 28 minutes, until the edges are golden brown and the topping is bubbling. Remove it from the oven, and cool in the pan for 30 minutes, to allow the topping to firm up.

  8. Run a knife around the edges of the pans to loosen any stuck-on dough, and flip each cake over onto a plate, then flip back onto a rack so the almond topping is up. Cool completely before filling.

  9. To assemble the Bienenstich: Carefully split each of the cakes in half horizontally, so that you have four thin, round cakes. This is best done using a serrated knife; cut slowly and check as you go to make sure you're staying on a straight line. Set the cakes aside.

  10. To make the filling and finish the cakes: Soften the gelatin in the 2 tablespoons water, then heat the mixture (in a microwave set on low, or over low heat in a saucepan) until the gelatin has melted and the mixture is clear. Let it cool slightly.

  11. Fold a bit of the whipped cream into the gelatin, then fold that back into the remaining whipped cream.

  12. Mix the instant pudding with the milk and vanilla, stirring for 2 minutes as the box directs. Immediately fold the whipped cream/gelatin mixture into the pudding (the pudding will begin to set up, so work quickly). Use this faux pastry cream to fill the cakes. Serve immediately, or refrigerate until you're ready to serve.

Tips from our Bakers

  • We really like this method of making pastry cream; both the ease of preparation, and the delicious final product. The whipped cream makes the filling very rich, while the gelatin stabilizes it, so it'll stay firm (and not "weep") in your pastry for days, if necessary. When we're in a hurry, and know we're making a pastry that doesn't have to keep for a long time, we simply prepare instant vanilla pudding mix using heavy cream instead of milk, spiking it with an extra shot (a teaspoon or two) of vanilla extract. Either of these two methods produces a filling that's wonderful for cream puffs, éclairs, napoleons (if you ever make those at home), cakes, or other filled confections.
  • For an alternative sweetener version that really puts the flavor of honey up front, add a tablespoon of honey to the brioche dough.
  • For a honey-sweetened filling, make this pastry cream recipe, using 1/3 cup of honey instead of sugar, and adding 2 teaspoons of unflavored gelatin mixed with 2 tablespoons of cold water (let it sit for a few minutes before adding) to the milk in the pan. Don't add the whipped cream; use the filling as is once it sets.

  • Our home-size version was inspired by a recipe in Modern Baking magazine.