So what is a Bee Sting Cake exactly? Although the obvious guess is a cake made with honey, this cake's title comes from a German story passed down through the generations. It is said that the sweetness of the cake attracted a real bee which stung the original baker and prompted the name. I didn't encounter any bees while making this German "Bienenstich" Cake, but it was sweet enough to attract my fork over and over.
This recipe calls for a yeasted cake - something I've never encountered. It requires instant yeast rather than active dry so the risings aren't as long or as intense as bread rise. However, that yeast tang is apparent throughout the baking process and the cake ended up reminiscent of a softer brioche. Although dense like a pound cake, it somehow tasted lighter. Personally, I loved it.
The honey almond crunch is absolutely addicting and I couldn't stop myself from nibbling as I went. The way the topping caramelizes on the surface is gorgeous and will be sure to impress. The pastry cream is thick and best cold. Not all cakes need to be fully frosted and the fill between two layers is more than enough to tie the sweetness of the crunch and the yeastiness of the cake together. I couldn't decide if the cake is best served warm or cold which only means your immediate and leftover plans will both be satisfying!
This cake is high difficulty and I definitely struggled with it. In the end, I was only able to get a few acceptable chunks (the abandoned pieces were just as delicious), but I did like the challenge. If you're up for it, I suggest reading through the comments on Smitten Kitchen's to prepare yourself for common mishaps. The unique taste of a Bee Sting Cake is worth the effort and energy and I'll be here to cheer you on all the way!
Bee Sting Cake
Level of Difficulty: Expert
- 2 1/4 teaspoons (or 1 1/4-ounce package) instant yeast (also sold as Rapid Rise or Bread Machine yeast)
- 3/4 cup whole milk, at room temperature
- 1/4 cup granulated sugar
- 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
- 3/4 teaspoon table salt
- 2 large eggs, at room temperature
- 4 tablespoons butter, at room temperature
- Honey-Almond-Crunch Topping
- 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, cold is fine
- 1/3 cup granulated sugar
- 3 tablespoons honey
- 2 tablespoons heavy cream
- 1 1/2 cups (4 3/4 ounces) sliced almonds
- Two pinches of sea salt
- Pastry Cream Filling
- 1 cup whole milk
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 3 large egg yolks
- 1/4 cup granulated sugar
- 3 tablespoons cornstarch
- 2 pinches sea salt
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cold is fine
Make the cake:
- Combine all of the cake ingredients in a medium-sized mixing bowl, stirring till the mixture becomes cohesive. cover with plastic wrap and let rise in a draft-free place for 60 minutes, till it’s a little puffy.
- Grease a 9-inch round cake pan with cooking spray. Stir the batter a few times to deflate it slightly, then scrape it into the prepared pan and nudge it until it fills the bottom. Cover again with plastic wrap (don’t let it drape in and touch the top) and set aside for another 30 minutes.
Make the honey-almond-crunch topping:
- In a medium saucepan over medium heat, heat the butter, sugar, honey, cream and salt until the butter is melted. Bring to a simmer and let it boil for 3 to 5 minutes, stirring frequently. Stir in the almonds. Mixture will get thick. Set it aside to cool slightly.
- Heat your oven to 350 degrees.
- Once the cake has finished its second rise, use a small spoon to scoop out small amounts of the almond topping and distribute it over the top of the cake.
- Bake cake on a foil-lined tray to catch any almond crunch drips, for 20 to 25 minutes, until top is bronzed and toothpick inserted into the center comes out batter-free. (Almond crunch on it is fine) Transfer to a cooling rack and let it sit in the pan for 10 minutes. After 10 minutes, run a knife along the outside of the cake, making sure no places are stuck and invert the cake onto the cooling rack. Reverse it back onto another rack to finish cooling, replacing any almonds that fell off right back on top. They’ll merge back with the almond crunch as it cools.
Make pastry cream:
- Warm milk in a medium saucepan. Pour into a small bowl or cup, ideally with a spout. Set aside. Rinse saucepan with cool water, to rinse and cool; wipe to dry. Off the heat, whisk the yolks and sugar vigorously together for a minute, until pale and ribbony. Whisk in flour and salt until smooth. Drizzle in warm milk mixture, a spoonful at a time, whisking the whole time. Once you’ve add half of it, you can add the rest in a more steady stream, again whisking the whole time. Return the saucepan to the stove and cook on medium-high heat until it bubble, then simmer for one to two minutes, more whisking the whole time. Off the heat, whisk in the butter and vanilla extract. Cool custard completely before using, a process that can be sped up in the fridge.
Assemble the cake:
- Once both the cake and pastry cream are fully cooled, place the cake on a serving platter and divide it horizontally into two layers with a long serrated knife. Spread pastry cream over bottom half. Place top half on pastry cream. Serve in wedges; Refrigerate any leftovers.