This month marks 12 months of baking breads together and given that’s it’s also a season for a lot of festive baking done in parts of the country and the world, I thought it would be great if all of us at “We Knead To Bake” got together to bake something special this month.
My choice for this month is the Bienenstich Kuchen or what’s also known as the German Bee Sting Cake! Bienenstich is not really a bread but a traditional German sweet yeasted cake that has a baked on topping of crunchy almond toffee-like layer and filled with a vanilla pastry cream. Bienenstich is traditionally eaten as dessert but also served with tea or coffee.
Bienenstich means “bee sting” in German and probably got its name from the honey flavoured topping that is typical of this yeasted cake. There are however some interesting stories connected to it. One story is that the German baker who was creating this recipe came across a bee (possibly attracted by the honey) and was stung by it and decided to name the cake after the incident!
Another story is that a group of German bakers stopped invaders from entering a neighbouring village, sometime in the 15th century, by throwing beehives at them. In order to celebrate their victory, they created the original version of the Bienenstich.
The Bienenstich is made with enriched brioche-like dough that’s typical for yeasted cakes which means that it contains a lot of butter, some milk and eggs. I have reduced the egg to one in this particular recipe. If you do use eggs, go ahead and use one more (total of 2 eggs) as it will certainly improve the texture of your Bienenstich. You might need to add one or two tbsps more of flour to the dough for the extra egg. On the other hand if you don’t use eggs, please leave out the eggs altogether. It will make a slight difference to the texture but not too much, and you will still have a good Bienenstich.
A Bienenstich is typically filled with pastry cream which is a mix of custard and whipped cream. This pastry cream must be stiff enough to take the weight of being sandwiched between two layers of yeasted cake. I have used an egg-free version that uses custard powder but feel free to use your preferred recipe for custard using eggs.
You may also like to use buttercream, Bavarian Cream or Diplomat Cream as filling if that is your preference. I emntion once again, that the cake is a bit heavy so your filling should not be runny or too soft or it will not be able to carry the weight of the upper cake layer. There’s nothing more disappointing to see your effort spoiled by the filling flowing out of the middle and turning everything into a soggy mess! You can also add fruit (strawberry, kiwi, mango, etc) to your “cream” layer even though this is not traditional.
I have baked my Bienenstich in a round cake tin and cut it into slices but you can also bake it in a square tin and cut it out into squares like we do with brownies.
One of the ways of getting over the problems the filling possibly flowing out of the middle is to make it strong enough to take the weight of the upper layer. This can be taken care of by using a filling that will hold up and in the event your filling is a bit on the softer side, then not using too much filling to sandwich the layers. You can always thin the remaining filling and serve it with the Bienestich as a sauce. The whipped cream can be stabilized with corn-starch (or agar or gelatine if you use it)
Another problem that can present itself with the Bienenstich is that the filling could squish out when you try to cut or slice it. Thisproblem can be solved by placing the lower layer of the cake on the serving plate and then making a collar around it with a double layer of parchment paper that should be a little taller than the height of your finished Bienenstich. Now spread the filling over the lower layer evenly.
Then cut the upper almond toffee layer of your yeasted cake into slices or squares (depending on the shape of your Bienenstich) as you would cut your finished Bienenstich. Now place the slices/ squares on top of the filling so it looks like the top layer is whole. Refrigerate this for at least a couple of hours before serving. When ready to serve, remove the parchment collar, and use the slices/ squares as a guide and cut through the filling right to the bottom.
Note: **If you cannot find sliced almonds where you live (as in my case), you can make them at home. They will not be as thin as the store-bough version but I personally prefer my home made variety.
Blanch almonds by dropping them in just boiled hot water (not boiling water, but boiling water that has just been taken off the heat). If you boil them, they will cook and become soft. Let them sit in the water for about 5 minutes. Then drain the water off and rinse once in cold water. Strain well.
The skins of the almonds should feel a little loose and look wrinkled now. Pinch each almond at the broad end with thumb and forefinger and the skin should slip off easily.
Let the almonds dry out on a kitchen towel in an airy place for about half an hour. Then lay each almond down on its flat side and, using a sharp knife, slice as thinly as you can. There you have your sliced almonds.
Bienenstich Kuchen (German Bee Sting Cake)