This wonderful cake has a deep German heritage and its name Bienenstich, literally meaning “bee sting,” serves as a warning that the gorgeous glaze of honey and almonds doesn’t come without its risks. Legend has it that the creator of this cake was actually stung by a bee that had been attracted by the honey glaze – an occupational hazard that was apparently worth the risk since this dessert was destined to become a classic German favorite.
The recipe is simply a brioche yeast dough, baked with a glaze of honey and almonds on top, then sliced carefully in half to fill with pastry cream or custard. It’s a lovely, soft bread-like cake, that is perfumed with aromas from the crispy topping of honey and almonds, and the vanilla-infused pastry cream. It’s a perfectly light yet luxurious middle-of-summer indulgence. Mind the bees though, if you’re enjoying this during a kaffeeklatsch with your friends outside on the porch.
We used local Bucks County honey along with raw whole milk, and butter from grass-fed cows for incredible wholesome and authentic flavor.
- 1 tbsp local honey
- 1½ teaspoons dry active yeast
- ¼ cup whole milk (raw if possible)
- 2 eggs, lightly beaten
- 2 tbsp sugar
- ¾ cup flour
- 1 cup bread flour
- ½ tsp salt
- ½ cup unsalted butter, softened (we use Kerrygold)
- 3 cups milk
- 1 vanilla bean - (use only the seeds scraped from inside)
- 6 tbsp cornstarch
- 2 tbsp butter
- 8 egg yolks
- ¾ cup sugar
- ⅓ cup honey
- 2 tbsp cream
- 2 tbsp sugar
- ½ cup sliced almonds
- Make dough: In a small saucepan, combine milk and 1 tablespoon honey and heat until it registers between 110 degrees F to 115 degrees F on an instant-read thermometer. Pour the mixture into bowl of an electric mixer and sprinkle over yeast. Let mixture stand for 10 minutes, until yeast is creamy.
- Transfer bowl to mixer stand and attach paddle attachment. While mixing at low speed, gradually add eggs, all-purpose flour, sugar, and salt, and mix until blended. Gradually add all but 2 tablespoons of bread flour. Mix at medium speed until dough is smooth and elastic, about 5 minutes. Dough should not stick to sides of bowl; if it does, add some of all of remaining 2 tablespoons of bread flour until dough cleans sides of bowl. Add butter 1 tablespoon at a time, mixing at medium speed until it is blended into dough. (Dough will be very soft.) Transfer dough to a work surface and knead by hand a few times to ensure that butter is completely incorporated into dough. Shape dough into a ball and transfer it to a medium buttered bowl. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and set aside in a warm place for 1½ to 2 hours, until it has doubled in volume.
- Punch dough down to deflate it, and knead it a few times. Return dough to bowl, cover, and refrigerate for at least 4 hours (or up to 12 hours). Dough should have doubled in volume. If it hasn’t, let it stand at room temperature until it has.
- Butter bottom and sides of a 9″ spring-form pan. Shape dough into a ball and arrange it, smooth side up, in center of pan. Flatten ball gently with your palm until it covers bottom of pan. Cover pan and let dough rise until it is puffed, about 1 hour. Position a rack in center of oven and preheat oven to 350 degrees F about 20 minutes before dough is ready.
- Make the topping (see our recipe below) and then carefully pour it over the top of dough. Bake cake for 30 to 35 minutes, until it is a lovely golden brown and a toothpick inserted into center of cake comes out clean. Cool cake in pan, set on a wire rack, for 15 minutes. Remove cake from pan and cool cake on the wire rack completely.
- Make the pastry cream (see our recipe below) and set aside for the assembly.
- To assemble the cake, use a serrated knife to cut the cake horizontally to create a top and bottom layer. Remove the top layer, and spread the cream on the bottom layer, very thickly. Replace the top layer carefully, and serve right away.
- In a small saucepan, add honey, cream and sugar and head on medium low until just warmed. Add the almonds and stir until fully coated.
- In a medium sauce pan, combine milk and vanilla seeds. In a medium bowl, add the yolks and sugar and whisk until they turn a light color.
- Heat the milk until scalded.
- Stir the cornstarch into the egg yolk mixture, then pour in about ¼ of the hot milk, whisking continuously to temper. Pour the egg mixture into the saucepan with hot milk, and return the pan to the heat. Stirring while cooking at medium high, until boiling.
- Reduce heat and allow to boil 30 seconds, while still stirring. Remove the pan from the heat and whisk the butter into the pan. Pour into a bowl, then cover with plastic wrap that touches the surface of the pastry cream. Refrigerate until completely cooled.