To Germany! The largest EU economy, with a chancellor who had a Barbie made in her image. Perhaps better known for its beer and sausages, it also is home to lots of delicious cake. Enter, the bienenstich, or bee sting cake.
I have to say I was incredibly excited to make this cake. And then it failed. And the second attempt failed, just slightly less badly. The first attempt failure was definitely my fault because I added too much yeast and then it rose too much, and the topping just went straight through to the bottom. The second attempt had the correct amount of yeast in, and looked promising when I put the topping on, until I checked it halfway through baking to find it had basically all sunk to the bottom again.
The good thing is that it sort of turned into a rather nice upside-down cake, and the pastry cream is excellent, so it tastes right but looks like a total disaster. I guess that’s better than having a cake that looks amazing and tastes like shit, because at the end of the day it needs to be eaten.
I’ve left the recipe I used below, because I can’t be sure that it won’t work for other people in different circumstances. One day I will attempt this once more and either add more flour, or bake the cake for 5-10 mins before adding the topping.
This post is part of a series called ‘Brexit Baking’, where I bake my way around all 28 EU Member States. You can read more about it here.
Bienenstich (recipe from Smitten Kitchen)
2 1/4 teaspoons (7g) instant yeast
3/4 cup whole milk, ideally at room temperature
1/4 cup granulated sugar
2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon table salt
2 large eggs, ideally at room temperature
60g unsalted butter, at room temperature
90g unsalted butter
1/3 cup granulated sugar
3 tablespoons honey
2 tablespoons heavy cream
1 1/2 cups sliced almonds
Two pinches of sea salt
Pastry Cream Filling
1 cup whole milk
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
3 large egg yolks
1/4 cup granulated sugar
3 tablespoons cornflour
2 pinches sea salt
30g unsalted butter
- Combine all of the cake ingredients in a medium-sized mixing bowl, stirring till the mixture becomes cohesive, then stirring for two minutes more. Scrape down sides, cover and let rise in a draft-free place for 60 minutes, till it’s a little puffy. (It won’t fully double; this is fine.)
- Butter a 9-inch round cake pan. 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 and set aside for another 30 minutes.
- In a small or 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, until the mixture becomes a shade darker (it should go from a yellowish tone to a light beige), stirring frequently. Stir in the almonds. Set it aside to cool slightly.
- Heat your oven to 180C. 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 caramel drips, for 20 to 25 minutes, until top is bronzed and toothpick inserted into the centre comes out batter-free.
- 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.
- 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 cornflour and salt until smooth. Drizzle in warm milk mixture, a spoonful at a time, whisking the whole time. Once you’ve added 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 or whisking it over a bowl over ice water.
- 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.