Every once in a while I like to go out on a limb in the kitchen. We were invited to a party for a German friend and wanted to bring something special. My husband remembered this delicious Bienenstich cake from his mission in Germany, so I decided I could manage one of these. Besides, I always love to make traditional recipes that reflect my own family heritage and my great-grandparents came from Germany.
While it’s not a quick-and-easy recipe, it wasn’t as difficult as I thought it would be. It is a slow recipe, though, and does take some time to make. And Bienenstich Cake is well worth the effort.
This cake is a WOW for sure–not only in the appearance category but also in taste. I am not a honey lover by any means, but I loved this cake and it’s now one of my most-requested special occasion cakes.
My husband brought back some cookbooks with him from Germany–the only problem is that they are all in German and they all have metric measurements. Sometimes his translations work well and other times not so much. So, when he brought me this recipe, the translated instructions were kind of weird, so I decided to go hunt down an English version. I found my original recipe on About.com and with a few tweaks (No, I couldn’t resist tweaking the recipe) the directions were much easier to understand than the ones he gave me.
Both my husband and our German friend tell me, though, that this is definitely the authentic Bienenstich Cake they remember from Germany.
The cake itself is a little different in that it’s made from a yeast dough and has no sugar in it–but don’t worry, the honey more than makes up for that in the finished cake.
Important Note: This recipe actually makes TWO 9″ round cakes. Since I’m not good at splitting eggs in half, I didn’t halve the recipe. You can also make it as a single 9 x 13 cake, but I prefer the round ones.
I make my dough first because it does need to rise before baking. Start by mixing 4 cups of the flour with the yeast and salt. Next you need to heat the honey and butter together just until the butter is melted and stir it into the lukewarm milk. You’ll also add the eggs here and mix it all well together. This is one of the few recipes where I really do mix all my liquids together separately before adding them to the dry ingredients–usually I’m a lazy cook and don’t, but with this recipe it does seem to work better. Add the liquids to the dry ingredients and mix on low until it forms a dough. Continue adding the last cup of flour until it forms a smooth dough and pulls away from the bowl.
At this point, oil the dough (I just spray the dough and the bowl with non-stick cooking spray), cover it with a clean cloth and set it aside in a clean bowl to rise until doubled, probably about 45-60 minutes.
While the dough is rising, you will want to make the pastry cream so it has plenty of time to cool. Heat your half-and-half with the sugar, stirring constantly until almost to the boiling point. Whisk the 2 eggs, egg yolk, flour and salt together until smooth. Temper it by gradually adding about 1/4 cup of the hot milk mixture into the eggs while whisking (this is important if you don’t want your eggs to curdle when they get added to the milk/sugar mixture). Then stir the egg mixture into the milk and sugar, stirring constantly. Keep stirring until it’s thickened, but don’t let it boil.
When it’s thick enough to coat the back of a spoon remove it from the heat. Pour it into a glass bowl that has been set into a bowl of ice cubes and stir some more. Once the mixture has cooled some, remove it from the ice bath and put into the refrigerator to continue cooling until you are ready to use it. You will use the whipping cream later on.
Next make the almond topping. Combine the sugar, honey and butter in a small pot and heat, stirring constantly until the sugar dissolves and the mixture begins to boil. Boil for five minutes, stirring constantly. Add the almonds, stirring to coat. Remove from heat and let cool until lukewarm.
By now, your dough should be ready and it’s time to bake the cake. Heat the oven to 350. Grease two 9″ pans and line the bottoms with parchment or waxed paper (makes removing a cake so much easier). Divide the dough between the two pans making sure to spread the dough evenly to the edge of the pans. Bake your cake for about 40-50 minutes.
Cool cakes for 10-15 minutes and remove to cooling racks to finish cooling completely.
Once the cakes are completely cool, it’s time for the assembly.
Whip the heavy cream until very stiff. Fold the whipped cream into the cold pastry cream, but don’t overmix it.
Using a serrated bread knife (or similar), cut the cakes horizontally all the way through. Remove the top half and set aside.
Spread all of the cream filling over the bottom of each cake. Place the top back on the cake.
Divide the almond topping and spread it over the top layer of each cake.
You can serve immediately or place in the refrigerator, which helps the pastry cream set up.
And now you have a beautiful and delicious dessert to wow your guests AND your taste buds. You can download a PDF of the complete recipe here.