Sunday, 20 October 2013

German bee-sting cake


I begin with a confession: traditional German bee-sting cake (Bienenstich) is usually a yeasted batter, but regular readers will know my fear/horror/dislike of using yeast, so when I found this non-yeasted version I made a bee-line for it (pun intended).

Like many traditional cakes the origin has been lost.  One legend claims that a bee was attracted to the honey topping and stung the baker who made it (I don’t like dissing legends but that one is quite lame, as legends go).  Another legend claims that 15th century German bakers successfully fended off raiders by throwing bee-hives at them and celebrated their victory by inventing this cake (this is more like it – I choose to believe this one!).

This cake uses popular flavours – honey, almond and vanilla – but has a twist in its method that makes them seem fresh and new.  When you spoon the cake batter into the tin you add a thick layer of runny honey on top over which you scatter a lot of flaked almonds.  The weight of all this suppresses the rise of the sponge but what your reward for this is a sticky spongy topping with lovely toasted nuts. It’s not dissimilar to the lovely bit of sponge that’s absorbed all the syrup on a steam sponge pudding.

As if all that wasn’t enough, the cake is then sliced and filled with vanilla custard cream.  I almost wept with happiness when I read the recipe!  I began with a confession but I must also end with another one – I messed up.  Big time.  To create the filling you make the custard and let it set in the fridge, then whip some cream and fold them together.  Stupidly, I added the custard to my whipped cream and let the kitchenaid whip them together which made it far too runny to sandwich the cake with.

Even more stupidly, asI was adding the custard to the mixer I thought, ‘I’ve done this before and it didn’t go well’.  Doh!  So, I didn’t cut the cake into layers; I left it whole and served my custard cream on the side.  Just as delicious but tinged with shame!  Please don’t let my idiocy put you off because this is a gorgeous cake.


For the cake:
125g unsalted butter, at room temperature
150g caster sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 eggs
225g self raising flour
6 tablespoons milk
125ml runny honey, warmed
150g flaked almonds

For the filling:
50g caster sugar
2 tablespoons cornflour
3 egg yolks
125ml milk
75ml double cream


Preheat the oven to 180°C/fan oven  160°C/350°F/gas mark 4.

Line a 20cm round springform tin with baking paper.

Beat together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.  It won’t go pale and creamy because of the proportions, but you will notice it become lighter.

Beat in the vanilla.

Beat in the eggs, one at a time.

Beat in 1/3 of the flour followed by 2 tablespoons of milk.

Repeat until the flour and milk are fully incorporated.

Spoon into the prepared cake tin and level the surface.  Make a good attempt at levelling it so that the honey doesn’t pool into one side when you pour it on.

Pour the honey over the unbaked sponge and use the back of a spoon to gently guide it over the cake.

Sprinkle the almonds over the cake ensuring the cake and honey is completely covered.  It will look like a lot of almond.

Bake for approximately 45-50 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the cake comes out clean.

Leave to cool in the tin before turning out.

The cake can be made a day in advance and stored in an airtight container if you so wish.

Now make the filling: whisk together the sugar, cornflour and egg yolks until smooth.

Gradually whisk in the milk.

Pour into a saucepan and cook over a low heat, stirring all the time.

When the mixture is thick enough to coat the back of the spoon remove from the heat and pour into a bowl.

Press clingfilm onto the surface of the mixture to stop a skin forming. 


Whip the cream until firm peaks form before folding in the chilled egg yolk mixture.  Do this by hand – don’t be tempted to let the mixer do it – it will make it runny!

To serve, slice the cake in half horizontally and place one half on a plate.

Spread the custard cream over the cake and place the nut-topped layer of cake on top.

Dust with icing sugar if you desire.

Bask in the glory of the wonderful thing you have created.



Gloria Baker said...

Look absolutely delicious I love these almonds!!!

Choclette said...

I'm with you on the legend and I'm with you on the cake too - sounds scrummydoodlicious.

Ulla said...

Looks and sound so yummy! I will have a go on this recipe. Thanks for sharing.

Jo said...

Lovely combination of flavours and excellent puns. I wouldn't count the custard as a fail. Since it's separate you can choose to smother the cake with it, which is what I tend to do in most cake-custard situations!

LiSa said...

I have been drawn to the bee-sting cake but like you have been put off by the yeast part of it.

I will have to keep this recipe bookmarked to try sometime soon!

I also love the sound of custard with whipped cream... yummy! As long as it was edible I would consider it a success!

Katie said...

Looks delicious and you got to serve the custard on the side! I've always wanted to try this cake, the name is so intreguing

sensibilia said...

I love your theories about the origins of the cake. And what a relief to know that even the most experienced cake-makers sometimes mess up!

Izzy said...

The cake looks so good! The legends are interesting too. I think I agree with you about which one I would believe!

Kezia said...

I love bakes with a tradition or legend behind them. I also love honey and anything with an almond topping so I'll have to try this recipe!

Stuart Vettese said...

Never heard of this CC - looks yum tho!

Baking Addict said...

The cake looks gorgeous. I love the idea of the nuts on top of the honey. I've never heard of this cake before but now I can't wait to try it.

Cakelaw said...

I adore beesting!!I want this - and your custard tart.

Jean said...

Gosh, that looks lovely !!
It's funny how we occasionally repeat a mistake, knowing perfectly well it didn't work last time - I do it myself, too. That and taking shortcuts that I am sure probably won't work - and they don't !!

Maggie said...

Love the name! Anything topped with honey and flaked almonds I will always eat.....

Anne Szadorska said...

Oooh I like your 'mistake' think would prefer the creamy custard on the side!

Charlene F said...

Wow looks delicious, I've never seen a German bee-sting cake before :-)

Lucy said...

I like the changes you made to this cake - I'm so much more likely to make a non yeasted version. The flavours all sound delicious and very comforting!