Bee sting cake is an iconic and very popular dessert cake in Germany. For a good reason! Imagine two layers of soft yeast bread filled with vanilla pastry cream and topped with a layer of crunchy honey almonds. Sounds awesome, doesn't it? Learn how to make this delicious dessert to impress family and friends. By the way, have you tried my German Black Forest Cake?
Note: The video shows the wrong amount of flour and milk used in this recipe. Please refer to the recipe for the correct amount of flour and milk needed.
- Video tutorial
- What is bee sting cake?
- What is German vanilla pastry cream?
- Variations of the original recipe
- Choice of flour for the yeast dough
- Make-ahead and overnight instructions
- How to assemble a bee sting cake
- Freezing instructions
- Expert tips for dough success
- Tips for the perfect pastry cream
- More European desserts to try
What is bee sting cake?
Authentic German bee sting cake, also called Bienenstich in German, is a two-layer cake usually baked in a rectangular pan (think of a sheet cake) and originated in Germany. It is made of two sweet yeast bread layers filled with vanilla custard and topped with a crunchy almond and honey topping. The taste ranges from nutty to sweet to yeasty with notes of vanilla and honey. The diverse flavor profile and the different textures (soft, creamy, crunchy) make this a very popular cake for centuries.
What is German vanilla pastry cream?
German pastry cream is basically vanilla custard and whipped cream. The first step is to prepare and chill the custard. Then fold the whipped cream into the custard to create a light yet creamy filling. For the classic German pastry cream, use the seeds of real bourbon vanilla beans.
Variations of the original recipe
You may have seen bee sting recipes with sponge or vanilla cake layers, but these are just variations of the original recipe. Some recipes also call for vanilla pudding (custard) instead of pastry cream. The original recipe is filled with an airy, light yet creamy vanilla pastry cream.
Choice of flour for the yeast dough
Although I prefer baking sweet yeast bread with bread flour, this recipe is made with all-purpose flour. You may ask why? The fact is that there is no real US or Canadian bread flour equivalent in Germany and Austria, as most widely available flours are made from soft wheat. Soft wheat flour has a lower gluten content than hard wheat flour, which is why German home bakers do not have strong bread flours available in regular grocery stores. If you want to prepare this recipe like the average German home baker, you should opt for all-purpose flour. However, this recipe also works with bread flour.
Make-ahead and overnight instructions
- Dough: This recipe has been passed down for generations, and it's quite common in German-speaking countries for home bakers to prepare and bake yeast dough on the same day. I followed my mother's recipe, which is why same-day preparation is the chosen method in this recipe. However, you can make the yeast dough according to the instructions and then let it rise in the refrigerator overnight. Proceed with the recipe the next day.
- Pastry cream: You can prepare the custard for the pastry cream 1 day in advance. Store covered in the refrigerator.
How to assemble a bee sting cake
Bake the yeast dough with the almond topping in one layer. After baking and cooling, cut it in half horizontally. Put the bottom layer back into the pan, fill with the pastry cream and place the top layer on top. Use a long sharp knife to make a clean cut. You can use a large plate or pizza peel for lifting and transferring the layers so that they don't break.
- Freezing before baking - Make the dough as described, roll it out, and place it into the pan. Wrap the pan tightly in plastic wrap and aluminum foil and place in freezer bags to avoid freezer burn. Thaw in the refrigerator overnight. Then continue with the recipe as described.
- Freezing after baking - You can freeze the filled bee sting cake by flash freezing it for 1 hour. Then transfer to freezer bags and freeze for up to 2 months. To thaw, place for 1-2 hours on the counter or in the fridge overnight.
Expert tips for dough success
- If your dough isn't rising, it could be due to expired yeast. You can try putting the dough in a warmer environment and see if it just takes longer to rise. If it doesn't rise at all, it's better to start over with fresh yeast.
- Different flours can absorb water differently in different climates and environments. This means you may need to hydrate your dough more or less depending on the flour, humidity, temperature, and altitude. Please watch the video to see what the dough should look like.
- Use as little flour as possible when rolling out the dough. The more flour you use, the more flour will be incorporated into the dough, which will make the yeast bread dry.
- Let the shaped dough rise until it has doubled in size. If you bake it under-proofed, it won't rise properly. Also, don't overproof it, or it could collapse or shrink after baking.
Tips for the perfect pastry cream
- Don't skip tempering the egg yolks. If the eggs get too hot too fast, you could end up with a lumpy texture that smells like scrambled eggs. Don't know what to do with the egg whites? How about angel food cake?
- Cook the custard until it is as thick as vanilla pudding. If the custard is too runny, the pastry cream filling will run out of the cake.
- Before you fold the whipped cream into the custard, make sure the custard is cold and firm.
- Use real bourbon vanilla bean seeds whenever possible.
More European desserts to try
If you love European desserts, you've come to the right place. The following recipes are some of my favorites and are loved by family, friends, and readers worldwide.
- Italian Tiramisu
- French Croissant
- Chocolate Eclairs
- Austrian Sacher Torte
- Esterházy Torte
- Linzer Cookies
- Spanish Flan
German Bee Sting Cake (Bienenstich Kuchen)
- 5 large egg yolks
- ⅜ cup cornstarch
- 2 cups milk
- ½ cup granulated white sugar
- 2 bourbon vanilla beans*
- ¾ cup lukewarm milk
- ¼ cup granulated white sugar
- 2 ¼ teaspoon active dry yeast
- 2 large eggs
- ½ cup unsalted butter, melted
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 3 cups all-purpose flour, spooned and leveled
- ⅔ cup butter
- ¼ cup heavy whipping cream
- ½ cup granulated white sugar
- 2 tablespoon honey
- 1 ⅓ cups sliced almond
- 1 bourbon vanilla bean*
Whipped cream for pastry cream
- 1 cup heavy whipping cream
- 2 teaspoon cream of tartar
- 3 tablespoon powdered sugar
Prepare the vanilla custard
- In a medium bowl, whisk the egg yolks and cornstarch together and set aside.
- In a heavy-bottomed saucepan, bring the milk and sugar to a simmer over medium-high heat. Cook for 2 minutes, stirring constantly.
- Reduce the heat to medium and remove ½ cup (120 ml) of the simmering milk. Gradually add the ½ cup of hot milk to the egg yolks while stirring. Then slowly pour the tempered egg mixture into the simmering milk, stirring constantly.
- Cook until the filling is thick and has the consistency of vanilla pudding, for about 2 minutes. Whisk continuously. Then stir in the vanilla and remove the pot from the heat.
- Using a spatula, press the custard through a mesh strainer into a medium-sized bowl and cover the top with plastic wrap to prevent skin formation on the custard. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours or overnight.
Prepare the yeast dough
- Preheat the oven to the lowest possible temperature (120-200°F / 51-93°C) for 3-5 minutes and turn the oven off. Line a 9x13" (23x33cm) baking pan with parchment paper and set aside.
- In a large mixing bowl of a stand mixer, mix the milk, sugar, and yeast together. Let sit for about 5-10 minutes until the surface looks frothy.
- Add the eggs, butter, and salt and stir to combine. Add the flour and mix on low speed using a dough hook until the dough comes together. Increase the speed to medium-high and knead the dough for about 4-6 minutes until it releases from the sides of the bowl. The dough should be soft and slightly tacky to the touch. Transfer the dough to a lightly oiled heatproof bowl - lightly oil the top of the dough as well. Then place the bowl in the warm oven for 15 minutes.
- Remove the bowl from the oven and again preheat the oven to the lowest possible temperature (120-200°F / 51-93°C) for 3-5 minutes and turn it off.
- Transfer the dough to a lightly floured work surface, sprinkle the dough lightly with flour as well (use as little flour as possible - just enough so that the dough doesn't stick to the rolling pin and the surface), and roll it out into a 9x13" (23x33cm) rectangle.
- Place the dough in the prepared baking pan and shape to fit in. Transfer the dough with the pan to the warm oven and let it rise until it has doubled in size, about 30 minutes.
Prepare the almond topping and bake the dough
- In a heavy-bottomed saucepan, simmer the butter, heavy whipping cream, sugar, and honey over medium-high heat for about 2 minutes. Remove from the heat, add the almonds and vanilla and stir to combine.
- Remove the dough from the oven and preheat the oven to 375°F (190°C). Pour and distribute the almond topping evenly on the dough. Bake for about 28-30 minutes or until the center has an internal temperature of 190°F (88°C). Let cool completely in the pan.
Prepare the pastry cream
- Using an electric mixer with a whisk attachment, whisk the heavy whipping cream on medium-high speed until soft peaks form. Add the cream of tartar and powdered sugar and whisk until stiff peaks form. Set aside.
- In another large bowl, whisk the chilled vanilla custard until smooth and creamy. Then fold in the whipped cream.
Assemble the Bienenstich Kuchen
- Remove the sweet yeast bread from the pan and cut in half horizontally with a long, sharp knife. Place the bottom layer back into the pan, spread the pastry cream evenly on top, and place the top layer on top. Chill for about 4 hours or overnight. Store leftovers in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 2 days.
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