Now that syllabus week is over, the dust has begun to settle around the chaotic mess of meetings and deadlines that have once again become my life. Fortunately though, new semesters mean new beginnings and also newfound motivation to stay on top of everything – especially emails. (Seriously, look up “necessary evil” in the dictionary and you will see the Outlook icon right next to it.)
All that aside, this week I have decided to tackle a new challenge that has been met with catastrophically disastrous failure questionable results in the past. Namely, working with yeast. Our cake of the week is an old recipe from halcyon days of yesteryear back before the invention of baking soda, making our primary leavening agent the handy dandy little agents of fermentation that make bread smell good.
(Unfortunately, I also have a nasty habit of overheating the oven and accidentally killing the little buggers, but that issue has more or less been resolved with meticulous timing and an agonizingly long wait the patience of a saint.)
Bienenstich is German for bee sting, so you may have seen these little yeast cakes at your local baker marked as “bee sting cake.” According to good ol’ Wikipedia, the name comes either from a literal bee stinging its honey-almond topping or because of a potential origin as a celebratory cake to honor raider repulsion by lobbed beehive.
(You really can’t make this stuff up.)
Either way, a yeast cake filled with fluffy creme diplomat and topped with crunchy honey almonds is always a good cake in my book, regardless of whether or not it truly is related to creative ammunition MacGyvering. If you’re seriously impatient for summer berries to come back already, bide your time with this deliciously seasonless creation. Hope you enjoy!
Bienenstich (Bee Sting Cake)
Makes three 4″ cakes, or double this recipe to make one 9″ cake.
1/4 cup milk
1 tbs honey
1 tsp RapidRise instant yeast
1 cup all-purpose flour (125 g)
1/2 tsp salt
1 large egg
1 tbs sugar
2 tbs butter
Honey Almond Topping:
3 tbs butter
2 tbs sugar
2 tbs honey
1 tbs heavy cream
2/3 cup almond slices
1/2 cups milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 egg yolk
2 tbs granulated sugar
20 g all purpose flour
1/3 cup heavy cream
- Preheat the oven by setting the temperature to 350 F, allowing the oven to warm for 5 minutes, then turning off the heat. Grease three 4″ springform pans, or grease a 9″ springform pan and double the recipe to make a 9″ cake.
- In the microwave, heat up the milk and honey for about 15 seconds, or until the mixture is slightly warm to the touch. Add in the instant yeast, stir to combine, and set aside in the microwave for about 5 minutes until the mixture becomes frothy.
- Sift together the flour and salt and set aside.
- Lightly beat the egg until frothy, then combine in a large bowl with the sugar and yeast mixture. Mix in the flour until fully combined, adding up to 1-2 tbs flour until the dough is smooth and separates from the side of the bowl.
- Kneed in the 2 tbs butter until fully incorporated, then cover the bowl in saran wrap and place the bowl inside of the heated oven. Allow the dough to rise for about 1.5 hours, or until the dough doubles.
- Gently kneed the risen dough, then divide the dough among the springform pans, gently nudging the dough until it spreads from edge to edge. Cover with saran wrap, reheat the oven for 5 minutes, then allow the dough to rise in the warmed oven for 30 more minutes, or until the dough doubles again.
- Remove the pans and preheat the oven to 350 F, allowing the temperature to rise fully.
Honey Almond Topping:
- Combine the butter, sugar, honey, and cream in a bowl and microwave in 15 second intervals, stirring in between, until the sugar is fully dissolved into the mixture.
- Fold in the almonds, then gently spoon the mixture on top of each risen cake.
Tip: Be gentle to avoid collapsing the cake with the almonds. I did this by using 2 large dinner spoons, spreading the almonds in a flat layer on top of one of the spoons then sliding the layer of almonds off onto the top of the cake!
- Bake the cakes for 14-16 minutes, or until the almonds begin to brown slightly. If desired, use the low setting of the oven broiler to continue browning the almonds until they reach a toasty golden brown. Set aside to cool completely before filling!
- Heat the milk and vanilla extract in a small pot on medium-high heat until the liquid comes to a boil. Turn the heat down to medium-low.
- Whisk together the egg yolks and sugar in a bowl until the sugar is nearly fully dissolved and the egg is frothy. Whisk in the flour and set aside.
- Pour in about 1/2 of the boiling milk mixture into the egg mixture, whisking quickly as you pour.
- Pour the egg mixture back into the pot through a sieve, whisking quickly as you pour. Continue whisking until the pastry cream thickens to the consistency of thick pudding, then remove from heat.
Tip: Always make sure to mix your eggs into the milk by tempering them with hot milk, then pouring through the sieve rather than dumping them all in at once. No matter how many times and how quickly I’ve tried to whisk while pouring in untempered eggs, I always ended up with unpleasantly eggy pastry cream because some of the egg inevitably scrambles as it hits the hot milk. After lots of sadness, disappointment, and wasted pastry cream, I finally started to use this tempering method as a virtually fool-proof strategy for keeping pastry cream (or any other type of custard) scrambled eggs-free!
- Pour the mixture into another bowl, cover the surface with saran wrap, and set aside to cool completely.
Tip: Make sure the saran wrap touches the surface of the pastry cream when you cover the bowl to prevent a skin from forming at the top of your pastry cream if the surface dries out.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer or with an electric mixer, whip the heavy cream until it reaches the firm peaks stage. At this point, when you lift out the whisk, you should see distinct peaks with tips that curl over slightly.
- Beat the cooled pastry cream to loosen, then fold in the whipped cream. Set aside for filling!
- Using a large serrated bread knife, gently split each cake into 2 layers.
- Spoon a generous layer of creme diplomat over the bottom layer of the cake, then gently place the top layer on top. Refrigerate or serve immediately. Mahlzeit!