I love Baking but off late I don’t do much of it as the husband is on a health kick and we have completely cut down our Sugar and Flour intake. I know there are healthy alternatives that one can use for baking but I am too lazy to move off my bottom and do something about it. So when it come to Christmas and everyone started to bake I was a little lost as I honestly had no idea what to do or for that matter whether to even do anything at all.
Every month I usually try and take part in a baking group called “We Knead to Bake” where a group of home bakers bake the same Bread. However this month we had the challenge of baking a Cake which was almost like a Bread. It is called a “Bienenstich Kuchen (German Bee Sting Cake) “. I saw the pictures and I could feel myself drooling away on my laptop, as I wiped off the mess and read more I just knew I had to bake it. After all it is Christmas and even though we don’t really celebrate it. There was no reason why I could not bake it.
It is a yeasted cake which is made with a Brioche like dough and is not very sweet at all. However it is topped up with a delicious caramelized topping of Almond and honey which lends it the sweetness that we usually expect from a cake. There are a lot of legends surrounding this cake. One is where the Baker who actually baked this cake was actually stung by a bee hence it is named as a Bee sting Cake. Another source cites a legend of German bakers from the 15th century who lobbed beehives at raiders from a neighboring village, successfully repelling them, and celebrated later by baking a version of this cake named after their efforts.
We had to make a very heavy custard cream as a filling in between the cake. Aparna from My Diverse Kitchen who runs the group told us that a problem with this yeasted cake is making sure the filling is strong enough to take the weight of the upper layer. The other problem is cutting the Bienenstich into slices or squares without the filling squishing out ad making a mess of everything.
She suggested that the first problem can be taken care of by using a filling that will hold up and not using too much filling. The whipped cream can be stabilized with cornstarch (or agar or gelatin if you use it). You can always thing the remaining fillng and serve it with the Bienestich as a sauce. In my case I added more cream and less custard and actually later served the remaining cream with Strawberries (who wastes good cream).
The second problem can be taken care of by placing the lower layer of the cake on the serving plate and then making a collar around it with a double layer of parchment paper that should be a little taller than the height of your finished Bienenstich and then spreading the filling over the lower layer. She advised that we could pre cut the upper almond toffee layer into slices or squares and placing the slices/ squares on top of the filling so it looks like the top layer is whole.
Instead of using a big cake tin I baked the dough in individual muffin tins and found them easier to manage and fill. One thing to keep in mind is that the cream should be really chilled and the cake should also be cold when we do the filling. Since I had l lined the muffin tins with parchment paper I just refrigerated them in the tin itself and then just removed the parchment and cut them in the middle for the filling.
It was so much fun baking these little beauties and I had some very happy neighbors who got these cakes as a Christmas gift from me.
Ingredients: (I made 6 muffins)
For the Pastry Cream Filling:
250ml milk (I used 2%)
3 tbsp sugar
3 tbsp vanilla flavoured custard powder
200ml cream (I used 25% fat)
1 tbsp corn-starch
For the Dough:
1/4 cup full cream milk
100gm butter, at room temperature
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tbsp sugar
3/4 tsp salt
1 1/4 tsp instant yeast
For the Honey-Almond Topping:
50 gm butter
1/3 cup sugar
2 tbsp honey
1 tsp vanilla extract
2/3 cup almonds, sliced* (see Note above)
Make the custard for the filling first. This can be made the previous day and refrigerated till required.
Keep aside 1/4 cup of milk, and put the remaining milk and the sugar in pan. Over medium heat, bring this to a boil while stirring frequently to dissolve the sugar. In the meanwhile, dissolve the custard powder in the 1/4 cup of milk. Add this in a stream, to the boiling milk and keep whisking so that no lumps are formed.
Keep whisking until the custard becomes very thick. Take the pan off the heat and let the custard cool to room temperature. Whisk it on and off so it stays smooth. If it does become lumpy after cooling, use a hand blender to make it smooth. Transfer to a bowl, cover and refrigerate.
Once you are ready to fill the Bienenstich, whip 200ml of cream till soft peaks form. Then add the corn-starch and whip till it forms stiff peaks. Whisk the custard to make sure it is smooth. Gently fold the cream into the custard. If you feel it is too soft, refrigerate for a couple of hours and then use.
To make the dough, heat the milk until it is quite hot but not boiling. Cut the butter into pieces and add to the milk, stirring it until the better melts completely. Let it cool a little.
In the meanwhile, put the flour, sugar, salt and the yeast in the bowl of your processor. Run a couple of times to mix well and then add the egg (leave the egg out if you don’t use it). Run again till the egg has also mixed well. Now add the butter-milk mixture (it should be warm, not hot) and the then knead till it forms a smooth and soft (loose) brioche-like dough that’s just short of sticky. It should come way from the sides of the bowl and be easy to handle.
Shape the dough into a ball and place it in a bowl. Cover loosely and let it rise for about 1 1/2 to 2 hours. This dough will rise quite well but not to double or as much as your regular bread dough.
Deflate the dough, and shape again to a smooth ball. Place it in a 8” spring form cake tin lined with parchment. It is important to do this otherwise the topping will make the bread/ cake sticky and difficult to unmould. Flatten the dough a little, pressing down lightly so that the dough fits the cake tin. It doesn’t matter if its not touching the sides like batter does. Let it rise for about 30 to 45 minutes. It will not rise very much and look a little puffy.
Prepare the topping while the dough rises. Melt the butter, sugar, honey and vanilla in a small pan, over medium heat. Keep stirring frequently and it will start bubbling up. Let it cook for about 3 minutes or so until it turns to a light beige colour. Add the sliced almonds, and stir well till the almonds are well coated. Take the pan off the heat and let it cool a bit. The mixture will become quite thick.
Now get ready to bake the bread/ cake. Once the dough has risen, use a spoon take bits if the topping (it will be quite thick, like a sticky fudge) and distribute it uniformly over the surface. If there are small gaps they will get covered once the bread/ cake is baking.
Bake at 180C (350F) for about 25 to 35 minutes until the top is golden brown and bubbling. A cake tester through the centre should come out clean. Let the cake cool in the pan for about 15 minutes. Then gently loosen the sides with a spatula and unmould. Let it cool completely on a rack.
When it has cooled completely, slice the cake into two equal layers carefully, using a very sharp knife. Spread the pastry cream on the lower layer and top with the upper layer and refrigerate till ready to serve