The “Bee sting” cake is of German origin and there are many stories surrounding this rather unusual name. One story is about two royal pastry chefs who stole honey from a beehive on the banks of the Rhine in 1474, to bake a special cake for their king. This bee sting cake was the result – possibly thus named on account of the numerous stings they were subjected to.
The bee sting cake recipe is long with many steps. It is, however, not difficult to make and the final product is a real treat!
- ¼ cup warm milk
- 1 teaspoon honey
- 1½ teaspoons active dry yeast
- 2 cups flour
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- 2 eggs, whisked
- ½ stick (2 ounces) butter, room temperature
- oil for greasing
- 2+½ cup milk
- 4 egg yolks
- ⅓ cup sugar
- 4 tablespoons flour
- 2 tablespoons cornstarch
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- ¼ stick (1 ounce) butter
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- ½ stick (2 ounces) butter
- ¼ cup sugar
- 3 tablespoons honey
- pinch of salt
- 1 cup flaked almonds
- Combine the milk and honey in a jug, mix in the yeast and set aside for a few minutes to froth.
- Put all the cake ingredients, including the frothed yeast, in a large mixing bowl. Using the paddle attachment of a table mixer (if available), mix at low speed for 4-5 minutes (otherwise mix and knead by hand), to combine and develop the elasticity.
- Scrape the dough from the bowl and add a few drops of oil to the bowl. Spread the oil in the bowl with your fingers and then rub your palms together. (A soft dough is easier to work with if ones hands are lightly greased. Try this instead of adding more flour. The eggs and butter make this dough delicate - less robust - than regular bread dough).
- Knead the dough lightly, shape it into a ball and place it in the bowl.
- Cover with a damp tea towel or plastic film and proof for 60-80 minutes in a warm place, to approximately double in size/volume.
- Scald 2 cups of milk (heat to just below boiling point).
- Whisk the remaining ½ cup of milk with the egg yolks to blend.
- Combine the sugar, flour, cornstarch and salt in a bowl.
- Gradually add the milk-egg mixture to the dry ingredients by whisking to form a smooth paste and then a smooth mixture, once all the liquid is added.
- Stir in the hot milk and then return the custard to the saucepan.
- Stir over medium heat until the custard thickens. Continue stirring, at a low simmer, for an additional 2-3 minutes to cook the starch.
- Remove the saucepan from the stove and stir in the butter and vanilla.
- Set aside to cool and then place in the refrigerator until needed.
- When the dough has risen, deflate and shape it into a round to fit the base of a greased 9-inch cake tin. A loose-bottomed cake tin with a base of parchment paper works well.
- Set aside to proof for 25-30 minutes.
- Melt the butter with the sugar, honey and salt, while stirring.
- Boil for 3-4 minutes, while stirring gently, until the mixture starts to change color/darken.
- Remove from the heat and stir in the almonds.
- When the cake has proofed for 30 minutes, place it on a baking sheet (to catch any spills) and top the dough with the almond topping. If the topping has hardened, place clumps of the mixture as evenly as possible, over the surface.
- Bake at 350˚ F for 25-30 minutes.
- Cool for a few minutes before running a knife round the edge of the cake tin and removing the cake to a cooling rack.
- When the cake is cold, carefully cut it horizontally, into two halves, with a long, serrated-edged knife, using a saw-like motion. Cover the bottom half with the cold custard and top with the nutty half of the cake. (see Notes*)
- Slice carefully to serve, using a saw-like motion and as little downward pressure as possible as this would force the custard out.
- Refrigerate any left-overs because of the custard.
- Ideally, this is a same-day cake – the delicate cake does not improve with age, although it remains delicious!
*There is a liberal amount of custard. The cake is slightly dome-shaped. A variation is to divide the cake in three. Use ⅔ of the custard on the base layer and the last bit just below the nutty topping.
Whipped cream can be added to the custard for a richer filling, or flavored whipped cream can replace the custard layer.
A little clarified gelatin can be added to the custard for a firmer filling.