Authentic German Bee Sting Cake 'Bienenstich Kuchen'
Updated: Feb 4, 2022
German Bee Sting Cake is the ultimate traditional German cake, usually made in the springtime. This cake features a vanilla cream pudding sandwiched between two sweet yeast cake layers with an incredible caramelized honey almond topping.
This cake would be perfect for Mother's Day or any Sunday afternoon where you can sit with your family and friends eating and drinking the day away. Make sure to have a fresh pot of coffee or a cappuccino at the ready. This cake is the epitome of German 'Kaffee und Kuchen.' Kaffee und Kuchen translates to 'Coffee and Cake' which is a time of day. YES! It has its own time of day, like brunch. Kaffee und Kuchen is traditionally enjoyed around the mid afternoon. Think 3-5pm. Germans actually have their dessert BEFORE dinner. And who cannot get behind this tradition. Now of course this isn't something Germans do every single day... but man I wish I could!
This cake might look crazy hard to make, but I promise you it is not. There are a few steps though. This isn't one of those 1-bowl recipes where your cake is in the oven in 20 minutes. (If you need one of those recipes, check out my blueberry streusel coffee cake recipe!)
Now that it springtime here in Germany there are huge bumble bees flying around everywhere I walk. They are all over in the vineyards and while I know bumble bees do not produce honey they made me realize that I had yet to try making German Bee Sting Cake. This dessert has been on my list for awhile and I was always too intimidated to try it. I kept putting it off and making something else, never even thinking I could make this traditional German cake.
I was wrong! And I made it gluten free too! (Did you really think I would bake something that I couldn't eat myself?!?!)
Look at caramelization of those honeyed almonds... and that vanilla cream pudding is just to die for! I loved how it would ooze out slightly when cutting. Bee Sting Cake is not fancy, it is meant to be a rustic traditional cake that warms hearts and brings a smile upon your face.
Now don't get too scared because the cake part has yeast in it. The texture of the cake is still, how do I say, cakey, but it is a bit denser. Almost like a sweet roll that you would buy from a bakery. Adding yeast to cakes is quite common in the German kitchen. Very often, Germans make a sweet yeast dough and after they roll it out they put fresh fruit on top. Then they add the streusel, and finally bake it in the oven. Using a yeast dough ensures that the fruit will remain on the top of the dough and not sink into the cake. Germans use whichever fruit is in season. Strawberries, mini plums (called Zwetschgen) and of course apples.
Here you can see another traditional German cake that I made in August 2020 called Zwetschgen Kuchen (Plum Cake). It uses a similar sweet yeast dough for the 'cake' part.
How to make German Bee Sting Cake 'Bienenstich Kuchen':
There are 4 parts to making this cake and I will go through each of them. A few of them you can make ahead of time, even a day or two before you want to serve the cake.
Just make sure you leave yourself enough time for the cake to chill and set in the refrigerator for about 2-4 hours before you serve.
Part 1: Vanilla Pudding
Part 2: Yeast cake 'dough'
Part 3: Caramelized Honeyed Almond Topping
Part 4: Fresh Whipped Cream
Part 5: The Assembly
Part 1: The Vanilla pudding
This part you can make 1-2 days ahead of time because the pudding itself needs to set in the refrigerator for at least 4-6 hours before you use it in the cake.
Making homemade vanilla pudding is SO easy and quick! I don't know why anyone buys the premade kind or those silly packets. Once you try homemade, I promise you will never go back to the store bought kind.
What do you need: Egg Yolks, sugar, vanilla, cornstarch, and milk.
Yes, that's it! I bet you have all those ingredients right now in your kitchen. It's so easy too. You basically bring the milk and sugar to a slight boil in a pot on the stove. After a few minutes take a few ladles of that hot mixture and mix it into your bowl which contains the egg yolks and cornstarch. Whisk in a few spoonfuls at a time. If you would put all the eggs at once into the hot milk mixture then you would probably scramble your eggs. Meaning the mixture would actually look like scrambled eggs which is not the texture you want for vanilla pudding. By adding just a few ladles of the hot milk mixture to the eggs slowly, you slowly increase the heat and therefore temper the eggs.
Here you can see that I added about a ladle full of the hot milk mixture and I am tempering my eggs by whisking.
Once you have added a few spoonfuls, whisked until smooth. Then you can add the egg mixture back to the pot that is on the stove. With the heat still on, keep whisking and you will see the mixture thicken up super quickly. It takes about 30-60 seconds. Turn off the heat, add your vanilla.
Here is how my vanilla pudding looked after it thickened up. There are a few small 'chunks' in there, that you can see on the wooden spoon but no worries...
Just put the pudding through a mesh strainer. use the back of the spoon to really push it through.
Then you have the bumps and other bits that are easy to discard.
And you are left with a smooth vanilla pudding
Just make sure to cover it with plastic cling wrap. Really press the plastic onto the surface of the pudding. Then pop it into the refrigerator for a minimum of 4 hours or for 2 days.
The Yeast Dough
I have a hack to make the yeast dough with only about 5 minutes of actual work! Did you know that you can use your bread machine to make a sweet yeast dough for cakes. Just put in the wet ingredients, then the dry, and put the yeast directly on top. And... press start. That's it. Then in 90 minutes you will have the perfect dough that you can roll out for this cake.
If you do not have a bread machine, which I know many of my readers do not, you can absolutely still make this recipe!
Follow the steps in this recipe for the dough without a bread machine:
The recipe that I have for you is actually adapted from the recipe in the website above.
This picture was taken after the 30 min mixing process at the beginning, right before it rested for 1 hour.
You can see here how much the dough rose in height! It's light and fluffy and airy and perfect!
Took less than 5 minutes to roll it out and put it into my prepared pan. (9in x 13in pan)
Part 3: The Caramelized Honey Almond Topping
This next part took a total of 5 minutes. In a small-medium saucepot, bring the butter, heavy whipping cream, sugar and honey to a boil. Let that simmer for a few minutes. Take it off the heat and add in your almonds and vanilla.
It is going to be a very thin mixture. I was very skeptical at this stage and thought my cake would never come together! I thought this mixture would thicken and it doesn't. But I wanted to see what would happen. So I added it directly on top of my prepared dough, spreading it out and letting the honey almond mixture drip down the sides.
At this stage I really thought I would have to throw all this out. I don't know why I didn't trust myself. It just didn't seem like the topping would harden and thicken like I thought it should. And then...
It worked! The almonds became a golden brown and the honey butter mixture hardened to perfection! I was thrilled beyond belief.
I took a moment to celebrate and then my heart started to beat even faster. Now I had to remove the cake AND slice it in half; to make two layers. I hate slicing cakes in half. I always feel like gluten free cakes are way more unstable than their gluten filled counterparts. I didn't want this cake to just fall apart in my hands after all this work.
The cake needed to cool for about 30-60 minutes before I could remove it from the pan. So I went to work on my fresh whipped cream.
Part 4: The Fresh Whipped Cream
I don't have any pictures or videos for you today on this step, but I swear it is the easiest and fastest of them all.
Tip: put your bowl and whisk attachment into the freezer for about 10 minutes. This will help you achieve those stiff peaks in your whipped cream.
Add your heavy whipping cream and of course my favorite German ingredient, Sahnesteif. If you do not have this you can use 1/2 tsp of cream of tartar. If you are in Germany then buy these little packets. they are crazy cheap (much cheaper than cream of tartar and are available at every German grocery store.) This powder will help keep your whipped cream stable so it won't fall apart after a few hours. It has zero taste just like cream of tartar.
Whip up the cream on high for a few minutes until you have soft peaks. Add a few tablespoons of powdered sugar, a touch of vanilla and keep whipping until stiff peaks form. Once you have done this than use a spatula to incorporate the whipped cream into the vanilla pudding that you made. This will be the filling for the inside of your cake.
Part 5: The Assembly
At this stage I was terrified. I needed to first take the cake out of the pan by flipping the pan and then I needed to take a knife and cut through the cake lengthwise.
I made sure my kids were up in their rooms quitely playing/napping. I needed silence. I needed to concentrate. I stood over my cake thinking, ok I have to do this... I have to at least try.
Seriously, I had nothing to worry about. I ran a knife along the edge of the cake loosening the edges, especially where the honey almonds stuck to the sides. Since I used parchment paper in my Pyrex Pan and sprayed it with non-stick baking spray before I baked the dough, the cake came right out. Just popped right out.
Step 1 done. Cake came out easily. It seemed pretty stable. No cracks or tears.
This cake might seem super thin but I promise you it is thick enough to cut through and still have 2 very stable layers.
I took a large bread knife, placed one hand on the cake to stabilize it and just started cutting.
I used my cake lifter to help remove the top part. I did it! 2 perfect layers and I worried for NOTHING! No reason to stress. I do believe that using yeast makes a much more stable cake and it really felt like slicing through a loaf of bread. And the best part was when a few of the honey almonds broke away. I could just steal a few and sample. They are by far the star of this recipe. These caramelized honey almonds are crispy and crunchy and every bite is an explosion of honey.
Once the inside of the cake was cool enough I added my vanilla pudding whipped cream filling.
Then I lifted the top of the cake and settled it directly on top. Basically making a sandwich.
I was done! In the refrigerator it went and it was time for me to just relax.
Later that day we had our good friends over for an afternoon of Kaffee und Kuchen. They are German and as soon as they came in my friend saw this cake he said, 'Was? Hast du wirklich einen Bienenstich Kuchen gemacht? Genau wie meine Oma es früher gemacht hat.' (What? Did you really make a Bee Sting Cake? Exactly like how my Grandma used to make it).
I felt so proud in that moment. After living in Germany for almost 9 years, I really feel like I have acquired a sense of German authenticity. It is my dream to be able to show my children both the American as well as the German traditions. Both cultures are embedded into our lives. Not one is more important than the other.
So we sat, at 4pm and ate cake and drank coffee for no reason other than it was a Sunday. We also had some fruit too... to be healthy of course. And then we drank Sekt (German sparkling wine similar to Champagne). Because living in the vineyards is never complete without a glass of bubbles.