Bringing German baking to Alaska- a Bienenstich Cake

by Heidi Obermeyer

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This is crazy, but we haven’t really gotten down to brass tacks and discussed Alaska yet. Like… the actual part of my trip. The part with kayaks and hiking and blueberries and wildlife galore (but no belugas, sadly)! I feel bad about that. Really! I do. Which is why I’m doing the sensible thing and sharing the other recipe that Ali and I tried while I was there before the pictures of the actual stuff we did. You know… like a real traveller. One who talks about the important stuff first.

Sometimes life (the blog) calls for cake and there’s just no way around it!

This cake is from Smitten Kitchen, as I mentioned in my earlier recipe post for the tasty meringues we (literally) whipped up. It’s called a Bienenstich, or “bee sting” in German- I’m going to assume it’s because bees would be all over this thing like bees to a… Bienenstich cake?
Smitten Kitchen does an awesome job of testing out her recipes multiple times before posting them, so we didn’t change a thang in this recipe. It takes a little bit of time (the yeast needs a few hours to rise and there’s multiple elements like making carmel and custard) but I would say it’s well worth the effort. Like most German cakes, it’s not as sweet as some of our American concoctions which can be very refreshing in a dessert. SK has a much more detailed description of how you can modify this cake and its history, so check out her post if you want to do some experimenting. Otherwise, the recipe below is exactly what went down one rainy Anchorage afternoon. Recipe after the jump!

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Bienenstich Cake

(taken pretty much exactly from Smitten Kitchen)

Ingredients:

For the cake:

1 1/4-ouch packet of instant yeast (different from active dry), aka rapid rise or bread machine yeast

3/4 cup (180 mL) room-temp whole milk

1/4 cup (50 g) sugar

2 cups (256 g) flour

3/4 teaspoon salt

2 large eggs at room temperature

4 tablespoons (57 g) of unsalted butter at room temperature

For the delicious almond topping:

6 tablespoons (85 g) unsalted butter

1/3 cup (43 g) sugar

3 tablespoons honey

2 tablespoons heavy cream

1 1/2 cups (g) sliced almonds

two pinches of salt (preferably that of the sea)

For the custardy filling:

1 teaspoon vanilla extract (1/2 a packet of vanilla sugar, if you’re in Deutschland) or 1/4 a teaspoon almond extract

3 egg yolks (if you make our meringue recipe, you’ll have these around!)

1/4 cup (50 g) sugar

3 tablespoons (24 g) flour or cornstarch

2 pinches of salt (again, preferably that of the sea)

2 tablespoons (28 g) unsalted butter

Instructions:

First, make the cake. Combine all cake ingredients until blended and then mix for 2 minutes longer. Scrape down the sides, cover, and let the batter/dough rise for one hour (it won’t completely double like some bread recipes, but don’t worry- that’s okay).

After an hour, butter a cake pan (SK used a 9-inch, and I think ours may have been the wrong size, but it turned out fine), scrape the batter into the pan, and let it rise, covered, for an additional 30 minutes.

During this second round of rising, you can make the delicious almond topping. You are basically making a carmel, so mix everything BUT the almonds together and cook on the stove over medium heat until it simmers. Let the mixture boil for 3-5 minutes until it darkens slightly, then add the almonds, stir, and set it aside.

Preheat the oven to 350 F (180 C). Once the cake is done rising, spoon globs of the sticky almond mess that you created over the top of the cake as evenly as you can (but no worries- the heat in the oven will also help even things out). Bake the cake for 20-25 minutes on a FOIL-LINED TRAY- otherwise carmel will spill all over your oven, and that is not pretty. Let the cake cool for about 10 minutes, then invert it onto a cooling rack, reattaching or munching on any almonds that may lose their way.

Now it’s time for the custardy filling. For this part, I’m going to refer you to SK’s original recipe– I’m not very good at custards, so I’ll let the expert help you out on this one.

To assemble the cake, cut it in half with a long serrated knife very carefully. Spread the cream filling on to the bottom half of the cake, replace the top, and ta-da! It’s done. Refrigerate any (unlikely) leftovers. Guten Appetit!

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