Bee Sting Bars

published Jul 9, 2024
Bee Sting Bars Recipe

Your friends will fall in love with this easier, just-as-delicious take on the classic German cake. It’s all about that crunchy topping.

Serves12

Prep30 minutes

Cook40 minutes

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Angled photo of bee sting dessert bars showing the caramelized sliced almond topping, the pudding center, and the flaky puff pastry bottom and top layers.
Credit: Photo: Alex Lepe; Food Styling: Rachel Perlmutter

If it says ‘bee sting’ in the title, you better believe I’m ordering it! Meet bee sting bars, a play on bienenstich (bee sting cake), the delightful German layer cake that’s as cute as you’d think (and if you’d rather drink your ‘bee sting,’ we have the perfect cocktail for you). Instead of yeasted cake, I use two layers of store-bought puff pastry to sandwich a generous layer of fluffy, creamy vanilla filling. The top layer features the signature crunchy honey-caramel almond topping. What could be better?

The balanced sweetness and textural variety make this a dessert that’s as delicious as it is pretty. You get all the bee sting flavor without having to make any yeasted cake batter. Plus, the stabilized filling sets up well in the fridge — it tastes just as good days later!

Why You’ll Love It

  • These delightful bars let you skip the yeasted cake. Making bars with flaky, store-bought puff pastry brings all that bee sting flavor, but without the proofing time.
  • It’s all about the semi-homemade custard. I fold stabilized whipped cream into instant pudding mix for a rich, creamy filling that holds up when made ahead.
Credit: Photo: Alex Lepe; Food Styling: Rachel Perlmutter

Key Ingredients in Bee Sting Bars

  • Puff pastry. Store-bought frozen puff pastry takes the place of cake in the top and bottom layers.
  • Honey. Where the dessert gets its name, honey lends a boost of flavor as well as sweetness.
  • Sliced Almonds. Form the thin, crispy caramelized topping.
  • Gelatin. Powdered unflavored gelatin stabilizes the whipped cream so that it maintains its airiness when folded into the pudding and then layered in the bars. Use the whipped cream immediately or else it will set up.
  • Pudding Mix. Swap homemade pastry cream for instant pudding mix to make things easier.

How to Make Bee Sting Bars

  1. Make the almond topping. Melt butter in a saucepan, then add sugar, honey, and cream and bring to a boil. Cook until just barely golden, then remove from heat and add vanilla and sliced almonds. Chill until it thickens to a spreadable consistency.
  2. Bake the crust. Unroll and trim puff pastry into 2 rectangles, then draw a 1/2-inch border around the edge with a knife. Spread the almond mixture on one rectangle, then bake until both are puffed and golden brown. Set aside to cool completely.
  3. Make the filling. Bloom powdered gelatin in water, then melt in the microwave. Whip cold cream while slowly drizzling in the gelatin mixture. In a separate bowl, whisk together instant vanilla pudding mix, milk, vanilla, and almond extract. Add the pudding to the whipped cream and whip until stiff peaks form and mixture is evenly mixed.
  4. Assemble the bars. Spread the cream filling evenly over the plain puff pastry, then top with the almond-coated piece. Chill for at least 2 hours before serving. To serve, cut a grid through the top layer with scissors, then follow the lines with a knife to cut all the way through.

Bee Sting Bars Recipe

Your friends will fall in love with this easier, just-as-delicious take on the classic German cake. It’s all about that crunchy topping.

Prep time 30 minutes

Cook time 40 minutes

Serves 12

Nutritional Info

Ingredients

For the almond topping and crust:

  • 1 (14- to 17-ounce) package

    frozen puff pastry (preferably all butter), thawed in the refrigerator

  • 4 tablespoons

    (1/2 stick) unsalted butter

  • 3 tablespoons

    granulated sugar

  • 3 tablespoons

    honey

  • 4 teaspoons

    heavy cream

  • 1/4 teaspoon

    kosher salt

  • 1 cup

    sliced almonds

  • 1/2 teaspoon

    vanilla bean paste or extract

For the custard filling:

  • 2 tablespoons

    water

  • 2 1/2 teaspoons

    powdered unflavored powdered gelatin

  • 1 cup

    cold heavy cream

  • 1 1/2 cups

    cold whole milk

  • 1 (3.4-ounce) package

    instant vanilla pudding mix

  • 1 teaspoon

    vanilla bean paste or extract

  • 1/4 teaspoon

    kosher salt

  • 1/4 teaspoon

    almond extract (optional)

Instructions

Make the almond topping and crust:

  1. Thaw 1 package frozen puff pastry according to package directions, preferably in the refrigerator.

  2. Melt 4 tablespoons unsalted butter in a small saucepan over medium heat. Add 3 tablespoons granulated sugar, 3 tablespoons honey, 4 teaspoons heavy cream, and 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt. Bring to a boil and boil until very light in color, about 2 minutes. Remove the saucepan from the heat, add 1 cup sliced almonds and 1/2 teaspoon vanilla bean paste or extract, and stir to combine.

  3. Transfer to a small bowl. Refrigerate until cooled slightly and thickened to a spreadable consistency, about 20 minutes. Meanwhile, arrange a rack in the middle of the oven and heat the oven to 350°F. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat.

  4. Once the topping is ready, unfold the puff pastry on a work surface. If using a puff pastry that comes in one sheet, roll it out into a 8x18-inch rectangle, dusting the work surface with flour if needed, then cut in half to form 2 (8x9-inch) rectangles. If there are two sheets, trim each one into an 8x10-inch rectangle. Place on the baking sheet, spacing them evenly apart. Using a knife, draw a rectangle on each piece 1/2-inch from the border (don’t cut all the way through). Using a fork, dock holes all over each piece.

  5. Gently spread the almond mixture evenly over one piece of the puff pastry, leaving a 1/2-inch border. Bake until puffed and golden all over, 30 to 35 minutes. Press the plain puff pastry sheet down if needed to create a flat surface. Let cool completely on the baking sheet. Meanwhile, make the custard filling.

Make the custard filling:

  1. Place 2 tablespoons water in a small microwave-safe bowl and sprinkle 2 1/2 teaspoons powdered unflavored gelatin over the water and stir to mix. Let sit for 5 to 10 minutes. Microwave the gelatin mixture until melted, about 10 seconds. (Alternatively, warm over low heat on the stovetop.) Let cool slightly.

  2. Place 1 cup cold heavy cream in a large bowl. With an electric hand mixer on medium speed, slowly add the melted gelatin. Once incorporated, increase the speed to medium-high and whip until soft peaks form, about 1 1/2 minutes. (Alternatively, beat with the whisk attachment in a stand mixer on medium speed or whisk by hand.)

  3. Place 1 1/2 cups cold whole milk, 1 (3.4-ounce) box instant vanilla pudding, 1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste or extract, 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt, and 1/4 teaspoon almond extract if desired in a medium bowl. Beat with an electric hand mixer on medium speed until completely smooth, about 2 minutes (or beat by hand). Transfer to the bowl with the whipped cream and beat with an electric mixer on medium speed until smooth and stiff peaks form, 1 to 2 minutes. If the puff pastry is not cooled yet, refrigerate in an airtight container.

  4. Dollop the custard filling onto the plain pastry and spread into an even layer. Top with the almond puff pastry almond-side up. Cover lightly with aluminum foil and refrigerate for at least 2 hours or up to overnight.

  5. Transfer to a cutting board. Use kitchen shears to cut the top layer of pastry in a 3x4 grid to create 12 pieces, then follow those lines to cut through the pastry cream and bottom pastry with a knife, wiping the knife clean after each slice for the cleanest-looking slices.

Recipe Notes

Make ahead: The filling can be made up to 1 day ahead and refrigerated in an airtight container.

Storage: Refrigerate leftovers in an airtight container for up to 4 days.