Bee Sting Cake

published May 7, 2024
Bee Sting Cake Recipe

Between the pillowy cake, fluffy filling, and golden halo of crunchy almonds, it’s heaven in a cake.

Serves8 to 12

Prep1 hour

Cook40 minutes

Jump to Recipe
We independently select these products—if you buy from one of our links, we may earn a commission. All prices were accurate at the time of publishing.
A bee sting cake on a cake stand with a slice taken out showing a thick layer of pastry cream filling and a sliced almond topping.
Credit: Photo: Alex Lepe; Food Styling: Brett Regot

Meet bee sting cake, or bienenstich, the delightful German dessert that’s as charming as its name suggests. It’s a light, yeasty cake layered with a fluffy pastry cream-based filling, and crowned with a golden halo of crunchy caramelized honey and almonds. It’s a masterpiece of contrasts — soft and crunchy, light yet creamy. 

Bee sting cake may seem intimidating, but if you take it one step at a time, it’s not an overly complicated cake and the yeasted dough is fairly forgiving. Its balanced sweetness makes it a standout at any gathering, and its rustic charm adds a touch of elegance to any table, whether it’s brunch or dessert. 

Why You’ll Love It

  • According to our cross-tester, it tastes like heaven in a cake. It was so good that even though it technically serves 12, everyone went back for a second slice, so it only fed six people. 
  • It has great texture throughout. Unlike most other cakes, which are soft on soft, bee sting cake has it all: a pillowy cake, a smooth and creamy filling, and a crunchy topping to finish it off. 
Credit: Photo: Alex Lepe; Food Styling: Brett Regot

Key Ingredients in Bee Sting Cake

  • Flour: A combination of all-purpose and bread flour creates enough gluten for the dough to rise and maintain its structure, yet still have a tender bite. 
  • Instant yeast: Instant yeast does not have to be bloomed, which means it can go straight into the mixer and has a faster rise.
  • Whole milk: Adds richness and tenderizes the cake and also the base of the pastry cream. It’s important to use whole milk for the fat content.
  • Cornstarch: One of the thickening agents in pastry cream; it should be cooked enough that the floury, starchy mouthfeel goes away. 
  • Egg yolks: The other thickening ingredient in pastry cream; the yolk must be tempered (or gradually added) to the hot milk to prevent any scrambling. 
  • Powdered unflavored gelatin: Stabilizes the whipped cream so that it maintains its airiness when folded into the pastry cream and layered in the cake. Be sure to use the whipped cream immediately or else it will set up.

How to Make Bee Sting Cake

  1. Make the dough. Heat whole milk and unsalted butter until they are hot to the touch. Add to a mixer with eggs, all-purpose flour, bread flour, granulated sugar, instant yeast, and kosher salt and knead until a smooth but sticky dough forms. Let rise for 1 hour.
  2. Make the pastry cream. Heat milk, sugar, vanilla bean paste, and salt until at a low simmer. Whisk together additional milk, sugar, cornstarch, and egg yolks in a medium bowl. Add half of the hot milk to the egg mixture, whisking constantly, and then add back to the pan while still whisking. Cook until thickened, then whisk in butter and press through a strainer. Chill. 
  3. Shape the dough: Transfer the dough to a floured counter, press out the air bubbles, and shape into a ball. Press the dough into a lined and greased pan, and let rise for 30 minutes. 
  4. Make topping and bake the cake. Bring butter, honey, sugar, vanilla bean paste, and salt to a simmer in a small pan. Stir in sliced almonds, then spread the mixture over top of the dough. Bake at 350ºF until puffed and golden-brown. Cool completely.
  5. Fill the cake. Bloom gelatin in cold water, then melt for 10 seconds in the microwave. Add to heavy whipping cream and powdered sugar and whip to stiff peaks. Fold into the pastry cream to make diplomat cream. Slice the cake in half horizontally and fill with the diplomat cream. Chill 1 hour then slice and serve. 
Credit: Photo: Alex Lepe; Food Styling: Brett Regot

History of Bee Sting Cake

Bee sting cake (bienenstich) is a German cake dating back to the 15th century, with various legends regarding how it got its name. The most popular story is the “baker boys legend,” when one town went to attack its rival on the other side of the Rhine river early one morning. Two boys were on a walk after their baking shift and stopped to eat honey out of beehives. They heard the attackers and threw the beehives at them, sending the invaders fleeing. As a celebration, the bienenstich was baked for the town. 

Helpful Swaps

  • If you’re short on time, you can substitute 1 prepared (3.4-ounce box) instant vanilla pudding or 1 (4.7-ounce) box cook & serve vanilla pudding for the pastry cream. You will still need to make the whipped cream and add that to the pudding to finish the filling.
  • You can flavor the filling by infusing the milk in the pastry cream with spices, tea, coffee, and zests.

Storage and Make-Ahead Tips

  • This cake tastes best the same day it is made, but you can cover and refrigerate leftovers for up to four days. 
  • The cake can be baked and frozen up to 1 month ahead; thaw before using. 
  • The pastry cream can be made up to 4 days ahead and refrigerated; just be sure to keep plastic wrap directly on the surface and do not add the whipped cream until ready to assemble.

Bee Sting Cake Recipe

Between the pillowy cake, fluffy filling, and golden halo of crunchy almonds, it’s heaven in a cake.

Prep time 1 hour

Cook time 40 minutes

Serves 8 to 12

Nutritional Info

Ingredients

For the cake:

  • Cooking spray

  • 4 tablespoons

    (1/2 stick) unsalted butter

  • 1/4 cup

    whole milk

  • 2

    large eggs

  • 1 cup

    all-purpose flour, plus more for the work surface

  • 1 cup

    bread flour

  • 1/4 cup

    granulated sugar

  • 1

    (1/4-ounce) packet instant yeast

  • 1/2 teaspoon

    kosher salt

For the pastry cream and filling:

  • 1 cup

    whole milk, divided

  • 4 tablespoons

    granulated sugar, divided

  • 1 teaspoon

    vanilla bean paste

  • 1

    pinch kosher salt

  • 2 tablespoons

    cornstarch

  • 2 large

    egg yolks

  • 1 tablespoon

    unsalted butter

  • 4 teaspoons

    water

  • 3/4 teaspoon

    powdered unflavored gelatin

  • 3/4 cup

    cold heavy cream

  • 3 tablespoons

    powdered sugar

For the topping:

  • 4 tablespoons

    (1/2 stick) unsalted butter

  • 3 tablespoons

    honey

  • 3 tablespoons

    granulated sugar

  • 1/2 teaspoon

    vanilla bean paste

  • 1

    pinch kosher salt

  • 1 cup

    sliced almonds

Instructions

Make the cake:

  1. Coat an 8- or 9-inch round cake pan and a large bowl with cooking spray. Line the bottom of the cake pan with a parchment paper round.

  2. Dice 4 tablespoons unsalted butter. Place the butter and 1/4 cup whole milk in a small saucepan. Heat over medium-low heat until the butter is almost melted and the milk is hot to the touch (about 110ºF); swirl the pan to fully melt the butter. Transfer to the bowl of a stand mixer.

  3. Lightly beat 2 large eggs in a small bowl until broken up. Add the eggs, 1 cup all-purpose flour, 1 cup bread flour, 1/4 cup granulated sugar, 1 (1/4-ounce) packet instant yeast, and 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt to the milk mixture. Stir with a wooden spoon until a sticky dough forms.

  4. Fit the bowl onto the stand mixer. Mix with the hook attachment on medium speed until a smooth but still-sticky dough forms, 5 to 7 minutes. Scrape the dough into the oiled bowl. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let the dough rise in a warm place until puffy but not quite doubled in size, about 1 hour. Meanwhile, wash and dry the stand mixer bowl. Make the pastry cream.

Make the pastry cream:

  1. Fit a fine-mesh strainer over a medium bowl. Place 3/4 cup of the whole milk, 2 tablespoons of the granulated sugar, 1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste, and 1 pinch kosher in a medium saucepan. Whisk to combine and place over medium-low heat.

  2. While the milk mixture is heating, roll up a kitchen towel lengthwise, then make the ends meet to form a circle. Place the remaining 1/4 cup whole milk, remaining 2 tablespoons granulated sugar, and 2 tablespoons cornstarch in a second medium bowl. Whisk until smooth. Add 2 large egg yolks and whisk until lightened in color. Place this bowl in the center of the towel circle.

  3. Once the milk mixture on the stove comes to a simmer, pour half of it into the egg yolk mixture in a steady stream while whisking constantly (the towel should hold the bowl steady while you whisk). While whisking constantly, pour the yolk mixture back into the saucepan. While whisking constantly, bring back to a simmer and cook until thickened, about 5 minutes.

  4. Turn off the heat. Add 1 tablespoon unsalted butter and whisk until the butter is melted and the mixture is smooth. Scrape into the fine-mesh strainer and press the mixture through with a flexible spatula, making sure to scrape the underside of the strainer; discard the contents of the strainer.

  5. Press a sheet of plastic wrap directly onto the surface of the pastry cream to prevent a skin from forming. Refrigerate until cold, about 1 hour and 15 minutes. Meanwhile, bake the cake.

Make the cake:

  1. Lightly dust a work surface with all-purpose flour. Transfer the dough onto the work surface. Degas the dough by pressing down to release any large air bubbles. Loosely shape into a ball and place in the cake pan. Press the dough evenly in the pan, going all the way to the edges (if it springs back, let rest for 5 minutes before trying again).

  2. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm spot until slightly puffed, about 30 minutes. Meanwhile, arrange a rack in the middle of the oven and heat the oven to 350ºF.

Make the topping:

  1. Make the topping when the dough is ready. Place 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, 3 tablespoons honey, 3 tablespoons granulated sugar, 1/2 teaspoon vanilla bean paste, and 1 pinch kosher salt in a small saucepan. Stir to combine and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Add 1 cup sliced almonds and stir to combine.

  2. Dollop the mixture over the dough and spread into an even layer. Place the cake pan on a baking sheet. Bake until puffed and golden-brown, 30 to 32 minutes. Immediately run a thin knife around the cake to keep the topping from sticking. Let cool for 20 minutes in the pan.

  3. Flip the cake out of the pan, remove the parchment, and place the cake right-side up on a wire cooling rack. Let cool completely, about 1 hour more.

Make the filling:

  1. Place 4 teaspoons water in a small microwave-safe bowl and sprinkle 3/4 teaspoon powdered unflavored gelatin over the water. Let sit for 5 to 10 minutes. Meanwhile, place the pastry cream in the stand mixer bowl and beat with the paddle attachment on medium speed until smooth and spreadable, about 2 minutes. Return the pastry cream to the bowl it was chilled in.

  2. Microwave the gelatin mixture until melted, about 10 seconds. Place 3/4 cup cold heavy cream and 3 tablespoons powdered sugar in the stand mixer (no need to clean first). Fit with the whisk attachment and turn on to low speed. Slowly add the melted gelatin. Once incorporated, increase the speed to medium-high and whip until stiff peaks form, about 2 minutes.

  3. Transfer about 1/3 of the whipped cream into the pastry cream and stir with a flexible spatula until smooth. Add the remaining whipped cream and gently fold until just combined.

  4. Slice the cake in half horizontally. Place the bottom half of the cake cut-side up on a cake stand or serving plate. Transfer the filling onto the cake and spread into an even layer, going all the way to the edges. Let sit for 2 minutes. Top with the top half of the cake cut-side down. Refrigerate until the filling is set, about 1 hour.

Recipe Notes

Make ahead: The cake can be baked and frozen up to 1 month ahead; thaw before using. The pastry cream can be made up to 4 days ahead and refrigerated; just be sure to keep plastic wrap directly on the surface and do not add the whipped cream until ready to assemble.

Storage: Cover and refrigerate leftovers for up to 4 days.