Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Bienenstich Cake

I've been eating this cake since I was this high (pointing at my knees).  The recipe comes from my mom's Dr. Oetker Schulkochbuch.  That's German for "Dr. Oetker's School Cook Book".  Apparently, they used to bake and cook at school, in the old days.  (Sorry, Mom!)  Seriously, this cookbook dates from the late 40's or early 50's, and some of the recipes have "austerity" written all over them.  It's also probably why this particular version of Bienenstich doesn't feature a decadent filling, either. 

Today, most Bienenstich cakes are filled, either with whipped cream or vanilla pudding.  Why anyone would want to mess with perfection is beyond me.  This cake disappears, and I mean **poof**, in an afternoon.  Keep your cream filling, stuff your whipped cream, but pass me another piece or four of this cake...I'll take the post-WWII version any day.

I realize my photo is a bit minimalist.  Austerity cake =  austerity photo.  What's remarkable is that there was actually a piece - one last piece - to photograph at all. First person up the next morning gets it.  (That would be me - sorry Eric!)  The early bird gets the cake in our house, so to speak.

I still remember my mom making this cake and giving me the pot to lick clean.  To this day, the sugar, butter and almond topping makes my heart skip a beat.  While the cake is slowly browning in the oven, I can usually be found, looking wistfully as it bakes, pot in one hand and spatula in the other, cleaning out the pot.  Life is very, very good.

Bienenstich means "bee-sting" in German.  Apparently bees like it, too:


Yeast Dough Base:

1 package active-dry yeast (or 2-1/4 teaspoons)
1 tsp sugar
250 mL milk, lukewarm
500 g flour
100 g sugar
1/4 tsp salt
3 Tbs oil
bitter almond flavouring (I use Dr. Oetker essence from a local import deli.  It's worth hunting down.)

Dissolve 1 tsp sugar in 250 mL warm milk.  Add yeast and mix, and let rise 10 minutes.

Mix approximately 300 g of flour with sugar and salt in a large mixing bowl.  Set remaining 200 g flour aside to mix in while kneading.

Stir yeast/milk mixture with oil and bitter almond flavouring. (If you have the Dr. Oetker essence, use about 1/2 of the vial.  If you're using regular bottled essence, use maybe a 1/4 tsp.)

Add yeast/milk/oil mixture to flour and sugar in mixing bowl. 

Gradually add remaining flour until dough comes together and can be kneaded.

Knead for approximately 10 minutes, adding as much flour as is necessary to obtain a smooth dough.  Dough should not be sticky.  Place in a large greased bowl and cover.  Let rise in a warm place until doubled in size, approximately 1-1/2 hours.


100 g butter
200 g sugar
1 tsp vanilla
2 tbs milk
200 g chopped blanched almonds

Blanch almonds if you have only natural almonds with their skin on.  I like this tutorial.

Chop almonds, either with a chopping knife, or in a food processor.  (Don't make powder; you need little pieces.)

Melt butter and sugar in a pot over low heat on stove-top.  Add almonds, vanilla and milk, ensuring sugar has melted.  Remove from heat and let cool slightly.

Lightly grease a 10" x 15" roasting pan with oil or non-stick spray.  (I like to use a roasting pan with high sides as opposed to a jelly-roll pan to prevent the topping from overflowing, as the yeast dough will rise to about an 1-1/4" in height.)

Spread topping evenly on yeast dough.  (If topping has hardened, put it back on the stove, add a bit of milk, and let it warm slightly).

Bake in a 350F oven for 20-25 minutes, until topping is golden-brown.

My notes:

As soon as the cake comes out of the oven, I loosen the sides from the pan with a butter-knife.  If you let the cake topping harden, you'll have a hard time getting it out of the pan.

If you only have instant rise yeast, follow the instructions on the yeast package.  This generally means warming all liquid ingredients, and adding them to your yeast and flour mixture, adding as much flour as is necessary to knead dough.

I use my KitchenAid mixer for all steps of the dough, but finish kneading by hand.  Sweet yeast dough has a different feel than, say, bread dough or pizza dough.  It's a bit tougher and kneading it by hand warms the dough and gives me a better idea if I need to add more flour or not.

I hope you'll try this cake, and enjoy it as much as I do.  This cake transcends all boundaries, and I've never met someone who could eat just one piece.


Demelza said...

Hi Ann, that recipe looks great and I'd love to give it a go. A quick question, what type of flour? Strong flour for bread, or plain flour for cake making?



Shim Farm said...

Hi Demelza,
I'd use regular, all-purpose white flour. I don't remember if the cake flour had added sodium bicarbonate in it in Europe? My google-fu comes up with 550 flour, don't know if that tells you something or if those grades are for German flour only? You should be OK with the proportions of this recipe as it is from Germany. Also, if your vanilla comes in a paper sachet, I normally add one pack to the topping. What kind of measuring teaspoons are you used to, coming from the UK? Mine are printed with metric and imperial measures (we're confused like that in Canada), so 1/4 tsp = 1.25 mL, 1/2 tsp = 2.5 mL, etc., and one tablespoon is 15 mL. I hope you do try this recipe - it's really so yummy! Thanks for stopping by!

Robin said...

That looks really good. If I had an oven I would try it in a minute. I miss baking but I suppose it's probably better for us at the moment since we are trying to slim down a little.

Shim Farm said...

Yeah, not baking would help the diet! It's so hard to resist freshly-baked goods! I'd never make this cake if it was only Eric and me eating it. Just thinking about it makes me salivate.

Demelza said...

Hi, I'm not sure what's added to the flour for cake-making - baking powder perhaps? I think 550 is starting to be recognised in England, but not here in Spain - yet! As I'm English I still work on spoons, ie, tea-, desert-, soup- and tablespoon. I don't convert to mls. I guess that's my stubborn streak, holding onto the imperial measures, like, pounds and ounces, miles and feet and inches.

Not sure I'll ever change and with the internet it's easy to convert measurements :)

The only vanilla I'm used to is the essence in a bottle but now you've mentioned the packet, I think I remember seeing something in a local supermarket, Lidl, which is German, so I may be lucky!


Shim Farm said...

Hi Demelza, I do a mish-mash of imperial and metric when I bake. With European parents, I grew up baking German recipes in grams, North American recipes in cups, and learning imperial measurements in school until SI was introduced. It's confused over here in Canada; we buy paint in gallons, lumber in inches, gas in litres. I do water temperature in imperial, and air temperature in metric, go figure!

If you have Lidl in Spain, will they also have German flour? You can also use your liquid vanilla, it'll be fine. I use what I have on hand, since my stash of German baking supplies generally runs out before I can replenish it.

I hope you can give the recipe a try because it's really great!

ktoobusy said...

Delicious! After my son returned from octoberfest with a Dr oetker's baking book he bugged me for a year yo make bee cake as we call it. I grew up in a German household in the us butonly had this from the bakery. I used your blog for pan size & some other advice. It is wonderful and I've found some confidence in making yeast cakes now.thanks for the help!

Shim Farm said...

Hi ktoobusy! I am so happy that you tried Bienenstich! It's one of my favorites and never lets me down.

Working with yeast is easy, and I'm glad you've overcome your trepidation.

Thanks for stopping by!

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