By George Greenstein
Bienerstück, known as beehive cake, is a yeast-raised coffee cake topped with caramelized honey and nuts and filled with cream custard. This is a lovely German coffee cake, at one time very popular but unusual now. A delight to old-generation Europeans, it waits its turn to be discovered all over again. The name in the original German suggests “bee sting.” Perhaps it was its name that “done it in.”
Recipe from A Jewish Baker’s Pastry Secrets, by George Greenstein with Elaine Greenstein, Julia Greenstein, and Isaac Bleicher. Order your copy here.
- 1 (8-ounce / 255-gram) portion Bundt Dough (recipe below)
- 1/4 cup (2 ounces / 56 grams) unsalted butter, melted
- 1 1/2 cups (11.1 ounces / 315 grams) Pastry Cream (recipe below)
Honey Beehive Topping
- 1/4 cup (2 ounces / 56 grams) unsalted butter
- 1/2 cup (4 ounces / 113 grams) sugar
- 1/4 cup (3 ounces / 85 grams) honey
- 1 1/2 cups (6 ounces / 170 grams) sliced almonds or chopped walnuts, preferably toasted
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/8 teaspoon nutmeg, preferably freshly ground
- 1/2 cup (4 fluid ounces / 115 milliliters) warm water (95°F to 115°F / 35°C to 46°C)
- 3 scant tablespoons (3 packets / 21 grams) active dry yeast
- 1 cup (8 fluid ounces / 237 milliliters) milk, at room temperature
- 3/4 cup (5.25 ounces / 149 grams) sugar
- 3/4 cup (6 ounces / 170 grams) unsalted butter, diced, or half butter, half solid vegetable shortening
- 3 eggs
- 6 cups (29 ounces / 822 grams) bread flour (preferred) or unbleached all-purpose flour
- 1/4 cup (1 ounce / 28 grams) nonfat dry milk (see Note)
- 2 1/4 teaspoons kosher salt
- 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom, preferably freshly ground (optional)
- 2 cups (16 fluid ounces / 473 milliliters) milk
- 1/4 cup (1 ounce / 28 grams) cornstarch
- 4 egg yolks, lightly beaten
- 1/2 cup (3.5 ounces / 99 grams) sugar
- Pinch of kosher salt
- 1 tablespoon (0.5 ounces / 14 grams) unsalted butter
- 1/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
SERVINGS: ONE CAKE, ABOUT 8 SERVINGS
Butter or grease a 10-inch round or 9-inch square cake layer pan; pans with 1-inch-high sides are best.
Shape the dough into a ball, cover, and allow to rest for about 15 minutes.
Flatten and then roll out the dough on a flour-dusted work surface until it is about 1-inch wider than the pan. Place in the prepared pans and, with your fingertips, press gently to fit the pan. With a fork, stipple a series of holes over the entire dough. Brush the dough with the melted butter.
Allow the dough to stand until double in volume, 45 to 60 minutes (time will vary depending on temperature and humidity). When touched very gently on the side with a fingertip, the dough should be soft and yield readily.
Meanwhile, prepare the Honey Beehive Topping. Melt the butter in a heavy saucepan over medium-low heat. Add the sugar and honey and stir to dissolve. Remove from the heat; stir in the nuts, cinnamon, and nutmeg.
Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 350°F/175°C.
Bake for about 20 minutes, until lightly browned on top. Remove from the oven and set aside on a wire rack for about 5 minutes. Carefully spread the topping over the cake. Return to the hot oven and bake for an additional 10 minutes, or until the topping bubbles and begins to caramelize. Allow to cool thoroughly on a wire rack.
Carefully, turn the cake out of the pan. Turn right-side up. Split in half horizontally with a sharp serrated knife. Set the top half aside. Place the base on a serving dish. Fit a pastry bag with a #8 star or French star tip and fill with pastry cream Pipe and “bag out” (squeeze out) a 1-inch spiral border of pastry cream and then fill with concentric circles until completely covered. Or, using a spatula, spread with 1⁄2-inch layer of pastry cream, to cover. Lift the top carefully, with a spatula slipped underneath for support, and place on top of the pastry cream.
The cake keeps well, unfilled and lightly covered, for up to 24 hours at room temperature. Fill just before serving. The cake can be refrigerated or frozen while unfilled.
Master Recipe for Bundt Dough
YIELDS ABOUT 4 POUNDS OF DOUGH
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, or a large mixing bowl, sprinkle the yeast over warm water to soften. Add the milk, sugar, butter, eggs, flour, nonfat dry milk, salt, vanilla, and cardamom. Pulse with the on/off switch until blended, making sure the flour does not fly out of the bowl. You can cover the mixer with a kitchen towel for the first few pulses to keep the flour contained. Then mix at slow speed until the dough comes together. Change to a dough hook, if available. If mixing by hand, stir with a wooden spoon until the dough comes away from the sides of the bowl.
Knead with a dough hook in the stand mixer or turn out onto a floured work surface and knead by hand for 8 to 10 minutes, or more if necessary, until the dough has become elastic and has a silky sheen.
Place the dough in a clean, oiled bowl, turning to coat. Cover with a cloth or plastic wrap and allow to rise until doubled in volume, 45 to 60 minutes (the time will vary with temperature and humidity) or allow to rise slowly overnight in the refrigerator.
Turn the dough out onto a floured work surface. Punch down, fold the ends in toward the center, and roll up into a tight rectangle. Allow to rest for at least 10 and up to 15 minutes.
At this point, the dough can be refrigerated overnight. (All or part of the dough can be frozen at this stage for a week or more, if wrapped tightly in plastic wrap.) I recommend dividing the dough into 8-ounce portions and shaping into balls. Wrap and freeze individually.
Note: For a nondairy dough, substitute water for milk, margarine or shortening for butter, and omit the nonfat dry milk.
YIELDS 3 CUPS
Pour 1 1/2 cups of the milk into a heavy saucepan over medium heat and heat until bubbles begin to form around the edge. Meanwhile, in a separate bowl, combine the remaining 1⁄2 cup milk and cornstarch and stir with a wire whisk until combined. Stir eggs, 1/4 cup of the sugar, and salt into the cornstarch mixture.
When the heated milk is about to boil, mix about 1/2 cup of the hot milk mixture into the cold mixture and then slowly add it all back into the hot milk, stirring constantly. Stir thoroughly along the sides and bottom to prevent scorching. As the mixture begins to thicken, reduce the heat to medium low and continue cooking until you see the first sign of boiling. Cook for an additional minute, stirring all of the time.
Remove from the heat. Immediately add the remaining 1⁄4 cup of sugar and the butter, mixing until dissolved. Stir in the vanilla. Cover and cool with plastic wrap touching the surface so that a skin does not form. Chill thoroughly. The pastry cream can be prepared 1 day in advance. Keep well chilled and covered. When cool, stir with a wire whisk to fluff it up before using.
Baker’s Secret: To chill pastry cream and custards quickly for immediate use, pour the hot mixture onto a clean, buttered rimmed baking sheet. Cover with plastic wrap as above. Cool for 5 to 10 minutes on a wire rack, then place in the coldest part of the refrigerator until chilled (30 to 60 minutes). Remove the plastic wrap and stir thoroughly with a wire whip.
Reprinted with permission from A Jewish Baker’s Pastry Secrets, by George Greenstein with Elaine Greenstein, Julia Greenstein, and Isaac Bleicher (Ten Speed Press, 2015)
Cover photograph copyright 2015 by Ed Anderson.