Sunday, October 17, 2010

Bienenstich / Beesting Cake and Nut Bake-off

Supposedly every month but in reality far less frequently there have been bake-off events in Wellington, consisting of a group of us making things to a theme, to challenge ourselves a little and create deliciousness. The most recent was yesterday and the theme was nuts. Over the last few days there has been some discussion on the Foodlovers forum around favourite cakes, and just as I was trying to decide what to make someone brought up beesting cakes. Beestings, or bienenstich in German (where they originate) are basically a sweet bread, with a delicious honey almond topping and filled with custard. Brumby's used to have them - not sure if they still do - and I confess to being a complete addict when I used to work across the road from one of their stores. So the discussion inspired me, and I sought out a recipe.

Funnily enough, the recipe I found was from a conversation also on the Foodlovers forum, but from several years ago. I looked at several others (some of which seemed to be more a cake than bread, though I understand bread is the authentic way) but figured this was as good a starting point as any.

The recipes has three components; the bread; the custard filling; and the almond topping. It does take a while due to a) the multiple risings of the bread; and b) the cooling time - both the custard and the bread take a while to cool fully. If I were doing this again I would make the components either the night before or first thing in the morning for an evening event - planning ahead is key!

The bread is pretty much as you'd expect for bread; you start off by activating the yeast with some sugar in a bit of warm milk, then add the wet ingredients to dry and mix together.

Knead the dough for a while - the recipe said 3 minutes but I found that really wasn't enough to create the elasticity in the dough so I kept going for 8 or 9. You then leave it to rise for about an hour until it's doubled in size - as shown on the photo on the right, not that you can tell from the photo!

Once it's grown you knead it again, just for a couple of minutes, and then press/roll to a 15cm circle and put in a 22cm springform cake tin. Then it needs to rise again, for another 30-40 minutes; it should  expand to the edges of the tin and rise up the sides. Pop it in the oven to cook and that's part one done...

For the custard, the recipe I had was a fairly basic custard powder based thing - I hardly ever use custard powder and definitely prefer real custard or creme patissiere, and might try a different recipe next time. It wasn't super noticeable, though, and the custard did set well so is a good sure bet. If you have a great custard recipe that does set up quite well please let me know in the comments, as mine tend to be more desserty and less firm.

Once the custard is nice and thick - it will suddenly and dramatically become quite thick - chill it until fully cold. This means at least a couple of hours. I transferred the custard into a bowl and put it in an ice-bath in the sink straight away, as I was in a bit of a rush, and then put the bowl in the freezer for 20 minutes or so, to hasten the process.

When the bread has cooked for about 20 minutes, start preparing the topping. This is really simple but needs a couple of minutes of vigorous boiling to reach perfection! It's a mixture of honey, sugar and butter, and you melt it and stir until the sugar is dissolved, and then turn up the temperature and leave it along for a bit while it gets nice and caramelly.

This is honestly so delicious you will have trouble resisting eating it by the spoonful, especially once you add the almonds. Do resist, though, for it is super hot and will only burn your tongue! Wait until the bits you invariably drop cool and then nibble. ;-)

After about 25 minutes of cooking the 'cake' comes out of the oven and is smothered with the almonds - this is a sticky business! Do try to remember not to use your fingers - I recommend arming yourself with a spoon/spatula in each hand so you don't instinctively try, because the sugar will still be burning hot - I learnt that the hard way!

Full disclosure: I doubled the topping from the original recipe as I think this is the best part by a long way and thought the initial measurements sounded a bit sparse - and I think it was a good call, as the lusciously thick coating of almonds and honey toffee made it both look and taste spectacular. So, you know, if you want to be restrained you can drop the quantities back. But I recommend it this way. ;-)

The almond-topped cake goes back in the oven for a few more minutes to brown up; at this stage you will want to make sure you have a baking tray underneath your cake tin, as a bit of the sugar will probably leak through the tin and it would not be fun trying to clean that off the bottom of your oven!

How good does this look?!? A bit messy, admittedly, but all the best food is, right? The toffee will firm up, too, so it won't be gooey to eat. We were very surprised how long the bread/cake took to cool; we transported it to our friends' place and then filled it, and despite a very painful train journey (why is it so impossible for public transport organisations to master communication?) creating a gap of about two hours from coming out of the oven to being filled, it was still warm on the inside when I cut it.

When it is cool and ready for filling, get the custard out, whip it to make it nice and smooth and pipeable/spreadable, and then fold through the thickened cream. This makes a fabulously luscious filling. I piped mine but you could happily just spread it - you'd hardly know the difference. Mine is a bit sloppy due to not making the bread and custard far enough ahead of time - you can learn from my mistakes. ;-)
It was pretty delicious, though, and seemed to be enjoyed.

Some of the other treats provided are shown below: some delicious nutty truffle-type things by Oakley and Fred (not sure what they were called but they were yummy!); tasty, rich brownies (which took out the prize for best due to being the only item from the table completely consumed); a gigantic and delicious cheese ball; and not in the picture were Clare's perfect little triangular peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. A great variety of fare!

Beesting / Bienenstich
7g/2 tsp dried yeast
75g/1/3 cup caster sugar
180ml/3/4 cup warm milk
375g/2 1/2 cups flour
60g melted butter
50g butter
6 Tbsp caster sugar
8 tsp honey
100g/1 1/4 cups flaked almonds
6 Tbsp custard powder
110g/1/2 cup caster sugar
2 cups milk
1 cup thickened cream
2 tsp vanilla extract

For the bread:
Grease a 22cm springform tin. Combine yeast, 1 tsp sugar and 1/4 C of the warm milk in small bowl, cover, and stand in warm place about 10 minutes or until mixture is frothy.

Mix flour and sugar together in a large bowl. Make a well in centre, stir in yeast mixture, butter and enough of the remaining milk to mix to a soft dough (I used all of mine). Turn dough onto lightly floured surface and knead for about 8 minutes or until dough is smooth and springs back when pressed. Place dough in large greased bowl, cover stand in warm place for about an hour or until dough is double in size.

Turn dough onto lightly floured surface, knead until smooth. Press dough into 15cm circle, place in prepared tin, cover, and stand in warm place until dough expands to the edge of the tin and rises again.

Bake at 150 C for 25 minutes. After about 20 minutes prepare the topping.

For the topping: 
Combine butter, sugar and honey in small saucepan, and cook over medium low heat, stirring without boiling until sugar is dissolved. Increase the temperature to medium high, and boil without stirring about 1 1/2 minutes or until light caramel colour. Stir in the nuts, then remove the cake from the oven and spread topping over the top. Increase the oven temperature to 180 C and return to the oven for 5-10 minutes until the topping is firm and golden brown. 

For the filling
Combine custard powder and sugar in small pan, and add enough of the milk to make a smooth paste. Gradually stir in remaining milk, and stir over medium low heat until mixture boils, then simmer (still stirring) for about 1 minute or until very thick. Cover surface of custard with plastic wrap, refrigerate until cold.

To serve:
Cut the cake open using a serrated knife. Beat custard with eletric mixer until smooth, then fold in thickened cream. Pipe or spread the filling over the bottom half of the cake then put top half on top. Serve!


  1. Rosa this looks so scrumptious! Have you ever tried making stollen?
    - Cesca

  2. Your Beesting cake looks amazing! Just such a picture perfect cake - I want some! :)

  3. Cesca, I haven't tried making stollen but Christmas seems to be sneaking closer by the day so perhaps 'tis the season!

    Lisa, thank you! It was soooo yummy, you should make one. :-)


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