Its sad that 99% of New Years resolutions go bust on Jan 2nd. Thankfully this group resolution went on until the year end. Cannot say how thankful I am to Aparna Balasubramanian and her motivation & enthusiasm in guiding the lot of us through a dozen delicious yeasted confections. I admit, I missed out on one assignment - The crunchy salty pretzels (which no one in my family cares for) while on vacation in India, but got a personal face to face exemption from Aparna herself!
And so here is yeasted confection # 12: The Bee sting Cake, known as Bienenstich Kuchen in German. Couple of anecdotes behind this unusual name - The baker who came up with this recipe was shooing a bee away from the sticky almond topping when it retaliated and stung him.
another story - The inhabitants of a village drove away hostile invaders by flinging beehives at them and celebrated with this victory cake, which they christened Bienenstich Kuchen. But whatever the reason, this luscious custard filled cake is a treat.
The traditional version is baked in a round pan, sliced and sandwiched with the Custard creme, but I opted to make miniature versions simply because I find that smaller portions tend to be consumed faster and its easier to store away. The recipe for the standard cake makes 12 small cakelets. and the added advantage is that you can get away with less than half the prescribed amount of filling. Also, a teeny bit of orange zest added to the crunchy honey almond topping really kicks up the flavors a couple of notches higher.
Bienenstich Kuchen - Bee sting Cake
1 cup (8 Fl. Oz) milk (Reduced fat - 2%)
3 tablespoons sugar
3 tablespoons vanilla flavored custard powder (I used Birds, which yields a light yellow color rather than the intense colors that I find in many Indian brands of custard powder)
200 ml heavy whipping cream
1 tablespoon cornstarch
For the Dough:
1/4 cup reduced fat milk (2%)
7 tablespoons unsalted butter at room temperature
2 cups all purpose flour
2 tablespoons Sugar
1 egg (optional - I did not add it)
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/4 teaspoon instant yeast
For the Honey-Almond Topping:
50 grams butter
1/3 cup sugar
2 tablespoon honey
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon orange zest
2/3 cup sliced almonds
Custard & cream filling: (can be made the previous day& refrigerated)
Combine 3/4 (6 oz) cup milk and sugar in a pan and bring to a gentle boil, making sure that the sugar is dissolved. Whisk in the custard powder with the remaining milk, ensuring that there are no lumps. Drizzle the custard/milk mixture in a thin stream into the hot milk, ensuring that you keep whisking vigorously. Continue to whisk until the mixture thickens well, at which point take it off the heat. allow to cool down, making sure to keep whisking the mixture at intervals to ensure that lumps don't form. Once its cool down & refrigerated, chances are that it will be a thick clump anyways, so just take a hand blender & whisk it down to smoothness.
When you're ready to fill the cake whip the heavy cream until it forms soft peaks. add the corn flour and continue to whip until the cream begins to form stiff peaks as shown. Add the custard to the cream and gently fold in with a spatula to combine well.
For the Dough:
Heat the milk until scalding and drop the pieces of butter into it. Allow the butter to melt completely.
Combine the flour, sugar, and yeast in the bowl of the food processor.. Add the (optional) egg to the mixture and run the processor till the egg is incorporated into the flour. Now add the warm milk/butter mixture to the flour and knead until it forms a sticky brioche like dough. Shape the dough into a ball, place in a bowl, cover and allow to proof for about 2 hours.
Deflate the dough and shape again into an orb. If you opt for a single cake, then line the bottom & sides of a 8 inch springform pan with parchment paper. Press down to fill the bottom of the pan. (Do NOT omit the parchment paper because the sticky topping will make it difficult to remove the finished cake from the pan otherwise). If you prefer to make smaller individual cakelets, then, cut the dough into 12 portions (My dough weighed in at 528 gms which made for 12 individual pieces of 44 gms each), and place them into specialty baking cups (I picked these up at Home goods and they can withstand temperatures up to 400 F).
Set these aside in a warm place to proof for a second time for about 45 minutes. In the meantime, get started on the honey almond topping.
In a non stick skillet, combine the butter, sugar and honey and over medium heat, keep stirring until the mixture starts bubbling. continue to heat for about 3 minutes until the mixture turns into a golden amber color. Now add the sliced almonds, vanilla & orange zest, sir well until the almonds are well dispersed and evenly coated. Take the skillet off the heat. The mixture will thicken , don't worry about it.
Preheat the oven to 350 F. Once the dough has risen, Spread the sticky almond mixture over the dough using a spoon and bake for 30- 35 minutes, until the almond topping is bubbling, and a cake tester inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean.
Allow the cake to cool in the pan for about 15 minutes, after which gently un-mold the cake(s) using a spatula (The topping tends to get stuck to the walls of the baking pan), and allow to cool completely.
Once the cake is cooled, cut down the middle and pipe in the custard/cream filling over the lower part of the cake and gently place the top half over the filling. (Remember there may be plenty of filling left over if you opt to make the miniature cakelets.)
Serve with a hot cup of coffee as an evening tea time snack.
Bon Appetit and Happy holidays to everyone!