Bienenstich. Literally translated it means bee sting cake and this cake is definitely one of my favourites! The bakery next to my parents house had an amazing bienenstich and made in a very traditional Northern German way: A soft and airy yeast based sheet cake topped with toasted almond brittle and filled with a sweetened whipped cream. I really, really loved it.
There’s a long story about how this cake was named and it dates almost 500 years back. Can you imagine a cake recipe that old? As you can guess from my description, this traditional cake recipe isn’t easily veganised. Especially if you insist on finding a substitute for the whipped cream filling – which I never found. (We have vegan whipped cream. But the texture usually isn’t sturdy enough for my taste. The cream is too light and most of the time it is too sweet, too.) There are many different bienenstich recipes and lots of them are made with a custard filling. But the Northern German Cream Cake snob that I am, I never wanted to settle for them. But you know what? There is a life after cream just as there is a life after cheese.
And still it took me some time to figure out how to veganise this cake so it would match my own standards. I used baking powder instead of yeast, to save some time. But don’t let this fool you. It’s still a time consuming recipe. If you don’t want to spend all day making this, prepare the cake a day in advance and make the filling and topping the next morning. Also I wanted to make the topping with coconut oil instead of margarine. But coconut oil often is too fatty and it can ruin your results, especially, if you use it as a base for caramel. I found that a combination of plant based cream* and a little bit of coconut oil works just as well as margarine. (For those of you who cannot eat coconut oil: don’t worry, use margarine.)
Traditional bienenstich doesn’t have a fruit layer. But gooseberry bienenstich is a popular variety in Germany. And since my generous neighbour had handed me a bag full of my favourite frozen berries, I knew immediately what to do with them! If you cannot find gooseberries, there are two alternatives: Either you leave that layer and go for a classic version of bienenstich. Or you substitute another sturdy berry. Black- or redcurrants would be great, blueberries might work, blackberries will be awesome, too.
Okay, and now that I’ve written down my notes and thoughts for this recipe, I need to get something off my chest that’s been sitting there for quite some time. And I don’t really know how to address it without sounding like an idiot. It has to do with the fact that people keep asking me about making my recipes with dairy products. And about others leaving comments on how they are going to make my recipes with dairy products.
Well, what can I say? I know you don’t mean any harm. I know you don’t want to annoy me. But if you ask me like that I’m gonna say no. And if you tell me about your changes, I am not going to encourage you. Because from my perspective dairy sucks. Otherwise I wouldn’t be vegan. Otherwise I would just stuff my bienenstich with a ton of thick whipped cream and be done with it. Instead, I spend a lot of time researching non-vegan cake recipes. I think about how to substitute all the dairy, butter and eggs, and often there is a lot of tweaking. It’s difficult to get similar results with completely different ingredients.
Of course there are many people who have other beliefs. I do myself live with vegetarians. Also, some of my friends, who are meat eaters, read my blog. And so do other non-vegans. I truly appreciate that you spend your time on here and even consider trying my recipes. If you cannot have soy or coconut oil or any other ingredient I like to use, I am sure we can figure out how to make the recipe work for you. But if you wanna put the dairy back in, what’s the point in coming to my blog? Instead you should probably ask omnivores for their kick-ass original versions, look up non-vegan blogs for German recipes, or visit a German baking site. (I can recommend Dr.Oetker or Küchengötter). Okay. There. I said it. Now lets get back to some sugar coated and flower dusted awesomeness.
Bienenstich with Gooseberries
- For the cake
- 300 g 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
- 5 teaspoons baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 125 g 1/2 cup plus 1/8 cup sugar
- 120 ml 1/2 cup rapeseed oil
- 360 ml 1 1/2 cups soy milk
- For the gooseberry layer
- 300 g fresh or frozen gooseberries alternatives: blackcurrants, redcurrants, blueberries
- 100 g 1/2 cup sugar
- 1 tablespoon cornstarch mixed with 2 tablespoons water
- For the custard layer
- 120 g 1/2 cup plain soy yoghurt
- 125 g 1/2 plus 1/8 cup sugar
- 360 ml 1 1/2 cups soy milk
- 60 g 1/4 cup refined coconut oil, melted
- 40 g 5 tablespoons cornstarch
- 1/4 teaspoon agar agar powder
- For the almond brittle topping
- 120 ml soy cream see bottom of post for alternative, use same amount
- 1 tablespoon melted refined coconut oil
- 1 tablespoon agave nectar
- 125 g 1/2 plus 1/8 cup sugar
- 100 g 1 cup sliced almonds
- 1 pinch of salt
- To make the cake, preheat the oven to 170°C. Grease a springform pan (20 cm diameter) and dust with flour. Set aside.
- Combine dry ingredients and mix well.
- Add liquid ingredients and stir until no lumps remain.
- Pour into prepared pan and bake for 45 minutes.
- Let cool for five minutes, remove from pan and let cool completely.
- Once it's cooled, cut the cake into two halves and set aside.
- For the gooseberry layer,combine gooseberries and sugar in a small pan.
- Simmer for 15 minutes.
- Whisk together cornstarch and water, stir into the gooseberries and cook for another minute.
- Put the bottom cake layer back into the springform pan.
- Pour the gooseberry jam on top and let cool in the pan for about two hours at room temperature.
- To prepare the custard filling, place all ingredients in a blender.
- Blend until combined and pour into a saucepan.
- Cook for 2 minutes while whisking constantly.
- Pour over the gooseberry layer. (Your cake should still be in the pan.)
- Remove pan and place the second cake layer on top of the cake and let cool in the fridge for about one hour.
- To make the almond brittle topping, combine all ingredients in a saucepan.
- Cook for about 15 minutes over medium heat, until the almond slices start to brown and the mixture will start sticking to the bottom of the pan. Make sure the almonds don't start to burn.
- Pour over the cooled cake and serve once the topping has set.
*Plant based creams:
These are very easy to find in Germany and there are many different variations. You can get soy, almond, oat, and spelt based versions. Their main ingredients are a plant milk, oil, a little bit of sugar, and stabilisers. They are sweetened but only a tiny bit, to imitate the flavour of real cream. There are whipped versions, too. But the ones you see here cannot be whipped.They are suitable both for baking and cooking. (You can use them for pasta sauces, soups, etc.) If you have a similar product you can use that. If not, here’s a replacement: Blend 100 g (3.5 oz) of soaked macadamia or cashew nuts with 240 ml (1 cup) of water. Make sure your cream is smooth and use 120 ml of this mixture for the almond caramel topping.
Thank you so much for the recipe! I grew up in the north of Netherlands close to the German border. In the seventies and eighties we did not have cable tv and the tv broadcasting signal from the NDR was stronger than that the Dutch broadcasting. So I grew up watching Die Sendung mit der Maus, Neueus aus Uhlenbusch and Little House on the Prairie dubbed by German voices… My mother’s best friend was German and she stayed at their home a lot when she was young. Through her we were introduced to German hospitality, the best bread amd kuchen. Bienenstich has always been my favourite! And now that I am vegan I can eat it again!
Hey Esther! Thank you so much for your lovely comment! You basically described my childhood, too. I grew up with NDR and Radio Bremen and Neues aus Uhlenbusch was my favourite. Glad you like the Bienenstich recipe!
I just stumbled upon your site and love all your recipes.I have been missing a lot of German baked goods i grew up with and now that i am vegan i found it hard to recreate them.Thanks for all your hard work, i can’t wait to start baking.
This is a fab recipe. The cake is good – it feels too grand for everyday but we have garden gooseberries so we had no choice – but the recipe is really good :) Everything about it works, and that is a rare and beautiful thing. Thankyou
Yes, this is more of a weekend and special occasion cake, but sometimes every day is a special occasion. I am glad you liked the recipe. Thanks!
This cake looks awesomely delicious! I’m gluten-free. Do you have any ideas or suggestions for making the cake part gluten free? If not, that’s okay. I’m quite used to tweaking recipes to fit my food allergies. I might be able to find a gluten-free yellow cake recipe and substitute that. Thanks for the cake inspiration!
Hm, good question, Kari. I almost never bake gluten-free, but maybe you can find a gluten-free pastry flour or a light flour suitable for baking cakes? I assume that would work.
Deinen Kuchen hab ich letztes Wochenende als meine Eltern zu Besuch kamen gebacken – und er wurde hochgelobt! Dein Rezept ist wirklich der Wahnsinn =) Es ist meiner Meinung nach der beste Kuchen den ich bis dato in meiner veganen Laufbahn (immerhin schon 10 Jahre) gebacken habe. So fruchtig, saftig und süß – ich fand ihn am 3. u 4. Tag noch besser, da war er perfekt durchgezogen. Ich habe anstatt der Stachelbeeren, Himbeeren verwendet und daher den Zucker in der Marmelade etwas reduziert.
Der Kuchen wird wieder gebacken! Vielen herzlichen Dank für das Teilen deiner Kreativität!!!
Liebe Grüße Sabrina
toll! Das freut mich wirklich sehr. Ich fand auch, dass dieses Rezept endlich maleins ist, dass auch nach einigen Tagen noch schmeckt! Deine Himbeervariation finde ich super.
Quick question: how long do you think this would keep? That is my favorite part of German bakeries, that you can buy one piece of any cake in the display case! My husband can have his chocolate and I get my fruit and we are both happy.
The in-laws are coming to visit and I thought this would be a special treat to make but still with only 4 of us I don’t think we could finish it in one sitting. Would it be better in the fridge or just under a cake dome on the counter?
Love the addition of fruit as this one has always been missing something for me. ; p
We stored ours in the fridge and finished it in a week. It still tasted alright after six days. And I’d definitely keep it in the fridge. Have fun with your in-laws!
Hey… I have a really stupid question. When you do 120 ml oil or 360 ml of soy-milk (i.e. any liquid except water), do you still use the “ml” setting on your weighing scale, or do you have a volume measuring cup that you use? OR would the recipe still work if I measured the dry stuff in grams, and used the volumes for non-water liquids? Otherwise, I’ll definitely get a liquid measuring cup, because this looks amazing! Thanks for your time and patience!
That is not a stupid question at all!
I always use a liquid (volume) measuring cup for liquid ingredients. I don’t have a ml setting on my scale and in fact that would be useless because for example 80 ml of oil is lighter than 80 ml of soy milk. (Of course you could weigh it in grams and provide those measurements, but I am used to weighing dry stuff and measuring liquid ingredients in a cup.) Do you have a ml setting on your scale? Is that what you mean by “and used the volumes for non-water liquids”? Because if yes, I cannot tell you if that works.
I would get super annoyed if I made something vegan and then people de-veganise it by pouring dairy cream or whatever over it so these questions would definitely irritate me too. I’d actually never heard of bee sting cake but it looks delicious and I love the sound of the almond brittle topping.
Exactly what Bella said. It’s okay to do whatever you want to, but what’s the point of mentioning it to someone who might clearly not appreciate it so much?
It’s a beautiful cake! I don’t think I had ever heard of that kind of cake before, although we have a nid d’abeilles (beehive) in Switzerland that’s made with a yeast-based pastry and filled with a light custard. It’s probably quite similar except for the yeasty part. Bzzz.
Yes, it sounds very similar! And I love the French name of that cake.
I love your blog. I grew up wanting to try all the recipes from The Cake Bible, which is very traditional cakes. The author made a christmas cookie book which have very Euro-centric recipes. But as I got older I found that American baking culture is all about taking other foods and making cake taste like that. So when I started to watch BBC’s Great British Bake Off, I just got so excited, and so did my husband. I think he understood why I loved and hate baked goods. I really should start directing him to recipes on here to try out.
And I understand your frustrations for requests to de-veganize your recipes. My Mother will get a recipe from me and call me and say how she made it and love it… oh and she added cheese to make it just that much better. She means well, but I don’t like how she is “ruining” my recipes. I share them mostly in hopes to decrease her use to animal products, so I am never thrilled that she tossed cheese or milk into the recipe.
I had the chance to watch the Great British bakeoff and it was so amazing! The whole show blew my mind and I wanted to make all the cakes. I don’t know much about British baking and I learned so much. Also I loved all the European influences.
How you describe your reaction to what your mother does is exactly how I feel about this.
I have a soft spot for beesting cake (bienenstich) and would love to make a vegan version like this one – though probably without the fruity filling because finding your fine berries here in Melbourne is hard work and they are usually ridiculously expensive or not great quality or both. I think the version of the cake that I have eaten has custard and that is my preference so I am pleased you did custard
Re your comments about un-veganising recipes, I think you should also see the complement that people come to your site not just for vegan food but because your photos and your recipes are so attractive. I confess that I sometimes take vegan recipes and use regular yoghurt as I have not been able to find a vegan yoghurt I like (and I am not vegan though I do not like a lot of creamy or eggy recipes and love finding vegan alternatives ) but I feel a little shame faced when I do and usually don’t mention it to the blog, partly because I know from being vegetarian just how it feels when someone wants to add meat to a recipe I post. Just perhaps it is letting people know that they can look at mouthwatering food and find it is turning their expectations upside down even if they still don’t cook that way! I know that following vegan blogs had helped me learn that there is another way to bake and though I am still learning it, I find it really exciting!
Thanky you for your thoughts, Johanna! It’s good to hear your perspective.
Also, if you cannot find decent berries a bee sting cake without them is very delicious, too!
This looks absolutely gorgeous, and well worth putting in a day’s baking for! I think you’re right too, why do people visit vegan blogs if they want to use dairy?! What do they think is going to HAPPEN to them if they use alternatives? o_O
I have had several instances of people wanting to un-veganise recipes I have made for them, after saying how much they loved the food and asking for the recipe. It is so weird!!!! They loved it!! They want to make it!! and then they want to change it!! AAGHH!!! I think most times it seems to be some sort of mental block that people have. Someone recently said to me, after eating a cupcake I had made (from Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World) that she was going to use dairy milk. Then she noticed there were no eggs in the recipe, and said she was going to add eggs (not even to replace a flax egg – just to add them for no reason). I said “you can’t it won’t be the same”. Her reply was “But you can’t make cake without eggs” !!!! Even though she had just had one, and loved it!!!!!
Actually I find it really depressing, because this is a way I love to promote vegan food, by showing people how great it is, but they still can’t see it *sigh*
P.S. this cake looks great!
Yes, it is depressing and I think you are right about that mental blog. Baking with eggs is something most people are so used to. And they are always told how important they are. Also I guess that most people just bake and follow recipes. It’s hard for them to understand all the processes behind that stuff.
This looks amazing! There used to be a little bakery in the East Village in NYC that sold a Bee Sting Cake and it was always my favorite before I was vegan. I have a fond memory of overnighting this cake in the mail to my aunt, who was battling cancer at the time. This brightened her day considerably and I was so happy that I was able to give her that little bit of happiness before she passed away. Definitely bookmarking this for holiday time baking, so that I can share it with my family. Thank you for this!
I am so sorry to hear about your aunt, Michelle. At the same time this is such a sweet story. Thanks for sharing it with me.
That looks so beautiful!
I hear you about the adding dairy back in thing- I see it in the comments of many vegan sites. I understand where people are coming from but from a vegan perspective it just seems so fkn weird and beside the point. Fine if you want to re-sub the flax eggs for hens eggs, but do you really need to write a comment about it? Ahhh, people! A constant source of amusement and confusion.
I used to love Beesting cake in my pregan days, and have had it a few times since going vegan. Though here in Australia it is definitely more a traditional yellow custard filling rather than anything creamy. Yours looks great though, berries make everything better!
Wow, I had no idea you Australians have this cake, too.I feel kind of bad declaring it as “German” now. Another thing I have learned today, so thank you Susan!
Great looking cake! I have never had bee sting cake but this sounds intriguing :)