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.