I’ve wanted to make this cake ever since Deb Perelman posted it on the Smitten Kitchen site sometime last spring. I don’t know if it was my obsession with bees, or the story of trying and trying but never getting the cake quite right, or the description of the cake itself, but Bee Sting Cake? It sounded great. I just never had the energy to make a yeasted cake, though. So I didn’t.
Then, when I was in Munich, I defended my thesis and stopped at the bakery on the way home. It was 9:30 in the morning and Daniel was going to be hard at work back at home. I wanted to get some treats for us to have as a mid-morning snack to celebrate me defending my thesis… and lo and behold, there, on the bakery shelf, was bienenstich! Obviously, I bought two huge pieces. The shop boy carefully wrapped them up in paper and I carried them, triumphant, back to the room. We feasted. Then Daniel said he felt sick, because he never eats sugar for breakfast.
So, now that I have a wonderful kitchen here in Sweden, I set out to actually make the darn thing. I had the perfect occasion: Johanna and her sister Matilda left on Tuesday morning to go travel around New Zealand for three weeks! They were giddy on Monday night thinking about all the adventures they were about to embark upon. I know that feeling. Now that they’ve been gone a few days, I am seeing a few of Johanna’s beautiful photos pop up on facebook, and so I know that they are having a great time.
It makes me smile to think of these two sisters traveling around together. They are both a combination of practical and whimsical. Johanna is a biologist who is also training as a teacher and is quite artistic as well. Matilda has been doing more on the artistic side, but is now preparing with exams to go into medical school. Actually, she’s the more practical one. Johanna will take pictures of everything on her phone, seeing beauty in every object and every angle. She’ll get distracted talking on the phone. She is a wonderful, fun, joyous, presence. Matilda is as well, but she’ll give a huff of friendly exasperation every once in a while.
“Johanna! We should go down to meet the taxi!”
“I know, just a minute!”
“What are you doing in there? Are you… you’re cutting your fingernails. Are you serious? We have to leave and you are cutting your fingernails?”
As my other housemate Marta said, they are in some ways very different, but they get along so well. The teasing is all in the name of love. “I wish I had that relationship with my sister,” Marta said. “We’re just different.”
Anyway, on Monday afternoon, the dough didn’t seem to be rising at all. I decided not to freak out. And in the end the cake tasted fine, and certainly wasn’t a brick. However, the bienenstich I remember from Munich was ridiculously light and fluffy, unlike any yeasted dough I’ve ever eaten. So that was one big difference; maybe I know, now, why Deb had such a hard time getting the recipe right. I couldn’t find instant yeast in the grocery store here so adapted to use active dry, which may have affected the rising and the behavior of the dough.
I was also too lazy to stuff the middle of the cake with pastry cream – something I really would like to do next time! But never fear, if you leave it out, the cake is still delicious. I upped the amount of salt in the topping and so it had a bit of a salted caramel taste. Yum yum yum.