Queen Bee Cake: The Romantic Anniversary Treat for Your Sweetheart

We have your step-by-step guide to creating the cake everyone will be buzzing about.

August 9, 2017
queen bee cake
Heath Robbins

These recipes are adapted from Erin Gardner's new book Erin Bakes Cake: Make + Bake + Decorate = Your Own Cake Adventure!

The design of this cake is a nod to one of my earliest and most popular wedding cake designs, the Napoleonic Bee Cake. It was the very first cake of mine to appear on The Cake Blog, as well as numerous other blogs, websites, and bridal magazines. I created the repeating hexagonal design over the entire surface of a three-tier cake with just a single hexagon cutter. Now, there are tools available to make the process much quicker, like silicone texture mats and specialty cutters.

More: How to Make Any Cake Allergy-Friendly

This updated and simplified version of that design would make an adorably chic birthday cake for a girl who runs the world or a romantic anniversary cake your bae will love like XO.

Honey Pound Cake
SonjaBK/Getty Images
Make the Honey Pound Cake

Pound cake is dense and rich. (Its counterpart in bizarro cake world would be angel food cake.) For that reason, it's best paired with fillings that are bright in flavor (think citrus or berry). Its soft but sturdy texture provides the perfect counterpoint to an added element of crunch in its layers. For simpler affairs, this cake stands on its own with a drizzle of jam or sugar glaze. It's coffee and tea's best friend.

Honey Pound Cake
(Makes 10 cups batter, two tall 8-inch round cakes or three regular 6-inch round cakes)

Ingredients:

  • 20 ounces unsalted butter, softened

  • 2 cups granulated sugar

  • 4 teaspoons baking powder

  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt

  • 4 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

  • 12 ounces honey

  • 8 large eggs

  • 6 cups all-purpose flour (plus more for the pans)

  • 2 cups whole milk

Directions:
1. Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 350°F. Spray and flour pans in your chosen size.

2. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (or in a large bowl using an electric hand mixer), beat together the butter, sugar, baking powder, salt, vanilla extract, and optional spices at medium speed until fluffy and lighter in color, stopping to scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula to make sure there are no butter lumps, about 5 minutes. Drizzle in the sweetener on low speed until just combined. 

3. Add the eggs, one at a time, until completely combined. Stop and scrape down the sides of the bowl halfway through mixing and after adding the last egg.

4. With the mixer on low, add half of the flour to the butter mixture until just incorporated. Slowly add half of the milk until combined. Stop and scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula. Add the remaining flour and mix until just incorporated. Add the last of the milk and mix until combined.

5. Divide the batter evenly between the prepared pans and bake, rotating the pans' positions halfway through baking, until a toothpick inserted in the center of a cake comes out clean or with a few crumbs clinging to it, 45 to 55 minutes for 8-inch round pans or 35 to 40 minutes for 6-inch round pans.

6. Transfer the cakes to a rack to cool in the pan for about 30 minutes. Turn the cakes out onto a flat surface, like plates or a clean countertop. Let the cakes cool completely before frosting, filling, or storing. 

lemon curd
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Make the Lemon Curd

I very clearly remember the day I learned that lemon curd could be made in the microwave. It was that big of a deal at the bakery. As a group, we loved things that were simple, delicious, and easy to throw together in 15 minutes. You could make this the old-fashioned way, standing with a whisk over a double boiler, but I encourage you to try it my way. Come to the dark side—we have lemon curd.

Lemon Curd
(Yields 1 1/2 cups curd)

Ingredients: 

  • 3/4 cup lemon juice

  • 1 large egg

  • 3 large egg yolks

  • 2/3 cup granulated sugar

  • 2 ounces butter, cubed

  • Pinch salt

  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Directions:
1. In a large microwave-safe bowl, whisk together the citrus juice, egg, egg yolks, sugar, butter, and salt.

2 . Microwave the mixture on high for 1 minute. Whisk the mixture to distribute the heat. Repeat the heating and whisking process 4 or 5 times, until the mixture has thickened to the consistency of Greek yogurt. The curd may appear runnier than when cooked in a double boiler, but it will set up firm once chilled. Whisk in the vanilla extract.

3. Warm curd can be used as a sauce right away, or pour it into an airtight container and store in the fridge for up to a week. Press plastic wrap directly against the surface of the curd before putting the lid on the container to prevent it from forming a skin and absorbing fridge odors.

4. Allow the curd to cool completely before using as cake filling or to flavor buttercream. If using as cake filling, first pipe a buttercream dam around the edges of the cake layer to prevent the curd from oozing out.

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Whiskey Honeycomb Candy
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Make the Whiskey Honeycomb Candy

This stunning candy gets its signature web of air chambers from the addition of a large amount of baking soda relative to the quantity of sugar used in the recipe. The base recipe will bubble more than the variations, since corn syrup has less moisture than the other sweeteners.

Whiskey Honeycomb Candy
(Yields 2 cups chopped honeycomb candy)

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar

  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

  • 1/4 cup light corn syrup (reduced to 2 tablespoons)

  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda

Directions:
1. Line a cookie sheet with greased parchment paper, foil, or a silicone baking mat.

2. In a sauce pan large enough to accommodate the mixture eventually growing 4 to 5 times its original size, combine the sugar, salt, and corn syrup. Cook over medium-high heat until it reaches hard crack consistency, or 265°F on a candy thermometer. Add 2 tablespoons whiskey or rum to the sugar mixture when it reaches a hard ball consistency.

3. Remove the pan from the heat and immediately stir in the baking soda. The mixture will bubble up significantly. Stir just until combined, but not so much that you knock down the gorgeous foam that's forming. Pour onto the prepared cookie sheet.

4. Allow the honeycomb candy to cool completely before handling. Store in an airtight container in a cool, dry place for up to a week.

5. If using in a cake filling, finely chop the honeycomb candy and sprinkle onto a cake layer that's been topped with buttercream or another creamy filling.

Honey Buttercream
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Make the Honey Buttercream

Honey Buttercream 
(Yields 5 cups frosting)

Ingredients:

  • 16 ounces fat (butter, shortening, or 50/50 butter and shortening), softened

  • 6 1/2 cups (one 2-pound bag) confectioners' sugar

  • 1 Tablespoon pure vanilla extract

  • Pinch salt

  • 2 to 4 Tablespoons whole milk

  • Add honey to taste

Directions:
1. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (or in a large bowl using an electric hand mixer), beat your chosen combination of softened fats on medium speed until light and fluffy. If you're using a combination of butter and shortening, beat the butter first until smooth, 5 minutes; add the shortening and beat until combined, about 5 minutes more.

2. With the mixer on low speed, slowly add the confectioners' sugar until just combined, stopping occasionally to scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula, 5 to 7 minutes.

3. Turn off the mixer and add the vanilla extract and salt. Mix on low speed just until combined.

4. Keep the mixer on low speed and slowly add the milk, a tablespoon at a time, until the frosting reaches your desired consistency.

5. Use the buttercream immediately or store it in the fridge in an airtight container for up to a week. Press plastic wrap directly against the surface of the buttercream before putting the lid on the container to prevent it from forming a crust and absorbing fridge odors.

6. To bring cold buttercream back to a usable consistency, transfer it to a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Beat on medium-high speed until the buttercream is fluffy and spreadable again, 5 to
10 minutes.

queen bee cake
Heath Robbins
Solve the "cakequation"

Arrange the honey pound cake, lemon curd, whiskey honeycomb candy, and the honey buttercream in the formation above. 

 
 
ombre buttercream
Decorate with the ombré buttercream

Smooth cakes are king in the cake world. They're a thing of beauty on their own, or the perfect clean canvas for any cake design. There are a number of techniques for achieving a smooth buttercream or ganache finish that involve things like acrylic disks, flipping cakes upside down, and other sorts of cake gymnastics. If you are entering a cake smoothing contest, then I suggest you seek out one of those methods. If you are interested in a smooth-enough cake without the hassle, kick it old-school with me and my trusty bench scraper. 

Ombré Finish
1. Start with a crumb-coated cake.

2. Fill large piping bags with buttercream in your desired shades of color (or different shades of thick ganache).

3. Snip the tips off the bags. Starting with the color you'd like to have on the bottom of the cake, pipe lines of that color all around the sides of the cake, up as far as you'd like that color to reach. Repeat until the cake is completely covered, using the colors of your choice.

4. Hold a bench scraper so that the long, flat edge is vertical against the side of the cake. Keep the scraper still while you spin the turntable. The buttercream will start to smooth out and collect on the bench scraper. Stop and wipe the buttercream back into the bowl every few turns.

5. Smooth the top by holding the long, flat edge of the offset spatula or bench scraper horizontally above the top edge of the cake. Pull back, up, and away in a smooth, confident motion. Spin the cake and repeat all along the edges until smooth enough.

6. Serve right away, or chill the cake to firm up the smooth finish or before adding additional decorative details.

queen bee cake
Heath Robbins
Start the decoration

Queen Bee Cake

Ingredients:

Directions:
Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 275°F.

Step 1: Unwrap the hard candies and separate them by color into zip-top bags. Push all the air out of the bags before sealing them. It's important that you specifically use freezer bags, because the plastic is thicker and will hold up better to all of the smashing.

Place a bag of candy on top of a dish towel. Fold the towel up and over the bag of candy. This helps to protect your countertop and eyes, should any candy escape the bag. Grab the rolling pin and whack that bag like your boo just called Becky with the good hair. Crush the candy into small pieces. Repeat with the other bag.

Step 2: Place the hexagon cookie cutters on a parchment-lined cookie sheet. Lightly spray the cutters with cooking spray. Fill half of the cutters with crushed yellow candy. Don't be too tidy with the job; the end result will be more interesting if you allow a few pieces to go astray into other cutters. Fill the other half of the cutters with crushed orange candy the same way.

Step 3: Place the tray in the oven to melt the candy into solid shapes, about 7 minutes. Remove the tray from the oven and set aside until the cutters are cool enough to handle, about 5 minutes.

Step 4: Carefully push the hard candy pieces out of the cutters. Repeat to make more hexagons. 

queen bees cake
Heath Robbins
Make the Queen Bees

Step 1: Melt the yellow coating chocolate. Dip a gold Sixlet into the melted candy and stick it to the thin end of a Jordan almond. Dip a gold pearl into the melted candy and stick it on top of the Sixlet to complete the bee's body.

Step 2: Layer two almond slices on top of each other. Dip one end of the stack into the melted candy and slide it under the bee's body where the Sixlet meets the sugar pearl. Repeat with another set of wings on the other side. Repeat to make more bees. Allow the chocolate to harden completely before using the bees on the cake, about 10 minutes.

 
 
Queen Bees
Heath Robbins
All together now!

Arrange the candy hexagons on the cake so that the color looks like it's moving from yellow to orange across the cake. Complete the look with a swarm of queen bees.

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