Recipe: Swedish Princess Cake | Prinsesstårta

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They say this spring green dome from the 1930′s made with layers of sponge cake, raspberry jam, custard, and whipped cream is DIFFICULT. Everyone says so, in fact, except for the Swedes.

Curious, right?

I finally figured out why: Swedish folk have great recipes and three quarters of a century’s worth of tips and tricks up their sleeves.

Like, ahem, pre-rolled marzipan and boxed custard. I even saw one Swedish video which used prepacked cake, already sliced in thirds.

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“We all start out as children.”

This Swedish Proverb hints at what I learned, first hand, when making this cake: we must crawl before we can walk, we must be children before we are grown.

Experience comes one step at a time.

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Considering I made each part of this cake 3 times, and messed it up terribly along the way… I thought you might benefit from my errors.

So, do forgive me, but before we get into the recipe, I must tell you about the top five mistakes I made when making this cake, so you don’t do the same.

TOP FIVE MISTAKES WHEN MAKING A SWEDISH PRINCESS CAKE

1. I based my cake on a bad recipe. I didn’t realize it, but two of the recipes I originally adapted from were missing a key ingredient: water. As a result, my cake kept coming out dry and overcooked on the edges (note the bottom of this photo).

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Though most of the photos in this post show really dark edges and a dry, dense crumb, have no fear; I’ve since fixed my recipe, so yours will be light in color and fluffy in texture. I took a picture with my phone, so that you could see what it should look like:

swedish princess cake crumb

2. Food Coloring. If you really want to make your marzipan sticky, use regular food coloring. If, however, you want to keep from having a huge mess, use gel colors, such as Wilton’s (available at craft and baking supply stores). They don’t dilute the marzipan and it stays relatively mess free. Plus, you can use them for buttercream and icing.

3. I tried to roll my marzipan at room temperature. It’s much better to roll the marzipan RIGHT after you mix the color in, not later on. The heat from your hands will have made it much more pliable. You can even stand on a step stool to get some more weight behind your rolling pin. (And be sure to do it between two sheets of parchment paper, so it doesn’t stick).

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4. I rolled my marzipan too thin. If rolled too thinly, the cake shows through (see below) and it encourages cracking when you try to press it onto the cake. Don’t worry, my recipe has been updated so that you use an extra tube of marzipan, so you don’t make the same mistake I did. (I later went back and doubled up over the too-thin layer, which is always an option if you make the same mistake I did).

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5. I thought I could do it right on the first try. No one, not even Doctor Who, could smooth marzipan over a cake of this height without cracks or ripples… especially not on the first try…  (Unless you already know how to work with fondant, in which case I’m very jealous). Somewhere I saw a blogger suggest testing out your skills on an inverted bowl. This is a great idea… because, once you get whipped cream on your marzipan, you can’t re-roll it. And marzipan is too expensive to make that mistake with.

Remember, worse case scenario, you could always just drape the marzipan like a rippled curtain. And you can hide the wrinkly seams behind ribbon (as I did) or under some extra flowers – my friend says people put flowers and leaves (and even powdered sugar) all over their cakes in Sweden to hide mistakes.

Here’s a video I watched that was tremendously helpful when it came to assembly:

Adapted from Marcus SamuelssonMartha Stewart, and Semi Swede

Makes 1, 8″ super tall cake.

Ingredients:

For the pastry cream:

2 cups whole milk
1 vanilla bean, split and scraped
1/2 cup sugar
4 egg yolks
1/3 cup cornstarch

For the cake:

2 cups cake flour
2 tsp baking powder
4 eggs
1 cup sugar
3/4 cup warm water
parchment paper and butter, for prepping pan

To assemble:

1/2 cup Raspberry jam (seedless)
3 cups heavy cream, whipped stiff (sweetened, as desired)
21 ounces marzipan (3 packages)
green food coloring
red food coloring
powdered sugar, for dusting

Method:

Turn on a little Swedish Music to get things going.

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1. Prepare the pastry cream.

Heat up the milk with the vanilla bean scrapings and sugar. Meanwhile, whisk together the yolks (reserve the whites for another use) and cornstarch in a medium bowl. When the milk is hot, whisk a little at a time into the yolk mixture, taking care not to curdle them.

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Strain the mixture back into the pot, return to the stove and cook until thickened, whisking often so that it doesn’ t clump up or stick.

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Look at those flecks of pure vanilla bean goodness!

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Set aside the custard until cooled to room temperature (preferably poured onto an 8″ plate. This will make your job easier later, as it’s a bit thicker than the spreadable custard). Meanwhile…

2. Prepare the cake.

Sasha with cake

Preheat the oven to 350F. Grease and flour an 8″ cake pan. Insert a circle of parchment paper in the bottom.

Whisk together the flour and baking powder. In a standing mixer, whip the eggs with the sugar on high speed until fluffy and pale yellow. Sream in the water, then fold the flour mixture into the eggs.

Pour into prepared cake pan and bake about 40-45 minutes, or until an inserted toothpick comes out clean.

Let cool completely.

3. Prepare the marzipan

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Mix some food coloring paste into three tubes (21 ounces) of marzipan. You want to make an ounce or two of the marzipan pink, for the flower(s).

Next, work on the green. The best way to do this is to mix the green into a handful of marzipan until smooth. Make it darker than you need (and save a pinch of this dark green for leaves).  Then work this dark green into the remaining marzipan and work until smooth (I believe the proper technique is “break it apart, mash it, break it apart, mash it, and so on until the color is even).

Here’s the colors you end up with:

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If the marzipan gets sticky, use powdered sugar to dust your hands.

4. Roll out the Marzipan

Once the marzipan is really warm from being worked with your hands, roll it out.

Place between two sheets of parchment paper and roll out in a circle, until 2 mm thick and about 16-17″ wide (although you might want to measure your cake after you assemble it, with a tape measure, just in case you need more or less). Remove the parchment paper at the very end and roll it smooth to get rid of any lines the parchment paper may have pressed into the marzipan.

Keep under tightly pressed parchment or saran until needed (so it doesn’t dry out).

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4. Assemble the cake

Now for the fun!

Cut the cake in three even pieces, as show below. Use toothpicks to guide your knife evenly (you can measure up from the bottom of the cake to help you put the toothpicks at the same height all around)

TIP: I doubt you’ll have browned edges, like I did. BUT, if you do, feel free to trim off the browned edges for a more refined look.

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The first layer needs the raspberry jam and  a scoop of whipped cream. Be sure to keep the jam away from the edge of the cake, as I have done. This will help keep it from oozing out once you press the layers together.

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Then add the second layer, the vanilla custard, and then a mini mountain of whipped cream. Use your spatula to smooth it into an even mound. sweden.food.recipe.img_3499

Add the final cake layer, pressing down with your hands on the edges, to encourage it to curve.

(Remember your cake won’t be this dried out)

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Use the last bit of whipped cream to cover the entire cake.

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Cover with marzipan… you might find it tricky to smooth out the marzipan. I did. So I tried again (leaving the original layer on top, so we ended up with a double coating of marzipan – yum!).

You can dust your hands with powdered sugar to keep the marzipan from sticking.

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Decorate with green leaves and a pink flower.
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Enjoy with the easy smile of a Swede.
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So what do you think?

Would you ever attempt this beautiful Swedish Princess Cake?

(I made ALL  the mistakes possible, so you wouldn’t have to, I promise!)

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Comments

  1. I got tired just looking at the process… but you go girl! You didn’t give up and got great results!

  2. Hats off to you! I think the ribbon is a lovely touch, whether hiding mistakes or not :) The cake looks delicious, and very impressed with you doing it 3 times! I always give up and eat the mess of the first mistake for whatever I’m cooking. Someday I’ll have to try and make this cake, and will definitely learn from your mistakes! Thanks!

  3. I have no words… This is something I cannot imagine anyone but a hard-core professional baker attempting, and you did it in a superb, flawless way!

    amazing!

    • Sasha Martin says:

      Thank you! I’d still like to take a fondant type class, because it got pretty rough at times… I have to be honest: the back side of the cake isn’t nearly as picture perfect. :P

      • Nothing like holding the camera at the right angle! :-)

        hey, I don’t care what the back of the cake looked like, you did a fantastic job!!!!

  4. Barbara says:

    Your cake is beautiful!
    I’m a terrible baker but i love raspberries & custard and this cake looks delicious.
    I might try it using a boxed cake mix, cooking it in 3 cake pans to avoid having to cut it.
    I have heard that using dental floss is an easy way to separate a cake though.

    • Sasha Martin says:

      I’ve heard that, too, though I’ve never had it. A regular bread knife works well, for me. If you do divide it before baking, it will cook very quickly, so watch it closely. Enjoy! :)

  5. I have a helpful hint after making hundreds of these tasty cakes. Once you have the cake all assembled (before the marzipan) freeze it for about two hours. It will make the application on the marzipan so much easier. Your cake will be stable to work,with. In fact we used to assemble many of them and pull from the freezer and cover with marzipan as needed. ,

  6. YUM! It looks beautiful! I have never seen a cake like that before! It is so neat and pretty! It looks beyond yummy too!

  7. Brian S. says:

    This is amazing! I’ve wasted some time online trying to find the answer to a question that has intrigued many people. Why is it green? No one knows.

    http://www.cakespy.com/blog/2008/11/12/royal-dilemma-why-is-the-princess-cake-green.html

    • Sasha Martin says:

      ha! Great question. I do know it has a different name when NOT green. A true princess cake is always green.

  8. This is just gorgeous cake. I want some now, please. Like three pieces:)

  9. A cake befitting a princess for sure! :)
    Thanks for working out all of the recipe kinks for us. The end result is stunning.
    Do Swedes safe this cake for a certain holiday or special occasions?

  10. I made princess *cupcakes* for a friend years ago, for her 30th birthday. They were lovely. I have not yet attempted a full size Princes Cake, but I love them. They are gorgeous and delicious, and so very very Swedish. Just looking at them makes me happy.

  11. Yum this is my kinda cake! And you have done the fondant so well! Its flawless!

  12. you did a beautiful job! i wouldn’t even attempt a cake like this!

  13. I have been eying up this cake for a while now and decided to use it as a base for a Bob the Builder cake for my son’s 3rd birthday! Ambitious? Maybe, but as Sasha shows, mistakes can look cool too :-)

  14. Hi! Thanks for posting these very helpful tips. Your cake turned out great. I attempted the cake part first and it came out really dense and eggy flavored, not spongy at all….what did I do wrong? I think that I may not have whipped the eggs and sugar long enough? How many minutes should I mix these ingredients on high in the stand mixer? Thanks for your help!

  15. Dear Sasha,

    This cake features prominently in my husband’s fairy-tale inspired book, FAR FAR AWAY. The Swedish baker in the novel makes irresistible Prinsesstarta, but he starts calling it Prince Cake so the men (and not just the women) will buy it. The cake is so good that it starts to seem magical: “Over the years, certain villagers had grown to believe that whatever living thing was looked upon during the first bite of Prinsesstarta would steal one’s heart.” I’m planning to make the cake for a book event next weekend, and I love, love, love your blog. I have faith that if anyone can teach me to roll out that marzipan correctly, you’re the person. Nevertheless, I’m planning to make it twice–once for practice. Thank you for explaining every step and adding so many pictures.

  16. Ria Witteman says:

    Thank you so much for the great recipe! I am absolutely in love with the entire concept of your website. I made the Princesstarta tonight and it turned out excellently. Now I just need to test it out on my Swedish friends :)

  17. You really did a great job, looks nice.
    And about the cake split into 3 you wrote about, its called: tårtbotten and to be honest, i had no idea it was uncommon. One more thing i like about this cake is the fact that some bakers even do “custom” marzipan and print a picture onto it.

  18. Hello. I made the cake as per your instructions and it turned out well, except that I had extra custard and whipped cream left over. As well, my cake came out looking VERY green! But it assembled fine. We will see how it tastes tonight! Thanks for the recipe. As well, not as difficult as I initially thought it would be.

  19. I use this recipe as a base for a Bob the Builder cake (grasshoppers =green ;-)). I made three square layers. (tripled the recipe). I also used a glutenfree recipe for the sponge. It was a Huge success!
    Thank you!

  20. A few tips from a swede baking this cake. Even if you cake comes out without brown edges most are likely to use a filet knife and take a few millimeter of from the edges. The main principle with the cake itself is that it should be extremely soft all the way through. Secondly the third layer of cake can/should be skipped. On top of the custard you build the dome of hard whipped cream. A normal princess cake should have about 40-50 mm cream between the top layer cake with custard and the “mandelmassa” . Makes it harder to build the nice shape though

  21. Thank you!! You help made this cake much easier then any directions I’ve read before. My cake came out first try!!

  22. This is awesome! I have tried and failed this cake several times so I especially appreciated your “what not to do” insights. I’ve decided it must be the recipe and will try yours instead! Yours turned out beautifully

  23. Catherine says:

    Here’s a hint for rolling Marzipan: When rolling, use a long, straight rolling pin. Place two yard sticks on either side (1/4 inch thick) to use as a gauge for your desired thickness. You’re right that it’s easier when you warm the marzipan with your hands. It’s always good to kneed the stuff before working with it. Then sprinkle corn starch on either side of the marzipan so that it doesn’t stick to the table or your rolling pin. Sprinkle it on very thinly and then spread it around with your hand, lifting up the piece and turning it over as you roll in different directions to get an evenly shaped piece. Use as little corn starch as possible, applying more often instead of in bigger quantities, so as to avoid uneven coloring. But if you happen to get white spots when you’re close to the desired thickness, then just keep rolling over it and it will sort of kneed itself back in.

    Hope that helps!

  24. I enjoyed this cake in Leksand Sweden in May of 2012 in celebration of Princess Estella’s baptism. I appreciate your work, I’m going to try it myself hoping to get it to a point that will allow me to serve it at a baby shower I am hosting in March. Thanks

    • Sasha Martin says:

      Best wishes – do let me know how it goes – and if you take pictures be sure to share them on our Facebook fan page. Cheers!

  25. Hi
    Thank you for sharing the details and hints on making the cake. It makes a world of difference. I want to make it for my daughters birthday, a change from the fondant cakes I make.
    I was apprehensive about making it, all the recipes had syrups and cream domes (no cake layer on top) and just the instructions. I like how you broke it down and gave tips. I never rolled marzipan and don’t know how it will react compared to fondant. Would using fondant be cheating??? (dont know if kids will enjoy marzipan flavour!)
    I like your version, seems perfect for kids and those who never made it before!!!! will be making! thanks again!

  26. Hi Sasha, I just wanted to thank you for putting so much time into making this guide. It was exceedingly helpful. I made my first Princess Cake last night, sticking to your directions to a T. My boyfriend is Swedish and he had mentioned loving this cake before, so for his birthday I wanted to give it a try. I’m not an experienced baker by any means – in fact I had to purchase a cake tin, an icing knife, and a rolling pin just to make it! And I’d never worked with marzipan or any kind of fondant before. But with your guide it’s hard to go wrong. He loved it, it really meant a lot to him and reminded him of where he grew up. Said it tasted as good as any he’d had in Sweden. So, thank you again!

    Here’s a picture of the cake I made:
    http://s12.postimg.org/hfv3merz1/IMG_0477.jpg

  27. Call me crazy but…I live in CA where many bakeries make this cake and our family has enjoyed them for special occasions for years. My daughter lives in NYC and is getting married there in September. She has her heart set on a Princess Cake as a wedding cake and no bakery there has ever heard of them (hello–a market niche for someone, the internet is alive with Californians in NYC looking for them.)

    Anyway, I am going to attempt to do it myself and will make several prototypes here first. I think I can bake the cake part, freeze it and ship it there FedEx along with most of the ingredients and equipment. I will cheat and use a mix for the custard and buy the whipping cream there. My main question is the marzipan: can I mix, color and roll it in California, then wrap it well, freeze it and FedEx it as well? Would that work do you think?

    Many thanks in advance

    • Hey, Vandy,
      I just wanted you to know that the Scandinavian Cultural Center in NYC makes prinsesstarta every single day. It’s a beautiful place to eat, and the cake is delicious. I don’t know if they would sell whole cakes, but you could ask (just in case making and shipping the cake starts to seem overwhelming).

  28. Windy Cook says:

    Hi Sasha Martin,
    I really like princess cake.
    I have a friend with a gluten problem. Have you a recipe for a gluten free princess cake?
    Many thanks,
    Peace,
    Windy

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