The Princess Cake – Explained

The Princess Cake is arguably Sweden’s most iconic dessert. Filled with layers of sponge, creme patisserie, whipped cream, and more often than not raspberry jam, it has become popular all over the world, not only because of how it tastes but also how it looks. Presented as a soft, round pillow of pistachio green marzipan graced with a single pink bud, it is the picture of refinement and femininity – beautiful to behold, and delicious to the last bite. For some, that is enough. For the curious eater, however, certain questions present themselves immediately. Why is it called a princess cake or Princesstårta, as it is more commonly referred to in its mother country, and though certainly pretty, why is the cake’s signature color green?

History of the Princess Cake

After some culinary sleuthing we unearthed potential answers for both. The Princess Cake was originally created by Jenny Åkerström in the early 20th century. Cookbook author and home economics expert, Åkerström was also an instructor to the Princesses of Sweden: Margaretha, Märtha and Astrid, daughters to Prince Carl, brother of King Gustaf V.

In 1929, Åkerström published her first cookbook, a weighty series comprised of four volumes dubbed Princesses Cookbook: Home Cooking and Holiday Food and graced the covers with portraits of the princesses. The connection between the princesses and the cookbooks remains unclear, other than its author’s role in their lives as a culinary instructor. Perhaps it was simply a marketing tactic employed by Åkerström to sell more books, a nod to her connections and a little added royal clout to the words and recipes she was putting forth to the general public. Whatever the reasoning, the cookbooks were a great success and were reprinted eighteen times before 1952. Curiously, none of these editions contain a recipe for Princess Cake.

There is mention, however, of three different cakes that Åkerström created, one for each princess. They were elaborate desserts covered in decorations and very hard for any home cook to replicate. Some say that the princess cake was an amalgam of the three, most closely resembling Astrid’s signature confection. While Astrid’s cake was also shaped into a dome, it was decorated with grape segments and leaves and is a far cry from the simple classic Princess Cake of today. On closer inspection, however, we found that the 1948 edition of the Princesses Cookbook contains a recipe for Grön Tårta (or green cake). A quick comparison showed us that it was almost exactly that of the modern Princess Cake, complete with its green marzipan jacket.

Though some assumptions must be made to get from then to now, that original recipe for Green Cake came from the Princesses Cookbook, and it isn’t a far leap to assume that the cake’s rather unappetizing moniker was quickly changed to something more appealing, and what could be more appealing than a princess?

The beautiful green dome from Sweden is the perfect summer cake. Cool and refreshing, it’s not only delicious but a triumph to behold and the perfect addition to any summer menu.

Princess Cake Ingredients

For the vanilla custard:

  • 600ml (20 fl oz) milk
  • 1 vanilla pod, split and scraped, or 1 Tbsp Vanilla Paste
  • 6 egg yolks
  • 100g caster sugar
  • 50g cornstarch
  • 50g unsalted butter

For the jam:

  • 200g raspberries, fresh or frozen and thawed
  • 175g caster sugar

For the sponge:

  • 4 large eggs
  • 150g caster sugar
  • 75g cornstarch
  • 75g all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 50g butter, melted

For the fondant rose:

  • 25g (1oz) pink fondant icing sugar, for dusting

For the marzipan:

  • 400g ground almonds
  • 150g caster sugar
  • 250g confectioner’s sugar, plus extra for dusting
  • 2 medium eggs, beaten
  • 1 tsp almond extract green food coloring paste

Instructions

For the vanilla custard:

Combine the milk, vanilla seeds, and vanilla pod in a heavy-bottomed pan and place over low heat until just simmering. Remove from the heat and allow the cream to sit undisturbed while the vanilla infuses the milk.

In a large bowl, whisk the egg yolks, sugar and cornstarch together until pale and creamy.

Remove the vanilla pod from the warm milk but don’t discard it, you can rinse it and dry it then re-purpose it to make vanilla sugar, or vanilla powder for future recipes. Stir the warm milk slowly into the egg mixture. Pour the mixture back into the pan and cook over low heat for 4-5 minutes and whisk until the mixture thickens.

Remove from the heat and beat in the butter until melted and incorporated. Transfer to a bowl, cover the surface with plastic wrap, pressing the plastic against the surface of the custard to prevent a skin from forming. Set aside to chill in the fridge.

For the jam:

Combine the raspberries into a deep saucepan with the sugar and two tablespoons of water. Cook gently over a low heat, stirring occasionally until the sugar is dissolved. Bring the mixture to a boil and cook for about four minutes, or until the temperature reaches 219 degrees F on a sugar thermometer. Transfer to a heatproof bowl and leave to cool completely.

For the sponge:

Preheat the oven to 350F. Grease and line the base of a (9 in) springform tin with baking parchment.

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Put the eggs and sugar into a large bowl and using an electric mixer, whisk together until the mixture is very pale and thick and the whisk leaves a trail on the surface when lifted. This will take about five minutes.

Sift the cornstarch, flour, and baking powder over the egg mixture and carefully fold in using a large metal spoon. Fold in the melted butter, taking care not to over mix.

Pour the mixture into the lined tin and bake for 25-30 minutes until the sponge is golden-brown and has just started to shrink away from the sides of the tin. Remove from the oven and set aside to cool. When cool enough to handle, turn out on to a wire rack to cool completely.

For the fondant rose, roll 10 little pieces of fondant into small balls about the size of a cherry stone.

Dust two small pieces of grease-proof paper with icing sugar and one by one, place the balls of fondant between the sheets of grease-proof paper and flatten each ball out with your fingers, to a thin circle, approximately 2cm/1in in diameter. These form the petals. Roll the first petal up like a sausage to form a bud and wrap the remaining petals around the bud to make a rose. Bend and curl the edges of the petals, to make them look more realistic. Leave to dry for at least an hour.

To assemble the cake, using a serrated knife, cut the cake horizontally into three even layers. Place one of the sponges onto a serving plate. Spread a very thin layer of custard over the base of the first sponge.

Spoon a quarter of the custard into a piping bag fitted with a small plain nozzle and pipe a border around the edge of the sponge – this is to contain the jam. Spoon the jam over the sponge and spread evenly within the border.

In a bowl, whip 600ml of the heavy whipping cream to firm peaks. Fold half of the whipped cream into the remaining custard. Spread half of the custard cream over the jam.

Place the second sponge on top and spread the remaining custard cream over and smooth into a dome. Place the third sponge on top. Set aside in the fridge for an hour.

For the marzipan, mix the ground almonds and sugars in a mixer fitted with a dough hook, before adding the eggs and almond extract.

Knead in the bowl until it forms a stiff dough. Turn out onto a surface dusted with icing sugar. Using a cocktail stick add a tiny amount of green food coloring and knead to an even pastel green color.

Roll out the marzipan on a surface lightly dusted with icing sugar, large enough to cover the cake. Lift the marzipan up over the cake and using your hands, shape the marzipan around the sides of the cake to get a smooth finish. Trim any excess. Top with the fondant rose.

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Hannah Abaffy

Hannah Abaffy

Pastry Chef & Recipe Development

Hannah Abaffy is a pastry chef and an active member of the culinary community. From working in kitchens to developing recipes, and creating menus for restaurants, she has been involved with food in one capacity or another for the past decade. After starting a food history blog, Hannah has been continuously writing and learning about the ever-changing realm of cuisine, its history, and its future. Since then her appetite to learn about and share all things that touch upon the world of food can only be described as voracious.

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