A Surprisingly Simple Layer Cake, Frosted With Magic (Basically)

December 22, 2017

If you like the flavor of almond, this is your cake. If you like pastry cream and custard-y sweets (think vanilla bean-flecked creme brûlée), this is your cake. If you like astoundingly delicious desserts that happen to be light and delicate and easy to eat three slices of, then this is definitely your cake.

I'll have another two, please. Photo by Posie Harwood
...and another. Photo by Posie Harwood

A classic Swedish recipe, this cake (known as mandeltårta in Sweden) is remarkable in a few ways. For starters, the layers are essentially oversized macarons. The batter consists mainly of sugar, beaten egg whites, and almond flour (there's a few tablespoons of all-purpose flour and some almond extract in there, too), yielding a cake that's chewy and nutty and reminiscent of those classic almond cookies. With just a touch of flour, it's light and doesn't leave you feeling weighed down the way a slab of chocolate layer cake would.

Photo by Posie Harwood

Then there's the icing: a billowy dream of a frosting that uses a very cool method. First, you make a classic vanilla bean custard by whisking hot cream with sugar into egg yolks and cooking it over low heat until it thickens and coats a spoon. You chill the custard until cold, then beat it into softened butter with a pinch of salt.

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The frosting is ridiculously good and unlike anything I've tasted: like custard, but with the airy, whipped texture of an Italian buttercream. It's the perfect partner for the moist, nearly flourless cake which would be too delicate for a heavier, richer frosting.

Photo by Posie Harwood

Give this cake a try. It's one of my very favorite (and most surprising) things I've baked in 2017, and I promise you'll be bookmarking the recipe (especially the frosting!) to make again and again in the year ahead.

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • Emilio Casillas
    Emilio Casillas
  • Bonnie Duckworth Strawser
    Bonnie Duckworth Strawser
  • Joe
  • Andrea Wackerle
    Andrea Wackerle
  • Ingrid DeLeon
    Ingrid DeLeon
I like warm homemade bread slathered with fresh raw milk butter, ice cream in all seasons, the smell of garlic in olive oil, and sugar snap peas fresh off the vine.


Emilio C. June 26, 2023
I LOVE this cake as is, but it's raspberry season and would love to incorporate fresh raspberries into this somehow. Any ideas?

I'm thinking of replacing the middle custard layer with a raspberry filling, and decorating the top with fresh raspberries.
Bonnie D. December 29, 2019
Could you please convert the topping from metric.
Joe May 27, 2019
This cake sucks. It comes out like an crumbly tortilla. Flavor is far from great-although the frosting is excellent.
Mickie November 30, 2019
That’s rude!
Steven W. December 9, 2020
User error, Joe?
Andrea W. January 1, 2019
Can you make this gluten free? There is so little flour...
Lucia P. January 5, 2020
Use all purpose gluten free flour if you want it to be GF
Ingrid D. December 29, 2018
Really quick to come together, for me, start to finish was about 2 hours. Wish I could post a photo of my cake. Also, I doubled the recipe and baked in 2 10" round pans sprayed with a parchment circle on the bottom. Came out beautifully!
Marlene M. March 12, 2018
This cake was delicious! I also thought 2.5 tablespoons of cornstarch couldn’t possibly be right, so I cut it down. Honestly in future I’d probably make a no cornstarch custard, because I don’t care for the texture cornstarch gives. But my friends just loved this cake and ate every scrap! I will make it again.
Charlotte H. February 26, 2018
I made this cake and I have to say that it did not turn out well at all. First of all the cake stuck to the pan (I can correct that with the use of parchment) but ARE YOU SURE that I should use 2-1/2 TABLESPOONS of cornstarch. The liquid mixture immediately turned into a dough-like consistency. It went WAY past coating the back of a spoon. I could have plastered a wall with it. Please check on this. . .
Charlotte H. February 26, 2018
I was referring to the cornstarch in the frosting. . .
Posie (. February 26, 2018
Hi Charlotte--updated, that should be 2 1/2 teaspoons of cornstarch! Hope that gives you a much better result!!
Charlotte H. February 26, 2018
I'm surprised there were not more complaints about it. teaspoons sound right!
Melanie January 13, 2018
It would be nice if the author or an editor could take the time to make the conversions to non-metric measurements available, too.
Laura L. January 23, 2018
The best way to bake is by weighing and kitchen scales switch easily from imperial to metric and back.
Sheri January 12, 2018
I would love to make this. It looks and sounds amazing. But could you convert the metric measurements to cups and oz.? I have yet to bake something successfully when I’ve tried to convert the measurements. Something is always off.
BBuchanan December 24, 2017
I haven't made this cake (yet); however, I felt I had to comment and at the very least, say, "Thank you!", for using photos of a cake that looks like a cake I would bake at home, versus one that has been made in some completely sterilized professionally equipped, and staffed, million dollar kitchen (or a kitchen belonging to a professional expert chef or pastry chef, such as yourself, where the cakes are always leveled perfectlt flat on top and bottom, and sides, with equal portions and sizes, and always, perfectly round, or perfectly square, and each layer is a scrumptious four fingers thick, and it is drapped in so much professional fondant, flowers, frills, and delectable decor, that any drag queen would be proud to wear it as their evening tiara), Not that there is anything wrong with professional chefs or pastry chef cakes, far from it, for they are the precise, perfection, and Mt. Everest we home cooks aspire; however, sadly, it is an 'aspiration', and one rarely attainable to those of the regular humn variety (versus the super human variety to which professional pastry chefs and chefs belong) for whom food is a delight, but on the daily life priority list, is located somewhere between, remembering where you last left your iPhone, getting the kids, spouse, fog, cat, bird, fish, and local reptile, etc., (for those whom it applies), out of bed, washed enough that they don't look as if they are neglected, fed something that is delicious, nutritous, fun, or fabulous (but, hopefully, accepted by all), off to work/school/sports/activities/homework, business meetings, fed (again, hopefully, 2 outta 4 not complaining), washed, picked up after, and once more put to bed, and Oh yeah, Where did I put that stupid phone?!...before your own head hits the bed in a tired stuppor..A least, I would imagine such a scenerio applies to many a reader...My point being, I love that your cake looks "do able" at a lay person's experience level while looking yummily appetizing, and certainly fitting of your written description, so, "Thank you!"