Meet the Princess Cake: A Scandinavian Showstopper for Almond Lovers

December 28, 2017

I first saw this cake during a technical challenge on the Great British Bake Off and was immediately smitten. Fine, obsessed. How could I not be? The domed treat is composed of all of my favorite dessert things: light, spongy cake, rich pastry cream, jam, and, oh yeah, green marzipan! (I didn't even know that green marzipan was one of my favorite dessert things until I stumbled upon this cake, but now it's definitely up there.)

From what I've read, Swedish Princess Cake ( or princesstårta) is a traditional Swedish celebration cake, typically eaten on national holidays. It has been around since the 1930s but is still a favorite for birthdays and other events that call for a beautiful, hulking dome of a cake.

If you like almonds, festivities, and desserts that are just shy of over-the-top, give this project of a recipe a try. It would be the perfect way to ring in the New Year (hint, hint):

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I'm not going to lie to you: this cake is a project. It requires some advanced planning and a few separate components, some of which need to chill. However, several of the steps can be done way ahead of time, and you can substitute your favorite pudding, cake, and jam recipes in for the ones called for in the recipe. Feel free to customize this dessert to your whims: make the marzipan blue instead of green, top it with a sunflower instead of a rose, or go full-on Molly Yeh and make them mini!. Let's do this:

Yes, it's a project. But worth it. Photo by Rocky Luten

First step: Make a simple vanilla custard thickened with cornstarch, set it in the fridge to chill for at least an hour, or overnight.

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Top Comment:
“First had it at my sister's 40th and her MIL bought her this cake from Sweet Lady Jane Bakery in LA. Amazing cake and so delicious (checks all the boxes for me) that I probably had about 1/3 of that 10-inch cake. It's worth the effort.”
— HalfPint

Next, whip up a light sponge cake flavored with almond extract; sort of like angel-food but with a little more richness and heft. This can be made a day or two ahead of time and wrapped tightly in clingfilm until ready for assembly.

Whip heavy cream to stiff peaks with a bit of sugar. Take half of the whipped cream and fold it into the chilled custard to create a rich, airy filling. Set the other half aside, reserving one cup for final piping work at the end.

Look! You're already halfway there. Photo by Mark Weinberg, James Ransom

Set out your jam of choice and prepare to assemble! Using a serrated knife, carefully cut the cooled sponge cake into three equal layers. Set the bottom one on a serving platter or cake stand and spread it with a thin layer of jam (I used rapsberry), then top it with half of the custard-whipped cream mixture. Top with the next layer of cake and repeat, trying not to push down too hard and squish out the filling below. Crown the cake with the final cake layer. If some of the filling squishes out of the edges of the cake, simply run your spatula around the outside to smooth it out. It will all be covered with marzipan, anyway!

Using a rubber spatula, plop the remaining half of the whipped cream (minus the one cup you reserved) onto the top cake layer and carefully spread it into a rough dome shape. Pop the cake into the fridge and let it chill for at least one hour.

Meanwhile, it's time to get creative with some food dye!

To make the rose—the crown jewel of your prinsesstårta—first whip up a simple fondant (you can use store-bought as well) by microwaving mini marshmallows until melted and combining them with powdered sugar until smooth and pliant. Knead in red food coloring (gel, not liquid!) drop by drop until you have your desired shade of pink. Dust two small pieces of parchment or waxed paper with powdered sugar and one by one, place the balls of fondant between the sheets of greaseproof paper and flatten each ball out with your fingers to make thin circles, about 1-inch in diameter (these are the petals of your rose). Roll the first petal up to form a center bud and wrap the remaining ones around the bud to make a rose. Leave to dry at room temperature for at least an hour.

Knead your marzipan on a clean countertop until pliable. Add a dot or two of green food coloring (again: Gel, not liquid!) and knead until the color is evenly distributed. Gradually add dye, a drop or two at a time, until you have your desired shade of green; the traditional hue is somewhere between lime and pistachio. Place the marzipan between two sheets of waxed paper and roll into a circle large enough to generously cover the cake.

Take the layered cake out of the fridge and gently drape the marzipan over the whipped cream dome, shaping and smoothing it to get a clean appearance. Trim the edges and, if you're me, eat them gleefully. Fill a pastry bag fitted with a small star tip with the reserved cup of whipped cream and pipe a row of stars around the edge of the cake to hide any imperfections.

Now, for the finishing touch (yes, you can skip it if you've reached your personal decorating quota): Melt a few ounces of bittersweet chocolate in a double boiler or in the microwave in 10-second increments. Fashion a skinny-tipped cone with parchment paper (alternatively you could use a pastry bag, but using parchment paper is quick clean up) and fill it with the melted chocolate. Snip off the tip to create a makeshift pastry bag. Carefully pipe the chocolate over the top of the cake in a swirl or curlicue, or whatever shape your heart desires. Top with the pink rose in the center.

The cake keeps in the fridge for three days, but once you cut in, there's no chance it will make it that long.

What over-the-top baking creations have you tackled lately (or are on your to-do list)? Share your triumphs in the comments section!

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A New Way to Dinner, co-authored by Food52's founders Amanda Hesser and Merrill Stubbs, is an indispensable playbook for stress-free meal-planning (hint: cook foundational dishes on the weekend and mix and match ‘em through the week).

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See what other Food52 readers are saying.

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jaerae January 7, 2018
there is a German bakery in Kirkland WA that makes them. I had no idea of the provenance. They don't color the Marzipan. We used to get them every year for my daughter's birthday. Never thought of making one. How cool is this?
Louise January 5, 2018
Hi everyone! I live in Sweden and of course also I love the Princesstårta!
Maybe funny to tell you all ...... When we here celibrate Easter, we use yellow marzipan and with Christmas red Marzipan. The rest of the year it is green marzipan !
Kathy G. January 4, 2018
I love Princess cake, this Christmas I finally fulfilled a long time wish and made a chestnut flour Yule log with chestnut meringue mushrooms sugared cranberries and marron glacé
Vanessa January 4, 2018
My dad (he is from Sweden) and I used to make a gigantic princess torte every year for my parents garden party. We would jump for joy when we placed the marzipan over the cake without it breaking! The green is a must. Thanks for the great memories!
HalfPint December 29, 2017
This is probably my favorite cake. First had it at my sister's 40th and her MIL bought her this cake from Sweet Lady Jane Bakery in LA. Amazing cake and so delicious (checks all the boxes for me) that I probably had about 1/3 of that 10-inch cake. It's worth the effort.
Catherine L. December 30, 2017
Agreed—I had it for the first time a few weeks ago when testing this recipe and instantly decided it would be my go-to birthday/celebration cake. It is so, so worth it.
Danny J. December 29, 2017
I love this type of foods..It looks sooo yami.
Elizabeth C. December 29, 2017
I've made this for Halloween- cake and cream chocolate, fondant orange, and piped a chocolate spiderweb. It was a total showstopper and, if you give yourself enough time, really not that hard.
brunchwear December 28, 2017
Sometimes you can get individual sized princess cakes at the cafeteria at ikea. I wish there was somewhere else I could acquire them.
noms March 28, 2018
Ikea sells them in the frozen food section, if your Ikea has one (packages of 4!)
brunchwear March 28, 2018
I’ve never actually looked in the frozen section! I’m decently going to next time I go. Thank you for this information.