princess cake

Prinsesstårta (Princess Cake)

princess cakeThis spring I visited Berlin, which should be the subject of its own post, but one of the strangest parts of the entire trip was ending up at a Berlin IKEA with a herd of goths.  While I was there, I participated in an event for which there was an introductory session for a few hours, then we had to break for dinner before the event itself.  We were way out away from everything and “How to do dinner?” was a challenging question.  The answer was far more surreal than any of us had expected — there was an IKEA (with its cafeteria) within walking distance.  So there we were, probably fifty people, occupying a range from “looks fairly mainstream” to “I know no other color but black,” descending upon IKEA.

It was fantastic fun!  However, since this page is about cooking, how does this relate?  Is this post about Swedish meatballs?  While I should try to make those, it is instead about prinsesstårta, a.k.a. Princess Cake.  

princess cake
The princess cake, live from a Berlin IKEA

I had first heard of prinsesstårta when watching The Great British Bake Off (a show I thought sounded totally boring and pointless until I actually saw it and loved it…) and lo and behold, there in the Berlin IKEA was a tiny one for me to try!  It was amazing.  The texture was soft and a little squishy (which I love!) and I loved the contrasting sweet flavors of the jam and the marzipan.  It was delicious.

princess cakeUpon returning to the US, a friend remarked in passing to me, “Hey, why don’t you make a Princess Cake to our next game night?”  I later learned he was thinking of the small and easily transportable IKEA cakes.  However, I of course mentally jumped immediately to the full-size Mary Berry British Bake Off real deal and set out to make one.  A good friend had just made one as well and I felt it was my time to take up the Princess Cake Challenge.  To make things extra exciting, I also had to make it gluten-free for one of our friends.

princess cakeThe structure of a prinsesstårta according to the BBC is as follows:

  • Layer of thin sponge cake
  • Layer of vanilla custard
  • Layer of raspberry jam
  • Layer of vanilla custard cream (custard mixed with whipped cream)
  • Layer of sponge cake
  • Layer of custard cream
  • Layer of sponge cake
  • Domed layer of whipped cream
  • Layer of green marzipan over entire cake
  • Various decorations on top

princess cakeThis was obviously a bad idea to attempt when I had only five hours before my party.  But sometimes mountains just have to be climbed.  I took two shortcuts:  I bought the jam instead of making it and I used a mix for the cake (which was necessary anyway since it had to be gluten free).

princess cakeEverything went shockingly well until I got to the marzipan.  Making it is extremely easy.  Rolling it out was quite challenging.  It really wanted to stick!  I wanted to roll it out onto my pastry cloth, but I use it for rolling dough containing flour so it was a no-go for my gluten-free cake,  I ended up doing some crazy acrobatics while rolling it out onto a thin plastic cutting board and it tore and didn’t really want to come off.  So sadly my cake was not picture perfect.  Next time I will roll it out onto a giant sheet of wax paper I think.

princess cakeThe cake was HUGE and I couldn’t even put the lid on my cake plate for transport.  All the custard and cream really wanted to spread out and take up all available space.  I was concerned when I eventually cut into it that it would flow everywhere, but actually once the marzipan lid was in place it held its shape very well and cut into beautiful slices with clearly defined layers.

princess cakeBut, really, how did it taste?  It’s hard to explain how delicious I found this cake to be.  I feel pretty comfortable putting it in my top one or two cakes I’ve ever had.  Sweet, but not actually too much so.  Interesting differences in texture between the layers, differences in wetness vs. dryness.  It was truly a remarkable cake.  I want to make it again, but I have to wait for another occasion because it was so delicious I know I would slowly eat my way through the entire giant cake…

If you want to make this yourself, which I highly recommend, read the whole thing before you start, give yourself enough time, and realize that the marzipan rolling is the trickiest part.

I used the following recipe: Mary Berry’s Prinsesstårta from the BBC

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