Is there a birthday party, graduation or special event that's complete in Scandinavia without the beautiful showstopper that is prinsesstårta?? I think not!
This striking Swedish cake first appeared in 1929 and was the imaginative creations of Jenny Åkerström who was the teacher of the three daughters of the Swedish Prince Carl, Duke of Västergötland. Åkerström produced a cookbook called Prinsessornas Kokbok and the cake was originally called "grøn tårta" (green cake) because of the colour of the marzipan coating. But it gradually came to be known as prinsesstårta as the three little princesses loved it so much.
Those same little princesses grew up to be Princess Margaretha (Princess of Denmark), Princess Mårtha (Crown Princess of Norway) and Princess Astrid (Queen of Belgium), marrying into other European royal families as has been the custom for hundreds of years in Europe. In so doing they took their love of this beautiful cake all over Europe and it became one our continent's favourites.
As fabulous as it looks, princesstårta is actually not a difficult cake to make. It comprises of layers of soft sponge, jam and pastry cream mixed with whipped cream and covered in green marzipan. Originally the filling would not have contained jam, but that's an adaptation that evolved over time and raspberry jam (the most usual jam filling) is such a popular flavour in Scandinavia that it's only natural that it should be found here. I like it in my prinsesstårta for the colour it gives the cake and the slight sharpness that cuts through the rich creamy filling.
But Why Green???
Apparently three cakes were made (one for each of the princesses) and were hugely elaborate (far more elaborate than the average home cook would produce). The elements of all three cakes were captured by Swedish baker Annika Larsson at Grillska Konditoriet in Stockholm. She cleverly combined all three fabulous cakes into one beauty. The question of the colour green still remains. It's been said that maybe its because it reminds us of spring or simply that Larsson had too much green food colour left over and wanted to use it up! (we've all been there!!).
Since it's creation prinsesstårta has remained a favourite at birthdays, graduations and special parties and it's certainly a regular at birthdays in my own home.
NOTE: I ma including my own recipe for a cake base, which is a soft traditional vanilla sponge. However if you'd like to keep it more traditionally Nordic you can use a sukkerbrød recipe which you will find at the link here.
Prinsesstårta. Serves 6-8 people
For the cake
175g / 6 oz sugar
175g / 6 oz butter
1 teaspoon vanilla essence
175g / 6 oz plain, all purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
For the crème patissiere (pastry cream)
A NOTE: You don't have to make this yourself, if you'd prefer to use ready made
300ml / 1/2 pint milk
1 egg yolk
55g / 2 oz sugar
25g / 1 oz plain all purpose flour
1 teaspoon vanilla essence
200ml / 7 fl oz heavy or double cream
3 tablespoons raspberry jam
300g / 10 oz marzipan coloured green
Pink marzipan or fondant flower
To make the cake
Preheat oven to 175C / 345F.
First prepare an 7 inch circular cake tin by greasing it and lining the bottom with a circle of baking or greaseproof paper. In a large bowl beat together the butter, sugar and vanilla until light and fluffy and pale in colour. Gradually add the eggs one a time and beating well between each addition. Sift the flour and baking powder together and fold it into the egg mixture a spoonful at a time. Spoon into the cake tin, smooth the top and bake in the centre of the oven for about 25 minutes until a golden brown and rebounds to a light touch. Cool for a few minutes in the tin before running a palette knife around the inside to loosen the cake and turning out onto a wire rack to cool completely.
To make the crème patissiere
Warm the milk in a pan over a medium heat. In a bowl mix together the egg, egg yolk, sugar, flour and vanilla. Once the milk is steaming pour it over the egg mixture beating as you do it. Pour this back into a clean pan and bring to a gentle boil over a low heat stirring constantly. Simmer for a couple of minutes until the flour has cooked out (you can have a little taste just to be sure!). Pour the crème patissiere into a bowl and cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until completely cold.
To assemble the cake
Cut the cake horizontally into three pieces (so three equal circles of cake).
Whip the cream to stiff peaks and fold into the crème patissiere (you might like to give this a good beat first just to be sure there are no lumps. Put a little to one side for decorating later.
Place one circle of cake on your serving plate and cover the cake with a nice think layer of the cream mix. Place the next cake layer on top and cover this with raspberry jam. Put the last layer of cake on top. Using the cream mix and a flat knife or palette knife make a dome of cream on the top of the cake. I like to spread some around the sides as well to "glue" the marzipan on later).
Lightly dust the work surface with some icing sugar and roll out the marzipan until it's slightly wider than your cake. Carefully lift onto the cake and ease it down over the edges, tucking it into the bottom of the cake and pressing all around the bottom to seal. Trim off the excess.
Using the cream mixture that you kept back, pipe little stars around the bottom of the cake.
Decorate with a marzipan flower on the top and dust lightly with powdered sugar.
Time to wow your guests with some Swedish beauty!!
Vær så god!
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