Thursday, April 23, 2009

How to Bake A Princesstårta Cake

When I first saw a Princesstårta I fell in love, they are so beautiful, so delica
te, so Princess-like! They are a pale green, domed fondant (or marzipan) covered cake decorated with a rose on top. Inside they feature layers of sponge cake, vanilla custard, raspberry jam and artfully sculpted whipped cream. I mentioned my princess cake quest previously, and below are all the details.

Princesstårtor are popular cakes in Sweden, and since I had never seen one before
I figured the only way I would get to try one was to make it myself (apparently though they can be had frozen from IKEA). I also was very attracted to the pink-hued variety, but in Sweden they are referred to as Opera Cakes (Carl Gustav cakes are yellow, in honor of their king)... and that just isn't as romantic to eat as a Princess Cake.

First off, let me preface this by saying this was my first experience with fondant and converting from metric measurements. I am not anxious to repeat either anytime soon. Or maybe I should be, since I obviously need practice (and patience).

I began my Princess Cake adventure in the obvious place... by baking the cake. The research I did suggested that a light and airy sponge cake was the traditional choice... which meant no butter (blah). I found a traditional Swedish cake recipe and converted the grams and mililiters to tablespoons and cups, etc. Obviously, I did something incorrect... or the Swedes like them some flat little tasteless cakes... let's just leave it at that. I am not going to write the recipe here because it was not good.

INSTEAD, let me advise you to begin your own journey by making a normal sponge cake using an American recipe (if you're American, that is). OR, use a boxed yellow cake mix... trust me it would come out fine and we don't really need total authenticity. I would much rather have yummy than authentic, and sponges aren't the tastiest cake IMHO.

To achieve the height and shape I used a pie pan and a normal cake pan, intending the cut the cake pan one in half (it was too short for that, sadly). With your NORMAL cake, it would be even easier if you used a pie pan and 2 cake pans for the requisite three layers... just divide the mix between the three... bake the cakes first and then the pie plate (for a bit less time as it's smaller). Invert the cakes onto cooling racks and let's move on to the next step.

I decided to go for custard next. Custard is called for on the second filling layer, and I decided to make some from scratch. You can also use vanilla pudding (instant box mix, whatever makes you happy). I'm not thrilled with this custard, again it is using converted measurements. It came out okay but ... maybe its my American palate, I like things a bit sweeter and more creamy.

Here's the recipe anyway if you want to go for the authentic:
  • Score a vanilla bean into a large sauce pot, drop in the bean
  • Add 1 cup of whole milk, bring to a boil
  • Remove vanilla milk from heat once boiled and let infuse for 10 minutes
  • Mix 3 egg yolks, 1/4 cup of sugar and 1.5 tbsp corn starch in a separate bowl
  • After 10 minutes slowly poor the hot milk over the egg mixture and stir
  • Pour mix back into pot and return to stove on high
  • Stir constantly, it will thicken just after it begins to boil
  • Once it thickens remove immediately from heat, and beat in 1 tbsp butter
  • Immediately strain (or plop) into a bowl and cover with plastic wrap to avoid a skin
  • Cool bowl in a cold water bath and/or fridge
I bathed the bowl and then put it in the fridge until I was done with the fondant, and by that time it was pretty much all cooled. Next... FONDANT. I decided to go with marshmallow fondant because... it seemed easier and supposedly tastes better. Not easier than buying it like a normal sane person... but I certainly wasn't making a trip to a craft store to get some. :) Next time, I might...

To make the marshmallow fondant I grabbed a big microwave-safe bowl, poured in a
10.5 oz bag of mini marshmallows, sprinkled 2 tbsp of water over them and cooked for 2 minutes until they were all puffy. Like for krispy treats. Then, I took them out, and stirred them up. This was the point at which I was apparently supposed to add food coloring, which I forgot. I ALSO forgot to add almond extract, which was my intention... to make the fondant taste more like the traditional marzipan. Try this, I think it would be tasty.

Alright, now came the unpleasant part. You are supposed to grease yourself, a big spoon, your counter, and everything in sight. (It doesn't help so don't bother, unless maybe it will help for you, then go ahead.) Then you add in about half a pound of confectioner's (powdered) sugar, a bit at a time, stirring until it forms a dough. It was extremely hard to stir, so I resorted to hand kneading it... unfortunately you have to add TONS of confectioners sugar before it gets doughy enough not to be impossible to stir/knead. You then knead it like a dough, continuing to add more sugar (like you would flour to dough) until it is no longer sticky. I don't think I ever reached that point, and I was at it a LONG time.

This is when I remembered it was supposed to be green... so I added food coloring (still on my hands, I might add) but decided to skip the extract. Finally I decided it was time to roll out, as bed time was getting close. I coated a rolling pin in powdered sugar, and attempted to coat the counter in it too, and still my sheet of fondant kept sticking. Finally I made it work ... and then realized I hadn't assembled the cake yet. Bollocks!

Quickly I whipped up a batch of whipped cream. Super easy, ju
st pour heavy cream/whipping cream into your mixer, beat it, pour in a little sugar, splash in a little vanilla, and keep beating it on high speed until it forms stiff peaks. Stop if you think you're done and test it with your finger... you don't want to overdo it or you'll have butter.


To bring your creation together, take one of your cooled round cakes and slather it with raspberry jam. Be generous, it is the most flavorful part of the cake. You can then add a splat of whipped cream if you made a lot, or a bit of custard. Next, top with the second cake, and smother that with custard. Frost the whole thing with the custard, getting it down the sides and into the previous layer. Then, put the pie pan layer on the top, with the smaller side facing upwards to form a bit of a dome shape. You can add another bit of jam and custard if you like.

To get the dome shape, take your fresh whipped cream and splat it on the top, piling it up in the middle. Use a spatula and frost the cake into a dome. You can bring whipped cream down over the sides to make a more pleasing shape, but make sure the top is rounded and dome-like. The dome is key!

Alright, now we're ready for fondant/marzipan covering. I re-sugared everything, managed to somehow roll out a huge sheet of fondant, smoothed off all the stray sugar, rolled it carefully around my rolling pin, brought it over to the cake and had julie hold one side of it while I carefully draped the fondant sheet over the side of the cake.

I was shocked, the fondant actually went on so easily! It was still very pliable so I just smoothed it down over the sides, pressing it into the cake plate at the bottom and making sure there were no unsightly wrinkles which was very easy to do, it just stretched out. Then I took a sharp knife and cut around the base, removing the (tons) of excess fondant. I also colored a bit of the fondant pink and made a quick and kind of deranged looking rose, which I put on the center of the cake (you can use a real rose too, apparently).

Finally, I cleaned the cake plate and sprinkled a powdered su
gar snowfall over the top of the cake to make it all nice and pretty. I've seen a lot of pictures where people use stencils to shape the powdered sugar and this looks really pretty, especially a stem and leaves for the rose. Also, a lot of people use a length of ribbon around the cake's base, or pipe a bit of white frosting around it. At this point though, I was done!

All that was left was to take a bunch of pictures, then mutilate my creation! I don't have any super sharp big knives at the moment, which would have helped, but it cut pretty easily with a semi-dull knife and retained it's unique shape. It's been sitting in the fridge now for two days, with plastic wrap pressed to the exposed innards, and it is still the same exact shape, so it does store no matter what people might say.

There, I hope you enjoyed my little, slightly unsuccessful journey. I am quite proud I managed to make it at all, and it did come out pretty. Unfortunately,
mine did not taste as good as it looks, and you can see how flat and dense the cakes came out. In the future I would probably just use a normal yellow cake divided into the three pans, a quick custard or vanilla pudding and way more raspberry jam. Oh, and marzipan instead of fondant.


Melissa said...

Hi Em! I should have commented before this, I'm always checking your blog. But I just HAD to say something! This cake is AMAZING! It really is beautiful and you should be proud of it! Hope to talk to you soon!


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