“Happiness is knowing there is cake in the oven.” -unknown
At last, it is springtime, which of course calls for cake. I’ll be honest, no matter what time of the year it is I feel like it is a good time for cake. But this cake is special. It is a version of the Swiss princess cake, originally called Prinsesstårta. It can be made for an easter celebration, mother’s day, a birthday, or any type of gathering. Whatever you do this cake demands an audience. It is a showstopper with its bold color outside, neat layers of cream, sponge, and deep-colored jam on the inside.
There are six different components to this cake, which makes baking it a process, but the result is oh so worth all the trouble. The first task to tackle is a custard that should be thick and have a strong vanilla flavor. Next is making a jam that is firm enough to go into the layers of the cake and not ooze out when eating it. Finally making the sponge is a little bit challenging, as you do not want to knock the air out in order to create light cake layers that will give the overall cake its height. After all that this cake also features some whipped cream and marzipan on the top. Together these different elements create a beautiful spring harmony.
Traditionally a Prinsesstårta would have green marzipan and be decorated with some chocolate work on the top and occasionally a fondant pink rose. Inside the traditional jam to use is raspberry, with a plain custard, and a nondescript genoise sponge. For this recipe, I’ve added some orange zest to the sponge which complements the blackberry and bay leaf jam. I’ve also chosen to add some vanilla paste to the custard because who else doesn’t enjoy an extra bit of sweetness? Having the marzipan a strong purple color completes this alternative look, plus it reminds me of violets blooming this time of year.
I do hope that this cake is featured at your own dessert table. Even without any particular occasion, this cake can be enjoyed as we, hopefully, come into warmer weather.
Ingredients for Vanilla Custard
1 ¼ cups whole milk
1 ½ teaspoons vanilla paste
3 extra-large egg yolks
¼ cup of sugar
¼ cup cornstarch
2 Tablespoons unsalted butter
Ingredients for the Blackberry and Bay Leaf Jam
1 ⅓ cups of blackberries
4 fresh bay leaves
1 ¼ cups of sugar
Ingredients for the Sponge
4 extra-large eggs
¾ cups of sugar
⅔ cup cornstarch, sifted
½ cup plus 2 Tablespoons flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
3 Tablespoon unsalted butter, melted
¼ cup of orange zest
Ingredients for Filling
2 ½ cups of heavy cream
1 Tablespoon sugar
Ingredients for the Marzipan
2 cups ground almonds
6 Tablespoons sugar
1 cup of powdered sugar, sifted
1 extra-large egg
1 teaspoon almond extract
Purple food-coloring paste
Start by making the custard: pour the milk into a pot with the vanilla seeds and pods and place over low heat for 2-3 minutes, until just simmering. Remove from heat and set aside.
In a large bowl whisk the egg yolks, sugar, and cornstarch together until pale and creamy.
Stir the warm milk slowly into the egg mixture. Pour the mixture back into the pot and cook over low heat for 4-5 minutes, whisking until the mixture thickens.
Remove the pot from heat and beat in the butter until melted and incorporated. Transfer custard into a bowl and cover to prevent skin from forming. Put in the fridge to chill.
Next make the jam: In a medium-size pot put in the blackberries with the sugar. Let it sit for the juices to secrete for about 30 minutes. Add the bay leaves and cook gently over medium heat, stirring occasionally for about 25 minutes. (Note: test to see if the jam is thick enough by putting a drop of jam onto a plate, then after it has cooled, drag your finger through it. If the jam fills back in, it is done.)
Preheat the oven to 350, then start making the sponge: whisk the eggs and sugar on high speed until the mixture is foamy, and leave a ribbon trail when the whisk is lifted.
Add cornstarch, flour, and baking powder to the egg mixture and fold using a large spoon. Fold in the melted butter and orange zest, making sure to keep as much air in the mixture as possible.
Pour mixture into a 9in springform pan. Bake for 25-30 minutes, then let cool (Note: a 9 in” springform pan is preferred but can use three round cake tins, bake each sponge for about 20 minutes).
Assemble the cake: cut into three equal layers. Place the first layer on a serving plate. Spread a thin layer of the custard on the sponge. Using only a quarter of the custard pipe a border around the edge of the sponge, creating a wall to put the jam into the center.
In a bowl whip the cream adding the sugar slowly to create whipped cream. Fold half of the whipped cream into the remaining custard and spread one-third of the custard cream over the jam. Place the second layer of sponge on top, and spread with the rest of the custard cream.
Place the third sponge on top and use the remaining whipped cream to spread on the sides and create a dome shape on the top with a spoon. Chill in the fridge for 1 hour.
While the cake is chilling make the marzipan: mix the ground almonds and sugars together in a bowl with a dough hook. Add the egg and almond extract and mix until a stiff dough forms (Note: this will take seconds).
Turn out your marzipan onto a surface that is dusted with powdered sugar. Using a toothpick, add some purple food coloring and knead the color so it is spread evenly throughout.
Roll out the marzipan into a 16 in” circle. Lift the marzipan up and over the cake and shape it around the sides to get a smooth finish, making sure to trim any excess.