Martin’s birthday was a couple of weeks ago and he opted to spend it chasing a wiffle ball around a gym (note: photo is not of Martin).  I opted to spend it running errands and baking a bona fide birthday cake.  For various reasons, in the end, we were both exhausted from our productive (?) activities.

For my part, I took the Princesstårta recipe from the Swedish cookbook Martin’s parents gifted me years ago.  I think there may have been some things lost in translation.  Either that, or the memory of a million princess cakes flows through the veins of all Swedes and they don’t need things like “recipes” or “directions” when it comes to this yummy concoction.  I’m not Swedish, so I followed the recipe to the best of my ability and essentially baked a pancake and stiff, somewhat bland whipped cream.  I know the stiffness of the cream comes from the three (yes, three!) packets of gelatin the recipe calls for and my pancake came from the line: “Beat eggs and sugar until thick and fluffy.”

Well, I beat those eggs, looked at it and thought, “Ehhhh, why not?” (this is a theme for me when it comes to baking this cake) and threw it in the oven, where it chose not to rise at all.

So I did what any OCD-perfectionist baker would do.  I told myself not to cry, threw it all in the trash and started over with a new recipe.  Specifically, Martha’s.  I’ve never met her but I have heard rumors that she is also a bit of an OCD-perfectionist baker.

Armed with my new recipe, I now knew where I messed up.  See the proof:

I ended up remaking the entire cake because shortly after throwing the second set of cakes into the oven, I tasted the original whipped cream I made and while the gelatin was a great stabilizer, it also made the whipped cream taste off for some reason.

Because I’m crazy, I also made my own marzipan.  I had forgotten to buy it and used Google to determine whether or not I could substitute almond paste.  I couldn’t, but I could make my own marzipan from said almond paste.  Good enough for me and a snap with a stand mixer.

Marzipan:  The official recipe is 1 lb. almond paste, 1 lb. confectioners sugar and 1/3 cup corn syrup.

I did end up tweaking the Martha Stewart recipe.  I combined the vanilla pastry cream and whipped cream because – why not?  I wanted a uniform cream, not a thick cream covered by whipped cream.  I skipped the simple syrup and spread a generous layer of strawberry jam on each cake layer.  I also split the batter between two 9″ cake pans rather than cutting circular cakes from a rectangular cake sheet.  And even though Martha Stewart’s recipe states to “reserve the fourth [cake circle] for another use,” I thought, “What am I going to do with another cake circle?” and just made a giant-freaking-princess cake.

The end result, I thought, was pretty good.  I think you could feasibly cut back significantly on the amount of whipped cream as I had a lot leftover even with generous spreading.  Also, in the future, it would help to make sure the cake is very cold, I think that is the only way to get the “smooth” marzipan look that princess cakes are known for.  As for mine, I felt like it basically just looked like a giant, messy M&M.  See for yourself:

So I’m posting the recipe here, because I made some modifications that I’d like to remember.  I kind of want to post the one from the Swedish cookbook, so that you can see the level of detail I first got versus the level of detail I apparently need.  But all in due time, folks.

Modified from Martha Stewart

Genoise Cake (if only the Swedish cookbook had called it this!)
1-1/4 cups cake flour (or 18 tbsp. [135g] all purpose flour + 2 tbsp. [17.5g] corn starch)
6 tbsp. (56g) almond flour
1/2 tsp. salt
6 large eggs
4 large egg yolks
1 cup (2oog) granulated sugar
1 stick butter, melted

Vanilla Pastry Cream
2 cups whole milk
1/2 vanilla bean, split and seeds scraped
Pinch of salt
1/2 cup (100g) granulated sugar, divided
3 large egg yolks
1/4 cup (35g) cornstarch
1 tbsp (14g) cold butter

To Assemble
Strawberry jam
2-1/2 cups heavy whipping cream
14 oz. marzipan (7 oz. almond paste + 7 oz. confectioners sugar + corn syrup until combined)
Green food coloring

Prep-  Preheat oven to 400-degrees F.  Coat two 9″ circular cake pans with spray oil and line bottom of cake pan with a cut out parchment circle.

1-  First, make the cake.   Combine the cake flour, almond flour and salt in a bowl, whisking to combine.  Combine the eggs, egg yolks and granulated sugar in a bowl of a stand mixer and place over a pot of simmering water.  Stir mixture until sugar is melted and warm to the touch.  Attach bowl to stand mixer with whisk attachment.  Whisk on medium for approximately 2 minutes.  Raise speed to high and whisk until mixture is pale and thick and at last doubled in volume, about 4 – 5 minutes.  Sprinkle dry mixture over the top and gently fold to mostly combine everything.  When everything is almost incorporated, fold in melted butter until everything is completely combined.

2-  Divide evenly between the two cake pans.  Bake until springy, about 6 – 8 minutes.  Let cool to the touch and then pop out of the pans.  Discard parchment and let cool completely on cooling rack.

3-  Now, make the pastry cream.  Combine the milk, vanilla seeds, salt and 1/4 cup sugar in a heavy-bottomed medium saucepan.  But it will not matter too much if you misread this part and add all the sugar.  In a separate bowl, combine egg yolks, cornstarch and remaining 1/4 cup sugar.  When milk mixture is warm, slowly add the milk mixture to the eggs to bring them up to temperature without cooking.  Place mixture back in saucepan over medium heat and stir constantly until thickened.  Remove from heat and whisk in cold butter.  Strain into bowl, cover surface with plastic wrap and chill until cold.

4-  Now, make the marzipan (if you also forgot to buy it) by combining equal parts almond paste and confectioners sugar in the mixing bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment.  Start at a low speed to break up the almond paste, then once mixed in with the confectioners sugar, raise the speed as needed to beat the almond paste into the confectioners sugar until the texture of sand has been achieved.  Little by little, add some corn syrup until the mixture forms a ball.  Use a few drips of food coloring until the marzipan is light green.  Remove from mixing bowl, form into a ball and place between two sheets of plastic wrap.  Roll out thinly.  Marzipan can then be rolled into a tube shape for storage.

5-  Make the cream mixture by combining 2-1/2 cups of whipping cream and 2 tsp. vanilla extract in mixing bowl.  Beat until stiff peaks form.  Gently fold the vanilla cream into whipped cream.

6-  To assemble the cake, use a serrated knife to cut the two round cakes horizontally, making 4 total.  Spread the first layer with strawberry jam, then at least 1/2 cup of vanilla cream mixture on top.  Place second cake layer on top and repeat.  Place remaining cake layers on top, repeating with filling.  Spread entire cake with remaining whipped cream.  Refrigerate for at least 4 hours (or 2, depending on how much time your husband gives you).

7-  When ready to serve, unroll the marzipan and gently place on top of the cake.  Trim excess away.  Try to smooth, then give up.  Decorate with a marzipan rose if you are a traditionalist or if your husband says that’s the best part of the cake for him.

Servings:  12.  At least.  This cake is massive.