Our recipe for prinsesstårta (princess cake) is superb and will enable you to make a delicious cake that is fit for any celebration, but you may be wondering how the cake got its name.
According to Maia's research, Jenny Åkerström is the originator of the recipe. Jenny Åkerström was a Swedish home economics guru at the beginning of the 20th century and was an instructor to the three Swedish princesses, Margaretha, Märtha, and Astrid, daughters of Prince Carl (brother of King Gustaf V).
She published a four volume series of cookbooks called Prinsessornas Kokbok: Husmanskost och Helgdagsmat (Princesses Cookbook: Home Cooking and Holiday Food). The first edition came out in 1929 with the princess’ portraits gracing the cover. With it’s great success came eighteen reprints with revisions up to 1952.
The princesses were seen as role models. Their education included child care and cooking which was innovative at the time. In a feminist sense, formal domestic training highlighted the professionalism required to manage a home and children.
The original edition Prinsessornas Kokbok did not have a recipe for a cake anything like the prinsesstårta that is so popular today. The recipe did not appear in the 1937, 1945, or 1952 editions, but there IS a recipe for grön tårta (green cake) in the 1948 edition, which is very like the recipe for prinsesstårta that we use today. For some reason the recipe was dropped from the 1952 edition, but the name grön tårta explains why the cake is normally green.
The name change to prinsesstårta was a good marketing move as it is certainly more appealing than “green cake”. The change is believed to have been made because the princesses loved the cake so much. The princesses weren't alone: the cake rapidly became very popular in Sweden, with around 500,000 sold every year.
Although green is still the most popular colour the shade varies markedly from one baker to another. Some are a vivid green, almost fluorescent, whilst others are paler, sometimes with a hint of yellow.
The fourth week in September is officially Prinsesstårtans vecka (Princess cake week). For every prinsesstårta purchased in Sweden during the week 10 SEK (about £1, $1.50) is donated to Crown Princess Victoria’s Fund that benefits chronically ill and disabled children and adolescents in Sweden. Every prinsesstårta sold during the week is topped with a gold crown are part of the fund-raising effort. In a normal week in Sweden's baker sell about 10,000 prinsesstårtor, but during prinsesstårtans vecka they expected to double their sales.
Preserving the royal connection
Bakers keep the royal connection going by publicising any royal event that might lead to additional cake sales! Estelle who is second in line to the throne after her mother, the daughter of Crown Princess Victoria, was celebrating her second birthday when this poster was produced.
When Princess Madeleine gave birth to her daughter, Leonore Lilian Maria, in February 2014 Swedish bakers were quick off the mark and baked special commemorative prinsesstårtor to celebrate the arrival of a new member of the royal family.
Commercial cakes are normally made from a sponge which is cut into three layers using a fancy contraption called a tårtadelare (a cake divider). To this is added some vanilla custard, raspberry jam, cream and a layer of green marzipan.
Although there are some variations from one baker to another, most assemble the cake using 8 or 9 layers:
• a sponge base,
• raspberry jam,
• vanilla custard on top of the raspberry jam (not used in the version above),
• a second layer of sponge,
• a layer of vanilla custard,
• a layer of stiffly whipped cream,
• a final layer of sponge,
• a very thin layer of cream,
• a layer of green marzipan.
Bageriet in Covent Garden
The UK's best prinsesstårtor are baked by Bageriet, a small Swedish bakery in Covent Garden. If you are in London do look them up. As well as a take-out service they have a couple of tables, so you might be able to bag a space and enjoy a slice of cake over a fika break.
A prinsesstårta makes a lovely cake for a celebration. (If you want a whole cake to take away from Bageriet you need to order it at least 24 hours in advance.)
Frozen prinsesstårtor are widely available in supermarkets in Sweden for about 50 SEK each (about €5, #4, $6). We think they are a poor substitute for a freshly made cake from a good baker, so we recommend giving them a miss!
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