Classic princess cake

Klassisk prinsesstårta

A slice of Swedish princess cake

A Swedish prinsesstårta (princess cake) is one of the world's most famous cakes. Every konditori (tearoom) or bakelser (patisserie) in Sweden produces its own version and every Swede can tell you where to buy a really good prinsesstårta.

The cover of Prinsessornas Nya Kokbok by Jenny Akerstrom

You could be forgiven for assuming that Swedes have been baking prinsesstårta since the year dot, but actually it is relatively new. The first version appeared in the 1948 edition of Prinsessornas Nya Kokbok (The Princesses' New Cookery Book) by Jenny Åkerström, a tutor to three Swedish princesses. In fact it almost passed unnoticed and was dropped from the 1952 edition.

Grön tårta

Gron tarta 280 2731

The original version was called grön tårta (green cake) and consisted of three layers of fatless sponge with vaniljkräm (vanilla custard) in between the layers. The whole cake was then covered with stiffly whipped cream, wrapped in pale green marzipan, garnished with a pink marzipan rose and dusted with icing sugar (powder sugar).

Gradually, perhaps aided by the abolition of post-war rationing in Sweden in 1951, the cake became more popular and had a name change to prinsesstårta. It is said that this was because the princesses loved the cake so much, but it may simply have been an astute marketing move by some enterprising bakers, as the name is clearly much more appealing.

Modern versions

A princess cake baked by Bageriet, the Swedish bakery in London

Modern versions now usually opt for a domed top, alluding to a royal crown. The number and order of the layers varies from one baker to another, but most now include a layer of raspberry jam. (Raspberry jam was first used at Kungliga Operan (The Royal Opera House), so some say that if a layer of jam is included it should be called an operatårta, but this distinction has largely disappeared. Indeed, if you order an operatårta in Sweden you may end up with the French style opera cake, which is flavoured with hazelnuts, coffee and chocolate!)

Today the cakes are also much bigger! For instance, the original version used just 100 ml (less than half a cup) of cream, but today many recipes use 500 ml (2 cups) or more of whipping cream!

So is it difficult to make?

Is a prinsesstårta difficult to make? Well, it is not easy, but it is not impossibly hard either. Even if you have not baked many cakes before, I hope there are enough tips below to ensure you will be very pleased, even with your first attempt, so I hope you try making one! John Duxbury


Recipe summary for a classic Swedish princess cake


Ready-rolled green marzipan for a Swedish princess cake

• You can buy ready-rolled green marzipan for a 20 cm (8") diameter princess cake from specialist shops or online. It has the advantage of being the right shade of green and is cut to fit the cake exactly. However, it is expensive and it doesn't taste quite as nice as normal marzipan. (Professional bakers in Sweden buy ready-coloured marzipan and roll it out themselves with a special machine.)

(There are further tips shown in italics at the start of each section of the recipe below.)

Stage 1: baking a fatless sponge

The sponge for a Swedish style princess cake is baked in one tin

 Swedes normally bake the sponge in one tin and then cut it into three layers. This means that the cake needs baking for longer than is normal in the UK or the States.
• Traditionally Swedes grease the inside of baking tins (pans) with butter and then sprinkle over some fine dried breadcrumbs, but you can line the tin with greaseproof paper or use cake release spray if you prefer.
• In Sweden it is normal to use potato flour (starch) in a fatless sponge as it makes it light and airy. You can buy potato flour (starch) at good health food shops or online, but if you can't find any you can use plain (cake) flour instead.
• It is important to sieve the flours at least twice to get lots of air into the sponge. First sieve the flours into a bowl to mix them (step 2) and then again into the egg mixture (step 4).

    butter and breadcrumbs
55 g (7 tbsp) plain (cake) flour
50 g (7 tbsp) potato starch
1 tsp   baking powder
4   eggs, at room temperature
170 g (¾ cup) caster (superfine) sugar

A greased 20 cm springform cake tin dusted with fine dried breadcrumbs

1. Pre-heat the oven to 175°C (350°F, Gas 4, Fan 160°C). Grease a deep 20 cm (8”) diameter loose-bottomed or springform cake tin (pan) and sprinkle with breadcrumbs (or grease and line).

2. Sift the flours and baking powder into a small bowl and mix thoroughly.

Whisked eggs and sugar for a Swedish Princess Cake

3. In a large bowl, whisk the eggs together until they are nice and froth gradually adding the sugar. Continue whisking on high speed until the whisk leaves a thick trail on the surface when lifted. This usually takes about 10 minutes with an electric whisk. (It is important that this step is not rushed because otherwise the mixture will not be strong enough to support all the air, otherwise the sponge will end up rubbery.)

4. Sift the flours again on to the mixture and then fold in using a large metal spoon (always metal, never wooden). Ensure that all the flour is full incorporated, but as soon as it is stop because otherwise you will knock too much air out of the mixture.

5. Gently pour the mixture into the cake tin and bake for about 40 minutes, until the sponge has just started to shrink away from the side of the tin and a skewer inserted into the cake comes out clean. (Do not open the oven door to check on progress until you think the cake is cooked because it is likely to collapse if it is not set.)

The sponge for a Swedish Princess Cake cooling on a wire rack

6. Remove the cake from the oven, leave to cool in the tin for 10 minutes and then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

Stage 2: making the vanilla custard

The vanilla custard for a Swedish style princess cake

• Make the vanilla custard whilst the cake is baking, as it needs to be cold before the cake can be assembled.
• Swedes normally use vanilla sugar to flavour the custard, but if you can't find any use ½ teaspoon of vanilla extract instead.

120 ml (½ cup) whipping cream
120 ml (½ cup) whole milk (3-5% fat content)
2   egg yolks
1½ tbsp   potato flour (potato starch)
1 tbsp   caster sugar
1 tbsp   vanilla sugar

7. Mix all the ingredients except the vanilla sugar or extract (use 2 tbsp of caster sugar if using vanilla extract) in a small saucepan. Heat gently whilst stirring constantly until the mixture is very thick, but don't let it boil. (Be sure that the has fully thicken because otherwise you will end up with a runny custard.) Remove from the heat and leave to cool.

8. When cold, stir in the vanilla sugar or vanilla extract.

Stage 3: assembling the cake

Use a good quality raspberry jam for the filling, preferably firmly set to prevent the base becoming soggy.
• The marzipan covering should be added no more than a couple of hours before serving, but the rest of the cake can be prepared a day in advance if preferred.

150 g (7 tbsp) raspberry jam
480 ml* (2 cups)* whipping cream

*I think 480 ml of whipping cream is plenty, but many prefer more!
The base layer for a Swedish Princess Cake

9. Cut the cake horizontally into three layers and place one on a serving plate.

The bottom layer of a Swedish princess cake covered with raspberry jam

10. Spread the raspberry jam over the bottom layer, leaving a border of 1 cm or so all the way round, so that the jam can't discolour the marzipan cover.

11. Add a second layer of sponge and spread the vanilla custard over it, but again leave a 1 cm or so border all the way round.

12. Whip the cream until it is stiff and then spread about a third of the whipped cream on top of the custard, pilling it up a bit more in the centre and leaving a border of at least 1-2 cm round the edge.

A Swedish style princess cake before it is covered with marzipan

13. Add the final layer of sponge and then cover the top and sides of the cake with the remaining cream, creating a domed effect on the top as shown. Set aside in a fridge whilst you prepare the marzipan cover.

Stage 4: covering the cake with marzipan

A Swedish style princess cake made with ordinary green food colouring

• To produce an authentic looking cake use 'bright green' food colouring. (The cake above was made using ordinary 'green' food colouring and is too pale, although it tasted delicious!)

A Swedish style princess cake made with a pink marzipan cover

Colouring the marzipan to get the bright shade of green typically used in Sweden is difficult, so consider using pink colouring instead as it is easier to get a nice shade of pink. (Pink princess cakes are also sold in Sweden.)

Marzipan Neapolitans made with leftover marzipan

• You will end up with a lot of left over marzipan, which I suggest you use to make some marzipan fruits, some punschrullar (arrack rolls) or, if you add a bit more food colouring, marzipan 'Neopolitans'.
• If using gel food colouring, knead the tube before using to ensure the dye is evenly mixed.
• Only add a very small amount of food colouring at a time, because if you add too much you will end up with a horrid deep colour.
• Don't be frightened of making a marzipan rose: it is actually surprisingly easy!

450 g (1 lb) white marzipan
    bright green food colouring
30 g (1 oz) dark chocolate, optional
    pink food colouring
    leaf green food colouring
    icing sugar (powder sugar), for dusting

14. Cut off a 300 g (12 oz) piece of marzipan and add a tiny amount of bright green food (or pink). Knead the marzipan until you have an even shade. If necessary, add some more colouring, but take care when doing so to avoid ending up with a horrid deep colour.

Pink marzipan rolled out to make the cover of a Swedish princess cake

Dust your worksurface frequently to prevent the marzipan sticking

15. Sprinkle some icing sugar (powder sugar) on to your worksurface and dust your rolling pin with icing sugar. Roll out the green (or pink) marzipan to create a circle at least 32 cm (13") in diameter. Keep sliding the marzipan over the worksurface and re-dust the worksurface after every 2 or 3 rolls to prevent the marzipan sticking to the worksurface.

A princess cake covered with green marzipan before it is decorated

16. Carefully lift the marzipan over the cake, use your hands to smooth it round the side of the cake and then carefully trim any excess so that the base is neat.

Stage 5: decorating the top

The simplest way of decorating the top of the cake is with nothing more than a light sprinkling of icing sugar.
• For a special occasion some marzipan leaves and a rose or two can be added.
• Experienced cake decorators might also like to add some chocolate swirls and a greeting, but this should be done before dusting with icing sugar or adding leaves and a rose.

Optional stage: adding chocolate swirls and a greeting

A princess cake being decorated with chocolate swirls 

17. Gently melt the chocolate in a microwave or in a bowl over simmering water. Leave to cool for about half an hour until it is quite thick. Spoon the melted chocolate into a small paper piping bag (or use an icing bag with a No.2 Writer nozzle). Snip the end off the paper icing bag and pipe swirls round the edge of the cake.

Adding a greeting in chocolate to a Swedish princess cake

18. Add an appropriate greeting across the top of the cake, taking care to leave room to add leaves and a rose.

Adding leaves and a rose

19. Divide the remaining marzipan into two pieces. Colour one light pink and the other 'leaf green'.

20. Roll out the leaf green marzipan until it is quite thin and then cut out 3 or 4 leaf shapes.

21. Cut off 15 g (½ oz) of pink marzipan and roll it out into a 12 cm (3") sausage. Cut this into 12 pieces.

Rose petals made of marzipan for decorating a Swedish Princess Cake

22. Using your fingers, press each piece into the shape of a thin petal. This is easier to do if you lightly dust your fingers in icing sugar periodically, as this helps to prevent the marzipan sticking to your fingers. Also, don't worry too much about the shape of each petal, but try to get the top edge a bit thinner than the bottom edge.

Princess cake 280 1092a

23. Roll the first petal up to form a bud and wrap the remaining petals around the bud to make a rose. Bend and curl the edges of the outer petals outwards to make the rose look more realistic.

24. Dust the top of the cake lightly with icing sugar then cut a slit in the top of the cake with a small palette knife and insert the leaves and the rose. Use a little whipped cream on the underside of each rose leaf to help fix it in place. (Usually the rose is placed in the centre of the cake, but it can also look good positioned off-centre.) 

25. Lightly dust the top of the cake again with icing sugar (powder sugar).


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Phone and tablet h32  phone & tablet version.pdf 

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