Last month some dear friends of mine asked me if I would be willing to take on a project—making the cake for a bridal shower that they were throwing. Specifically they wanted a Swedish Princess Torte, because the bride had lived and studied in Sweden and had fallen in love with this cake while there. They had called around to a couple of bakeries who had never heard of the cake, and then had the thought that I might be willing to take on the project. Um, exciting challenging baking project? Me? Heck yeah! A Swedish Princess Torte is usually made for birthdays and other special occasions. It is a sponge cake that has a cream filling and the layers are brushed with a simple syrup and jam. The cake is frosted with buttercream and then a light green marzipan topping is rolled and stretched over the entire cake. We determined that one cake might not be enough, and so I would need to make two.
The Story of 2 Swedish Princess Tortes
These 2 tortes were a community effort, because I could never have pulled them off without the help of a few very important people. First of all—Mr. Fuji. He patiently listened to me worry and talk through the torte process all week last week! He didn’t complain that we ate leftovers for several days because I had been up to my elbows in genoise batter and there was very little clean counterspace between the stacks of mixing bowls, whisks, and springform pans.
Making the tortes was one thing, but then I realized I had another problem on my hands. How in the world was I going to transport 2 tortes that were supposed to be refrigerated until serving from my house to another house that was an hour drive away? I think it was this thought that started me hyperventilating. That’s when I emailed Helen (Tartelette). Not only was I using her recipe for genoise and for pastry cream, but she is a knowledgeable and skilled pastry chef and a dear friend. She helped me devise a plan for transportation and also suggested adding a bit of powdered gelatin to the pastry cream to help it be more stable (thus helping the whole cake be more stable during transportation). The plan: Put both the tortes in cake carriers and put the cake carriers in coolers filled with dry ice. I own one cake carrier, but of course no one that lives near me seemed to have one I could borrow, so I found myself at Walmart at 6am on Thursday morning buying a 2nd cake carrier. This turned out to be a lucky turn of events, because I had the thought of taking 2 of the cake carriers over to the cooler section to make sure that I could actually put a cake carrier in a cooler. No. Ha! The only cooler that was wide enough to fit even one cake carrier was a coffin-sized cooler. Yeah, um, that wasn’t going to happen. I think I almost cried right there and then. Then I took the cake carriers over to the plastic storage bin section and started trying to fit them into various sized plastic bins. I finally found a 35 gallon (132 liter) sized plastic bin that was wide enough and long enough. The 2 cake carriers fit side by side with no room to spare. Phew!
Finally, on Friday when I was assembling the tortes with my heart about pumping out of my chest, I tweeted about the process and Gail (@THEToughCookie) started cheering me on. I was reallly nervous about the final marzipan layer. I have handled fondant and marzipan before, but have never covered a cake with either. Gail ended up giving me a call and talking me through the marzipan process, giving me valuable tips and encouraging me. She had seen pictures of the cakes so far and said that I had a good solid foundation, that I was not going to have any problems, and that I could do it. I decided that if Gail said I could do it, then I could do it. I mean, have you seen what she can do? Phenomenal! I proceeded with confidence and added the marzipan layer to each of the cakes. The marzipan layers were the only part of the cakes that gave me any trouble. They were darn near perfect until I reached the part where I had to finish smoothing the layer at the bottom of the cake. This is where you are trying to finish smoothing out any folds and ripples. The marzipan was cracking and just starting to be impossible to work with, so both of the cakes did end up having a few areas that weren’t perfectly smooth. Sigh. As soon as the cakes were finished, I loaded them into their cake carriers and then into the plastic bin, and off I went! I think my heart was pounding through the entire drive. I had visions of arriving to find cakes that looked like the Leaning Tower of Pisa, or worse yet, like a natural disaster zone. But when I arrived, the cakes looked the same as when I had left. I had done it!!!
From what I’ve been told, the tortes were a big hit, and my friends were kind enough to take some pictures of the cakes decorated, and of the interior so you can get an idea of what they looked like!
How to Assemble a Swedish Princess Torte
You will have to bear with me here. While planning and executing this cake, I looked and looked for a visual tutorial on how to assemble one of these suckers, and just wasn’t finding anything super helpful. So I would like to walk you through what it looks like to assemble a Swedish Princess Torte. The tortes I made were slightly less traditional, as the dome was a genoise dome filled with flavored whipped cream, not just whipped cream as many recipes call for. I started out by making two batches of genoise for each torte, and then slicing each genoise into 3 layers. To build the dome, I lined a glass bowl (8-inches in diameter, 1.5 quarts in volume) with plastic wrap, then cut two of the genoise layers into long fingers that were one-inch wide.
I then lined the bowl with the fingers of genoise, fitting the pieces tightly together like a jigsaw puzzle. I started out laying the fingers side by side, and then filled in the gaps with pieces that I cut to fit, and then finally, with pieces that ran around the bowl.
Then I filled the cake-lined bowl with flavored whip cream.
Next I brushed a layer of genoise with a soaking syrup, and fit it on top of the lined bowl.
Then I built the rest of the cake, by brushing each layer of cake with soaking syrup, then a layer of pastry cream, cake, flavored whipped cream, strawberry jam, and a final layer of cake.
Then I wrapped the cakes in plastic wrap and put them into the refrigerator to set up for several hours.
When they had finished setting up, I took them out and inverted them onto cardboard rounds, and then held my breath as I carefully unmolded them from their glass bowls. Miraculously they came out without any problems!
Next I spread a crumb coat of buttercream over each torte, making the surface of the tortes as smooth as possible so that the marzipan layers would go on smoothly.
Finally, I kneaded the green food coloring into the marzipan, rolled it out,
and then smoothed it onto the cake, starting at the top and slowly and carefully smoothing it down the sides of the cake.
When I was finished I trimmed off the extra and was done!
Swedish Princess Torte
Makes approximately 16 servings
For the Soaking Syrup: (adapted from Baking Obsession’s soaking syrup recipe)
1/2 cup water
1/4 cup granulated sugar
3 tablespoons berry juice (combination of blueberry/raspberry/strawberry juices), optional
Combine the water and sugar in a small saucepan, and heat over medium heat, stirring until the sugar dissolves and the syrup comes to a boil. Cool. Right before using, stir in the berry juice if you are using it.
For the Pastry Cream: (adapted from Tartelette’s pastry cream recipe)
2 Tablespoons cornstarch
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 1/2 cups half-and-half, divided
3 large egg yolks
1 teaspoon powdered gelatin
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
1. In a small bowl filled with 1/4 cup of cold water, sprinkle the powdered gelatin over the surface of the water and set aside. In a separate small bowl, whisk together the cornstarch, sugar, and egg yolks. Slowly add in 1/2 cup of the half-and-half and whisk until smooth. In a saucepan over medium heat, bring the remaining half and half to a boil, then slowly whisk the hot cream into the egg yolk/cornstarch mixture to temper the eggs.
2. Pour the mixture back into the saucepan and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly until the mixture thickens to a custard. This should take about 5 minutes. It is important to constantly stir to prevent the bottom from curdling or burning. If the pastry cream does curdle, whisk it vigorously with a balloon whisk until it is smooth, and if that does not work, pass the the cream through a mesh sieve. Take the pastry cream off the heat, stir in the softened gelatin, and keep stirring until the gelatin is completely melted and incorporated.1 teaspoon of gelatin softened in water to the pastry cream to make it hold better. Add it when you just remove it from the stove and stir until completely melted. Stir in the vanilla and then pour the pastry cream into a bowl to let it cool. Press a piece of plastic wrap onto the surface to prevent a skin from forming while it cools. Let it cool to room temperature before refrigerating.
For the Cake: Make 2 batches of Tartelette’s genoise.
For the Swiss Buttercream: Make one batch of Baking Obsession’s Swiss Buttercream
For the Marzipan Coating:
Two 7 oz packages marzipan
Green food coloring
Powdered sugar for dusting
Break the marzipan into small pieces into a medium bowl and knead with your hands to smooth it out. Add 3 or 4 drops of green food coloring and knead it into the marzipan to turn it a pale shade of green. Dust your work surface with powdered sugar. Shape the marzipan into a 6-inch disk and coat both sides lightly with powdered sugar. Roll the marzipan to a circle about 16 inches in diameter and less than 1/8 inch thick. Add more powdered sugar to your work surface as needed to prevent it from sticking.
To Assemble the Torte:
Genoise, soaking syrup, and pastry cream
2 1/2 cups heavy cream, chilled
2 1/2 tablespoons granulated sugar
2 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1/3 cup seedless strawberry jam
1. Cut the cakes into 3 equal layers and set aside. Line a bowl (5 to 6 cups in volume capacity and 8-inches in diameter) with plastic wrap. Cut 2 of the cake layers into long fingers, 1-inch in width. Fit the fingers tightly into the bottom and up the sides of the lined bowl, and then lightly brush them with the soaking syrup.
2. Whip the heavy cream with the sugar and vanilla extract until stiff peaks form. Measure out a scant cup of the whipped cream and set aside. Transfer the rest of the whipped cream into the genoise-lined bowl and smooth the surface of the cream. Trip one layer of genoise slightly to fit into the bowl, brush it lightly with the soaking syrup, and place it syrup side down over the layer of the whipped cream.
3. Brush the other side of the cake with the soaking syrup. Spread the chilled pastry cream over this layer. Now trim a new layer of cake and brush it with the soaking syrup and place this layer syrup side down over the pastry cream.
4. Brush the other side of the cake with the soaking syrup, and spread the reserved scant cup of whipped cream over it. Finally, trim a final layer of cake and brush it with the soaking syrup, then grently spread the strawberry jam over it. Carefully place this layer, jam side down, over the whipped cream layer.
5. Place a cardboard cake round over the final layer, and wrap the entire cake in plastic wrap and place it in the refrigerator for at least two hours (or overnight).
6. Remove the cake from the refrigerator and unwrap it. Put a small dab of the buttercream onto the cake cardboard to secure it to the serving platter. Place the serving platter over the cake and carefully invert it, and then unmold the cake. Lightly moisten the top of the cake with the soaking syrup and then spread a thin layer of the buttercream over the top and sides of the cake. Make this layer as smooth as possible, in order to insure that your marzipan layer will go on smoothly. Refrigerate the cake for two hours to firm up.
7. Finally, remove the cake from the refrigerator and drape the rolled out layer of marzipan over the cake. Gently press and smooth down the marzipan so that it adheres to the cake. Start from the top, and work your way down and around the sides of the cake. To remove the folds and creases, lift the outside edge of the marzipan with a hand on either side of a fold, and gently pull the marzipan out and down until the fold disappears. Work your way around the cake repeating this process until all of the folds are eliminated. Then rub the palm of your hand around the sides of the cake to further smooth it and eliminate any air pockets.
8. With a sharp knife or pizza cutter, carefully trim away the excess marzipan along the bottom oedge of the cake (the cardboard should not show). Refrigerate the finished torte until ready to serve.