Thursday, 20 September 2007

Fit for a prince

It’s M’s birthday today! Another year older and another year wiser, or so they say. I love birthdays even if its not my own. In fact, M was just commenting that it seems I am even more excited about his birthday than he is. I mean, what’s not to like? You get to eat cake, open presents, do whatever you like and have an excuse for it, and have people celebrate you just for a day. And did I mention eat cake?

Given how many baking books I have, trying to decide what birthday cake to make for M was tricky. I thought first about making him a Chocolate Praline Mousse cake by Alain Ducasse since M loves chocolate as much as I do, maybe more even! Then I thought about other cakes that I have made in the past that he has liked such as the Devil's Food White-out Cake by Dorie Greenspan. Then inspiration struck and I decided that I would make him a cake from his home country that I know he loves – Princess cake.

I have seen Princess cakes in Stockholm before whenever I’ve gone to visit but have never actually tried it until the wedding of a friend of M’s in July this year. I guess the reason I stayed away was that I was not a fan of marzipan (or so I thought) and the cake was a strange green colour. Since at the aforementioned wedding the Princess cake was the wedding cake, I thought it would be rude not to try.

In hindsight, I’m glad I did because I was pleasantly surprised! The marzipan didn’t have that sickly sweet flavour that I remembered it having as a child and the cake was surprisingly light – probably because of the oodles of whipped cream that gives the cake its characteristic dome shape. I went back for seconds, then thirds and I also ate some off M’s plate. All in all, I must have eaten enough to feed a family of 4 in some famine-stricken countries.

Once I got the idea in my head, I started looking for recipes and was thankfully able to locate one in a Swedish cookbook that M's mother had kindly given to me the first time I visited Stockholm. Given the many different components involved, I needed a game plan in order to make the cake at home without M discovering it. The schedule I came up with in the end was this: I baked the cake layers and created the green marzipan coating on Monday night before M came home from work. On Tuesday, I made the pastry cream. The plan was then to make the whipped cream and assemble the cake on Wednesday night but I was worried that M would get home before me. It was a stroke of luck therefore when M told me that he would be having a work dinner and would be coming home late that night.

Since it was my first time working with marzipan, I was a little apprehensive when it came time to roll it out. It turned out to be pretty easy however, especially if you work quickly before it starts to get sticky. If that happens though sprinkling icing sugar on it works pretty well. I have to confess that I didn’t quite have enough marzipan so after I draped it over the cake, I realized that I would have to patch up a hole at the back. Straightening out the folds in the cake was also a little tricky and I realized belatedly that I should probably have practiced before trying to make M’s birthday cake.

Despite the difficulty and the fact that the end product didn’t look picture perfect, I was still overall pretty happy with the way it came out. M certainly didn’t mind either when I woke him up with the cake and sang him Happy Birthday. We skipped dessert at dinner tonight in order to eat the birthday cake and it was definitely worth the wait. I think we’ll be having more tomorrow before we leave for Edinburgh where I’m taking him to watch the Rugby world cup match between New Zealand and Scotland for his birthday. No sense in letting good cake go to waste right?

Princess Cake
From Swedish Homecooking

Cake base:
4 eggs
1 2/3 cup sugar
3/4 cup hot water
2 tsp baking powder
1 2/3 cup all-purpose flour

Preheat the oven to 350F.

Beat the eggs and sugar until fluffy. Heat the water and stir into the egg mixture.

Mix the flour and baking powder in a separate bowl. Fold into wet mixture. Pour the batter into a round 9 x 3 1/2 inch greased cake pan. Bake for 30-40 minutes.

Cream filling:
1 1/4 cup whole milk
2 egg yolks
1 tbsp sugar
1 tbsp cornstarch
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 envelope gelatin
1 1/4 cups heavy cream

Pour the milk into a heavy-bottomed pan. Add the egg yolks, sugar and cornstarch. Warm the mixture over medium low heat, stirring constantly until it thickens. Add the vanilla extract. Dissolve the gelatin in a little water and add it to the mixture. Set aside, stirring it from time to time as it cools.

Whip the heavy cream. Carefully blend into cooled filling mixture

14 oz marzipan
Green and yellow
Powdered sugar

Put the marzipan in a medium-sized plastic food storage bag. make a little indentation in the marzipan and add 3 drops of green food coloring and one drop of the yellow. Knead the marzipan in the plastic bag until it is evenly colored.

To assemble:
Let the cake cool and slice it into three layers. Spread raspberry jam or place fresh raspberries with a little sugar sprinkled on them on the bottom layer. The second layer gets covered with half the cream filling. Place the third layer on top and then spread the rest of the cream filling on top and down over the sides so the whole cake is covered.

Lay out a large piece of plastic wrap and put the marzipan on it. Cut open a plastic food storage bag so that it is large enough to cover the marzipan, place over marzipan and roll out. This is a great way to avoid having the marzipan stick to the rolling pin.

Roll out marzipan into a thin, circular sheet large enough to drape over and cover the whole cake. Tip: trace the bottom of the cake pan onto paper, then measure the height of the cake and add it to the pan diameter to calculate the total diameter for your marzipan sheet. This way the marzipan is large enough to cover the whole cake.

Peel the plastic bag off the top of the marzipan sheet, then turn the marzipan so the plastic wrap is facing upward. Remove the plastic carefully. Pinch in the edges and trim away the excess marzipan.

Sprinkle the cake with powdered sugar.

Makes one 9-inch cake


Deborah said...

I have never had this kind of cake before, but it is very impressive!

Caroline said...

I highly recommend it, Deborah. Give it a go sometime!

Sandy said...

wow! looks so impressive! Hope you guys had fun! I started making ice cream at home (finally putting one of our wedding gifts to good use!). I love it and it's so much fun! I love reading your blog!