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What is a Princess Cake?

Mary McMahon
Updated May 16, 2024
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A princess cake is a traditional Swedish dessert which consists of layers of cake covered in pastry cream and a rich marzipan frosting. When well crafted, a princess cake looks very elegant, and it can be rather tasty as well, especially when eaten on the day it is made. Making one certainly requires some preparation, but it can be well worth it, since the cake presents so beautifully. The cake is also surprisingly versatile, because while it is carefully defined, each ingredient can be individually altered for a unique look and flavor.

There are four primary components to princess cake: the cake, pastry cream, jam, and the marzipan covering. To make a princess cake, the chef spreads a thin layer of jam onto a layer of cake, follows with pastry cream, adds another layer of cake, and repeats the process. The entire cake is frosted with pastry cream to keep the crumbs in, and then a sheet of rolled marzipan is placed over the cake, covering it. The cake may be decorated with piped flowers and other ornaments, and it is kept under refrigeration until it is served.

Traditionally, the cake is a simple white cake with a mild crumb. Some cooks use sponge cake, which is denser, for a more intense princess cake. Exotic cooks might even use chocolate or spice cake, although these deviations test the boundaries of princess cake. The cake may also be briefly soaked in a mild syrup solution for additional moisture and flavor.

Any flavor of jam can be used in a princess cake, from simple raspberry to more exotic kumquat. Using multiple types of jam is also perfectly acceptable, and it can create interesting layers of flavor. The important thing is that the layers of jam in a princess cake are kept thin. The pastry cream can be substituted with whipped cream, although whipped cream is more prone to collapse, which is not desired.

Finally, the specialty cake must be finished with a smooth layer of marzipan frosting, which is traditionally dyed a pale green. Marzipan can be difficult to work with, but one cooks get the hang of it, it is relatively easy to use. When used as a frosting, marzipan is usually rolled out, almost like pie dough, and then draped onto the cake in question.

In most cases, a princess cake will be made as a single large round or log, with individual servings being cut out as needed. Ambitious bakers, however, may make individual cupcakes as a special treat. Making princess cakes on a small scale like this requires patience and a steady hand, but the end result can be quite charming.

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Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a DelightedCooking researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments
By anon950283 — On May 09, 2014

Even if what is described is often served under the name "prinsesstårta" (princess cake) in Sweden, the proper Swedish name for it is actually "operatårta" (opera cake). A real "princesstårta" contains the cake, the pastry cream, a thick layer of whipped cream and marzipan, never jam.

Information from "Prinsessornas nya kokbok", the sequel to "Prinsessornas kokbok (1929)", where the cake originated.

By wecallherana — On Oct 24, 2010

@BelugaWhale - I think the "wow" factor is really the entire thing behind the princess cake designs as far as the outside goes. Because the inside is so intricate and detailed that you would not want to over shadow that with too many details and designs on the outside. It is really the combination of flavors and textures that this cake goes for really.

By BelugaWhale — On Oct 24, 2010

@lmorales - Princess cakes can definitely be deceiving. In many cases decorating a princess cake is just a simple layer of fondant which is often a mellow green or sage color. And you are right that it's the first cut into the cake that really surprises people. As the article above describes there are several different layers involved with this cake and they all prominently show whenever you cut into it.

By lmorales — On Oct 24, 2010

You can't find this in just any bakery. Princess cake is truly delicious and takes a lot of time and effort to make the right way. This article mentions that ambitious bakers and pastry chefs will make individual cupcakes and I really agree with this statement. Once you cut into a princess cake you will see exactly what kind of car goes into this specific kind of cake.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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