It has been ages since I made a Princess Torte, actually many moons ago for a friend's little princess 8th birthday. Although not difficult, it is a mini production of its own, the sort of cake that I could see the Daring Bakers attempt one month. Out of the ordinary genoise base, rich pastry cream, almond paste, whisking, folding, heating up, cooling down, rolling thin, draping, trimming, etc... You get the picture. I absolutely love cakes like this one: incredibly rich and yet a feather on your tongue. A poetry of textures and flavors all wrapped up around your fork (let's not talk thigh side effect...it is Friday after all!), and when work becomes play what else can a girl ask for?!
Earlier this month I received a very sweet work assignment "Have you ever made a Princess Torte? Yoour mission, should you accept it is to bake one, style it and photograph it for our upcoming 4th issue." Ok, so this sounds more Mission Impossible than what Vera actually wrote me, but I never refuse an assignment for Desserts Magazine. Why? Again...that squishy sound when you turn the virtual pages....No! Just kidding! It's all about desserts folks! Each issue feels "real", jammed packed with tons of great recipes, practical information, and this month there is a ton of awesome giveaways and absolutely mouth watering cake recipes. I am very fortunate that Vera has trusted me with working on something for each issue and if you only knew what we are concocting right now, eheheh!!!
In "A Journey Around The World Through Cakes" I was Sweden. Not bad eh? Tall, blonde, blue eyes...ugh no...I was Princess Torte actually. Ha! Suits me just fine since I got the opportunity to sit back and bake a recipe from start to finish following the instructions to the letter down to the last dot on that last i. Yes...I find it relaxing to let myself be coaxed by someone else's measurements and instructions once in a while, not to mention that this was a recipe to make for work, not play so I was not to deviate in order to properly talk about it.
This is not the kind of cake you decide to make at 4pm to be served at 7pm that same evening. It is not difficult, it just requires a little time and planning. Start the day before and spread your work so you give each element your full attention and the necessary cooling and setting time they require. I absolutely loved making (and eating) this cake from Greg Patent's A Baker's Odyssey, making a few adjustments and notes along the way. The book is a collection of recipes from around the world, a great read, if only for the stories alone. You can read the original recipe in the magazine on pages 69-71. I reworked it a bit to include some notes regarding the ingredients, and I did shorten the instructions that were unnecessary lenghty at times.
The base is an unconventional genoise type where the egg yolks are added, with the mixer running, to the egg white while you are whipping them to firm peaks, alternatively with the flour. I did raise an eyebrow, thinking that it might destroy the actual structure of the cake until I remembered Grandma's lesson #53: you can pretty much add anything you want to your whites whipped to firm peaks in small amount without destroying many air particules and running your batter. The end result was a satin ribbon of cake batter that baked into a light and airy genoise type base for the cake. Once divided in three, the cake layers are filled with a thin coat of raspberry jam, a rich pastry cream combined with whipped cream and topped with more whipped cream. Finally the whole cake is draped with a thin sheet of pastel green tinted marzipan.
At first, you might feel like there is no way that al that cream filling is going to fit in one cake, but trust me it does! And you are going to love it! Draping the marzipan over the whipped cream can be a little tricky. Make sure to center your marzipan sheet right over it and work fast, let it drape over and use a gentle hand to press it down the side. If you are still worried, you can freeze the cake for an hour until the top is firmer and proceed with the draping. I did find that the dimension to roll it were a little too wide and ended having a extra so I made a few marzipan roses to decorate the cake with. If you are looking for a great tutorial on making marzipan roses, read this step by step written by Cakebrain. Hers is for chocolate clay roses but the same technique can be used for marzipan ones. Last note, this Princess Torte is best enjoyed within the first couple of days as the marzipan gets very soft and gooey from its direct contact to the cream.
For the custard:
2 Tablespoons cornstarch
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 1/2 cups half-and-half, divided
3 large egg yolks
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
In a 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 set over medium heat, bring the remaining half and half to boiling point.
Slowly whisk the hot cream over the egg yolk/cornstarch mixture to temper the eggs. Pour the mixture back into the saucepan and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly until the mixture thickens to a custard. It should take about 5 minutes. It is important to constantly stir to prevent the bottom from curdling or burning. If that happens, take a balloon whisk and whisk vigorously. If you fear your custard curdled too much, remove from the heat and pass it through a fine sieve before proceeding with the recipe. Off the heat, stir in the vanilla and pour the custard into a bowl to let it cool. Press a piece of plastic wrap on the surface to prevent a skin from forming while it cools. Let it cool to room temperature before refrigerating.
For the cake:
Fine dry bread crumbs for the pan
1/2 cup sifted unbleached all purpose flour
1/2 cup potato starch flour – substitute same amount of cornstarch if the former is not available
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
4 large eggs, separated
1/8 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Coat a 9-inch spring form pan with cooking spray. Line the bottom of the pan with a round of parchment paper and coat with cooking spray. Dust the inside of the pan with the breadcrumbs and tap out the excess. This is very traditional of Eastern European cakes to line the pan with a coating of fine crumbs. In the older days, it replaced parchment paper, soaked up extra moisture. It also forms a tight crumbs on the outside which makes it easier when you frost the cake after baking.
Sift together the flour, potato starch, and baking powder. Set aside.
In a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whip the egg whites and salt on medium speed until the whites are shiny and form stiff peaks but are still smooth, not lumpy. Sprinkle in about one-quarter of the sugar, then add 1 egg yolk and beat for about 10 seconds. Repeat the process 3 more times. Beat a couple more minutes, until the mixture forms a ribbon.
Gently fold in the flour mixture in 4 additions, taking your spatula from the bottom of the bowl, up the side and over the batter. Pour the batter into the pan, and set it on baking sheet. Rap the sheet a couple of times on the counter top to smooth the top of you cake.
Bake for about 30 minutes, until the cake is golden brown and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Cool the cake on a wire rack for 10 minutes. Run a knife around the sides of the cake to release it from the pan, if necessary. Release the cake from the spring form pan, cover the cake with a plate or another wire rack and invert. Remove the bottom of the pan and the parchment paper. Cover the cake with another wire rack and invert again. Let it cool completely before proceeding with the rest of the recipe.
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. Your natural body heat will help smooth it out and add in the coloring. Add 3 or 4 drops of green food coloring and knead it into the marzipan to get a pale shade of green. You can add a couple more drops of the coloring but do so carefully. The final shade should be pastel and not neon green. Dust your work surface with powdered sugar. Shape the marzipan into a 6-inch disk, coat both sides lightly with sugar. Roll the marzipan to a circle about 16 inches in diameter and less than 1/8 inch thick. Don’t be afraid to add more powdered sugar to your work surface as you roll to prevent it from sticking. You can also roll the marzipan between two sheets of plastic wrap or parchment paper if they are wide enough. I had a lot of extra so adjust the diameter according to the size and height of your cake.
To Assemble the Torte:
2 1/2 cups heavy cream
1/3 cup seedless raspberry jam
Cut the cake into 3 equal layers, set aside.
In a mixer with the whisk attachment, whip the cream until thick and firm. Transfer one-third of the cream to a small bowl, cover, and refrigerate. Remove the chilled custard from the refrigerator and give it a vigorous whisk as it will be thick after cooling. Make sure it is smooth and creamy before proceeding. Fold the portion of the whipped cream that you did not refrigerate into the custard until smooth.
Since the cake is not easily moveable once completed (heavy and moist), set the bottom cake layer, cut side up, onto platter and arrange 4 strips of parchment paper under the edges cake to keep your plate clean as you assemble it.
Spread the raspberry jam onto the cake, and then spread half the custard cream mixture evenly over the jam. Invert the top cake layer onto the custard cream, cut side up. Spread the remaining custard cream over the layer and top with the remaining cake layer. Spread about one-quarter of the refrigerated whipped cream in a very thin layer around the sides of the cake. Evenly spread the remaining cream onto the top of the cake with an offset spatula. Remove the paper strips from underneath the cake and refrigerate the cake for 30 minutes to an hour. It does help with firming the creams again before applying the marzipan so it does not mush it down. You can also freeze it for an hour.
Remove the cake from the refrigerator and gently set the marzipan on top of the cake so that it drapes over the cake. Press it gently so it adheres to the sides of the cake, covering it completely. With a sharp knife, trim away the excess marzipan so that the edges. Refrigerate until ready to serve.