Nick Malgieri
Nick Malgieri

Swiss Princess Cake

This by far the most popular layer cake in all of Norway, but has an equally devoted following in Switzerland.  It is made up of layers of a light sponge cake alternating with layers of custard cream and whipped cream, then covered with a sheet of green-tinted almond paste.  It’s a wonderful dessert cake because it is both light and extremely delicate in flavor and texture.

The version pictured is from Fleischli, a pastry shop with several branches around the Zurich suburbs.

Makes one 9-inch cake, about 12 servings

Sponge Cake Layer

4 large eggs

1/2 cup sugar

1 cup all-purpose flour (spoon flour into dry-measure cup and level off)

1 teaspoon baking powder

Pastry Cream Filling

1 1/2 cups milk

1/3 cup sugar

5 large egg yolks

1/4 cup all-purpose flour

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Whipped Cream

2 cups heavy whipping cream

3 tablespoons sugar


6 ounces canned almond paste, cut into 1-inch cubes

2 cups confectioners’ sugar

4 tablespoons light corn syrup

Green food coloring

Cornstarch for rolling the marzipan

One 9-inch round pan, 2 inches deep, buttered and the bottom lined with a disk of buttered parchment or wax paper

  1. Set a rack in the middle level of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees.
  2. For the cake layer, whisk the eggs by hand in the bowl of an electric mixer and whisk in the sugar in a stream.  Place the bowl on the mixer with the whisk attachment and whip the mixture on high speed for about 5 minutes, or until it is lightened in color and increased in volume.
  3. While the eggs and sugar are whipping, stir the baking powder into the flour. 
  4. When the egg mixture is ready, remove the bowl from the mixer and sift the flour and baking powder over the egg mixture in 3 additions, folding it in with a large rubber spatula.
  5. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top.  Bake the cake for about 30 minutes, or until it is well risen, deep golden and a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake emerges dry.
  6. Immediately unmold the cake to a rack to cool completely.  For advance preparation, wrap and refrigerate or freeze the layer.
  7. For the pastry cream, combine the milk with half the sugar in a non-reactive saucepan.  Bring to a boil over medium heat, whisking occasionally to make sure the sugar dissolves.
  8. In a medium mixing bowl, whisk the egg yolks, then whisk in the remaining sugar.  Sift over and whisk in the flour
  9. When the milk boils, whisk a third of the boiling milk into the yolk mixture.  Return the remaining milk to a boil over low heat, then whisk in the yolk and milk mixture, continuing to whisk constantly until the pastry cream thickens and returns to a boil.  Let the cream boil for about 15 seconds, whisking constantly, then remove the pan from the heat.
  10. Whisk in the butter and vanilla, then scrape the cream into a glass or stainless steel bowl.  Press plastic wrap against the surface of the cream to prevent a skin from forming and chill the cream until it is completely cold.  The pastry cream may be prepared the day before you intend to assemble the cake.
  11. For the marzipan, place the almond paste and confectioners’ sugar in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the steel blade.  Pulse the mixture until it is reduced to fine crumbs.  Add a drop or two of the food coloring (you can always add more later if the color is not vivid enough) and the corn syrup and pulse again repeatedly until the marzipan begins to form large clumps.  Turn the marzipan out onto a surface lightly dusted with confectioners’ sugar and knead it smooth, adding more drops of food coloring as necessary.  Wrap the marzipan in plastic wrap and keep it at room temperature until you intend to use it.
  12. When you are ready to assemble the cake, whip the cream with the sugar on medium speed with the whisk attachment until it holds a firm peak.
  13. To assemble the cake, cut the cake layer into 3 thin horizontal layers with a sharp serrated knife.  Place one of the layers on a cardboard round the same diameter as the cake.
  14. Spread the cooled pastry cream on the layer, doming it in the center.
  15. Place the second cake layer on the pastry cream and spread it with half the whipped cream, doming it again as for the pastry cream.
  16. Place the last cake layer on the whipped cream, easing the layer into the domed shape of the cake.  Spread the outside of the cake completely with a thin layer of the remaining whipped cream.
  17. To roll out the marzipan, form it into a thick disk and place it on a work surface lightly dusted with cornstarch.  Dust the marzipan with a little cornstarch and roll it out to a disk about 14 inches in diameter.  Roll the marzipan up onto the rolling pin without pressing (or it will all stick together) and quickly unroll it onto the cake to cover it completely.  Use the palms of your hands to gently press and smooth the marzipan against the sides of the cake.  Neatly trim away the excess marzipan at the bottom of the cake – it may be kneaded together, wrapped and frozen for a later use.

Serving:  Place the cake on a platter and lightly dust it with confectioners’ sugar.  Cut the cake into thin wedges.

Storage:  Keep the cake refrigerated until you intend to serve it or the pastry cream may spoil and the whipped cream melt.