Tilly’s dream cake

Tilly’s dream cake

Scandinavian Baking
Columbus Leth

A true Scandinavian layer cake, lavish with lots of cream and with the classic Nordic signature – a layer of marzipan – wrapped around it. My friend Tilly Culme-Seymour has written a wonderful novel – Island Summers – about an island in Norway that her family owns. There, Tilly describes so wonderfully how her family sail to the bakery when it is somebody’s birthday. It brought me straight back to my own childhood, to a time when a birthday cake was a real sensation. So this cake is dedicated to Tilly. If you make the marzipan yourself, blanch the almonds first to get a really white colour.


Quantity Ingredient

For the cake

Quantity Ingredient
butter, for the tin
4 large eggs
200g caster sugar
150g plain flour
2 teaspoons baking powder

For the macaroon layer

Quantity Ingredient
100g skin-on almonds
100g caster sugar
3 egg whites

For the cream

Quantity Ingredient
300ml single cream
1 vanilla pod, split in half lengthways
3 egg yolks
4 tablespoons caster sugar
1 tablespoon cornflour
3 gelatine leaves
300ml double cream
200g blueberries

For the topping

Quantity Ingredient
100g best dark chocolate, at least 60% cocoa solids
10g butter
500g Home-made marzipan, (60% almonds)
marzipan roses


  1. It is best to bake the cakes the day before you need them, otherwise they can be difficult to cut.
  2. Butter a 28cm springform tin and line the base with baking parchment. Preheat the oven to 180°C.
  3. Beat the eggs and sugar together with an electric whisk until light and fluffy; the mixture should double or even triple in volume and turn pale. Sift over the flour and baking powder and gently fold it in. Pour into the prepared tin and bake in the hot oven for 25 minutes. Check with a skewer if it is baked all the way through; it should emerge clean from the centre of the cake. Remove from the oven and leave on a wire rack to cool, before removing from the tin. When you are ready to assemble the cake, carefully cut it horizontally in two, using a serrated knife.
  4. For the macaroon layer, preheat the oven to 160°C. Line the base of the same springform tin with baking parchment and butter it lightly. Blend the almonds with half the sugar in a food processor until the nuts are finely chopped, but don’t take it too far or the mixture may become oily. Whisk the egg whites until stiff, then gradually add spoonfuls of the remaining 50g of sugar, whisking after each addition. Fold in the nut mixture, pour into the prepared tin and bake for 35 minutes.
  5. For the cream, bring the cream to steaming point with the split vanilla pod in a saucepan, then turn off the heat. Whisk the egg yolks, sugar and cornflour together until fluffy and pale yellow. Stir a little bit of the hot cream into the egg mixture, then return all the egg mixture to the saucepan. Place over a low heat and whisk until the cream starts thickening. Take care not to boil, and whisk continuously to avoid burning. Take off the heat and leave until only hand-hot. Meanwhile, soften the gelatine leaves in cold water for five minutes. Squeeze the water from the gelatine, add to the warm cream and stir, making sure it mixes in completely. Let the cream cool down. Whip the double cream until billowing, then fold it in with the blueberries.
  6. Place the base layer of the cake on a big round serving dish and spread with half the blueberry cream, then place on the macaroon layer. Spread with the remaining blueberry cream and add the top layer of cake.
  7. Break the chocolate into pieces, place in a small heatproof bowl and fit over a saucepan of simmering water; the bowl should not touch the water. Melt the chocolate, then remove from the heat, add the butter and stir until mixed well. Leave to cool slightly, then spread on top of the cake.
  8. Roll out the marzipan in one long rectangle 12cm wide and long enough to reach around the cake, then wrap it around the cake, gently moulding the top edge into the surface. Add Marzipan roses and keep chilled until serving.
  9. To make marzipan roses

    For each rose, form six or so small balls of marzipan. Place them between two layers of plastic (I use a ziplock bag or something like that). Flatten each ball out to a thin layer, then fold the first around on itself to form the centre of a rose. Take the next ‘petal’ and mould it around the first, tweaking it a little to look like petals, then repeat to use up all the ‘petals’. Press all the petals together at the bottom and cut the base straight. These will keep in an airtight container for several weeks.
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