This wonderful cake is perfect for the holidays, or any time of year. It is not difficult, but there are several steps. First, make a light and fluffy cake and cut into thin layers. Fill with pastry cream in between each layer, then top with a marzipan, (the sweet almond candy that the Spanish love).
- First prepare the cake. Heat oven to 360F. Place eggs and sugar into a medium mixing bowl and beat with an electric beater until eggs turn a light yellow color and frothy. Add the salt and vanilla extract. Gradually add in the flour while beating. Make sure that there are no lumps in the batter.
- Grease a round cake pan, then flour it. Pour batter into pan and bake on middle rack for 30-35 minutes. Cake is done when a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Allow to cool.
- While the cake is baking, prepare the pastry cream. Pour all but 1/3 cup milk into a medium saucepan. Place the milk on the stove and heat to a boil. Just as it boils, remove from the heat.
- Pour the remaining cold milk, sugar, vanilla extract, and the corn starch in a medium saucepan, and stir with a wooden spoon. Add the eggs. Beat with an electric hand mixer until thoroughly blended.
- Slowly pour the milk into the sugar mixture, while stirring with a wire whip. Return pan to the stove on medium heat. Mixture should begin to thicken within 3-4 minutes. Thickening will happen suddenly, so as soon as there is resistance while stirring, turn off heat and continue to stir rapidly to prevent clumping. Once thickened, remove from heat and stir.
- Place crema into a plastic storage container and immediately cover with plastic wrap to prevent a film from forming. Allow to cool for 20 minutes. If not using right away, place in refrigerator until ready to assemble the cake.
- Use a rolling pin to roll out the marzipan to a circle slightly larger than the cake. (Since marzipan is sticky, use parchment paper underneath and on top.)
- Assemble the cake by spooning the pastry cream between each of the three layers. Top with the marzipan and cut away any excess. Decorate with powdered sugar on top, or use a butane kitchen torch to burn designs in the marzipan.
Note: Some cooks light to drizzle a bit of rum or almond liqueur on the cake before assembling. This moistens it, and gives it extra flavor.