Sunday, 20 March 2011

Battenberg (or Battenburg) cake

I still can’t decide which spelling to go with for this cake; the more I think about it the more both spellings end up looking equally wrong (if I was of a more optimistic bent I might have said “equally right”).

It is generally accepted that Battenberg cake was invented in honour of the marriage, in 1884, between Queen Victoria’s granddaughter to Prince Louis of Battenberg.
The four squares symbolise the four Battenberg princes. However, that doesn’t help to explain why two of the squares are pink, and two yellow…but they always are (except when a silly baker doesn’t put in enough food colouring...ahem).

When you’re making a classic you have to follow the rules so I used food colouring in this recipe - it simply wouldn’t be a Battenberg without it. Sadly, I didn’t put enough so had an orange rather than pink sponge, but it still looked rather attractive and had that all important colour contrast to achieve the chequerboard effect. Jamming up the sponges is one of the more fun parts of the process:

It’s worth taking the time to make your own marzipan for this cake; it will mean extra work and home made is -in my experience - harder to roll out but it is so superior in taste, and that’s what really matters. Not sure if I made a mistake or the recipe was wrong but I found my marzipan far too soft to roll and had to add a lot more icing sugar. Here’s what it started out looking like:

I find you can get away with a softer marzipan (although not as soft as the photo above!!) if you’re just covering the top of a fruit cake but this needed to be more firm to wrap the sponge. There may have been swearing but I persevered and kept kneading more and more icing sugar into the marzipan and I ended up with something, still sticky, but capable of rolling:

Once I’d cursed everything I could think of and sworn I would never make marzipan again, I tasted tasted good!

The combination of classic sponge, apricot jam and soft almond paste is a joy – every mouthful delivers flavour and texture. While mine may not be the prettiest Battenberg you’ll ever see I will venture it’s one of the tastiest. Just make it the day before you want to eat it – that way the pain of the marzipan will be but a distant memory!

Being a caketinoholic (it is a proper addiction as my cupboards and bank statements prove) I used my Battenberg cake tin which takes the effort out of the process.
You could, of course, use a normal square tin and make dividers out of foil.

Sept 2011 – Battenberg update

I made this cake again with pink colouring – if anything I over compensated for my colour failure last time as you’ll notice it’s somewhat lurid!

Had a much easier time using my no-bake marzipan recipe. It rolled easily and tasted divine.


For the cake:

175g unsalted butter, at room temperature
175g caster sugar
3 eggs
175g self raising flour
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
red food colouring
Apricot jam

For the marzipan - see Sept 2011 update above for easier recipe:

115g caster sugar
115g icing sugar, plus a lot more (potentially) to bring into a dough and for rolling
2 eggs plus 1 egg yolk e.g. 3 egg yolks and 1 white
2 tablespoons lemon juice
265g ground almonds


Preheat the oven to 190˚C/fan oven 170˚C/375˚F/Gas mark 5.

Grease a Battenberg cake tin or a 20cm square tin. If using the square tin use a rigid strip of foil or baking paper to divide the tin in half.

Beat the butter and sugar together until pale and creamy. Don’t skimp on this stage as it’s the most important time to get air into the cake.

Beat in the eggs, one at a time.

Stir in the flour and vanilla.

Divide the batter into two separate bowls. You can weigh these to ensure the batter is evenly divided.

Add some red food colouring to one bowl of batter – add enough so that the cake is starting to look red, it will bake paler. I didn’t add anywhere near enough and got an orange sponge!

Spoon the batters into their separate sections of the prepared tin and level the surface.

Bake for approximately 25 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the sponge comes out clean. Mine took 30 minutes.

Place the tin on a wire rack and allow the cake to cool for 10 minutes, then turn the cakes out and leave to cool completely.

When cool level the surfaces so that your cake is flat and even on all sides. If you used the square tin with a central divider, now is the time to cut each coloured sponge in two – divide them by cutting down the longest length.

Store in an airtight container until you are ready to assemble the cake.

Now make the marzipan: place a bowl over a pan of simmering water, ensuring that the water cannot touch the bowl.

Place both sugars, egg and egg yolk in the bowl and whisk for about 10 minutes or until pale and thick.

Take the bowl off the heat and stir in the lemon juice and ground almonds. It will be very sticky and not at all like a paste that you can roll! With hindsight, this is where I should’ve added extra icing sugar to bring to a firm dough. You’re aiming for something thick enough that you can roll it out. You may need to add a lot of extra icing sugar – I did.

Wrap the marzipan in clingfilm and chill for at least 30 minutes.

Now prepare the sponges for assembling: warm the apricot jam (about 6 tablespoons) then use to glue the four canes of sponge together.

Cover the outside of the cake with apricot jam and put to one side.

Roll the chilled marzipan into a rectangle big enough to accommodate the sponge – about 30cm x 20cm should do it. I rolled the marzipan between two sheets of clingfilm. If your marzipan is still sticky dust the work surface (or clingfilm) liberally with icing sugar.

Place the cake at one end of the marzipan and roll it up ensuring that the seam is at the bottom and cutting off any excess marzipan.

If the marzipan tears at all you can patch it up with spare marzipan.

Tidy up the edges by trimming any surplus marzipan.

Serve in thick slices.

Bask in the glory of the wonderful thing you have created.



trash said...

Oh great! I don't like Battenbe/urg cake, I have no intention of ever making a Battenbe/urg cake, in fact I think Battenbe/urg cake is quite ick but now I really really want a Battenbe/urg cake tin!!!!!!

Nom! said...

I've never tried Battenburg as they look quite sickly but this one looks fab! I love how the squares are slightly off being a perfect square - make it look real and home made! x

astheroshe said...

I have never eaten a Battenburg cake . BUT, I think it is so cute and charming! I want that cake tin so i can make one, and several other things! Fantastic!

C said...

Looks fab - I quite like the orange colour, makes a change from pink! I'm very impressed that you made your own marzipan!

I hadn't realised the historical connection to having four squares, although I think I did know about it being created for the marriage. Interesting stuff!

Katie said...

Battenburg is one of my all time favourites!! Its the marzipan that gets me everytime. I'm so impressed you made your own, ive yet to ammpt that but hearing you describe its taste, I'll have to give it a go.

I love how your cake is orange and white, looks more natural and loveingly homemade. Yum yum

Abbie said...

This looks lovely!! Home made is always best, you can't beat it!

Les rêves d'une boulangère (Brittany) said...

I've always wanted to make this style of checkerboard cake! It looks great!

Cascat said...

I bought the battenberg cake tin last Christmas but haven't tried it yet as I couldn't find a nice recipe I fancied.
Now I can try it out!!!

Bizzy said...

I have never had this cake but it is lovely. I want the pan. That is also a beauty.

Anonymous said...

Well done on your Battenbe/urg cake! It looks great.
I've been making my own marzipan now for years and yes, the taste is far superior to the shop bought variety, even though it causes some muttering.
One or two thoughts here though, don't add all the liquid in one go and remember that as you knead the mixture some of the oil from the ground almonds releases, adding extra moisture. I also found that using all icing sugar makes it easier to handle.

The Caked Crusader said...

Hi Anonymous

Thanks for your excellent advice. It didn't enter my head to add the liquid gradually but I can see that would prevent a multitude of issues arising!
Thanks for leaving the comment

Happy baking

Baking Addict said...

I didnt even know there is a Battenburg cake tin! Now I really want one. Love the look of your cake and well done on making your own marzipan.

The KitchenMaid said...

You have a battenburg/berg cake tin? I think I should give up this baking lark now - I didn't even know such a thing existed. Mind you, I didn't know battenburgs/bergs existed until a few years ago (I blame a sheltered childhood). But oh, homemade marzipan! I think I'd eat the lot before it even made it within a whisker of the cake!

Sarah-Jane - said...

Lovely cake. I've seen these sectional type tins before. They're pretty cool.

I'm never likely to make battenberg cake though as I really don't like the texture of marzipan. Had polenta last week for the first time and didn't like that either. Def. a texture thing...

Maggie said...

I am missing something here. I too have never seen a Battenburg tin.
You have made a great job of the cake, it looks very time consuming. A true labour of love.

Anne said...

I love battenberg (burg?) am not sure on spelling either! I really like your special tin too, though don't think can fit any more cake tins in the cupboard..

Have only made marzipan once, to go on top of a simnel cake, agree it was delicious but have not made it since!

Lucy said...

I've made Battenberg cake before but think it would have been a lot easier with your great tin! I love Battenberg - can never resist anything with marzipan - and this looks delicious.

Choclette said...

Looks fabulous. I've been gearing myself up to making Battenburg for ages now. But, now you've said how difficult marzipan is to make, I'm having second thoughts.

Aveen said...

I'm a huge battenberg fan, and I'll be making one at college on Wednesday so I hope it turns out as well as yours has - it looks yummy! The world needs more battenberg.

Gloria said...

amazing!! gloria

Cakelaw said...

It looks good to me, and all the better for being an unconventional orange and white.

coco cooks said...

I want that cake tin. A little OT but cant wait to see what what the Royal Wedding Cake will look like. More interested in the cake than the wedding. LOL

Annamaria @ It's In There said...

Wow, this looks great! I love Marzipan!

Neil Foss said...

The marzipan on my homemade battenburgs always goes soft and sticky!!
Why won't it stay drier?? I keep it in a plastic cake tub. I sprinkle sugar on the outside. But it always goes soft and sticky.
Please help. Its shop bought. Its dry when I wrap it around the cake. It just changes day by day in the cake tub. Not that it hangs around!!

The Caked Crusader said...

Hi Neil

I use the no bake marzipan recipe listed above and don't get any problems with stickiness any more.
I don't know why your marzipan gets wetter - I can only think it's sweating in the plastic tub or the jam is seeping through making it sticky. Have you tried not sprinkling sugar on the outside - that could be making it stickier too?

Happy baking