Battenberg cake

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Preparation info

  • Difficulty

    Medium

  • For

    6-8

    people

Appears in

Oats in the North, Wheat from the South: The history of British Baking, savoury and sweet

Oats in the North, Wheat from the South

By Regula Ysewijn

Published 2020

  • About

The first Battenberg cake appeared in Frederick Vine’s Saleable Shop Goods for Counter-Tray and Window from 1898 and had nine panels instead of four. Presumably it became four panels when the big cake manufacturers started baking the cake on an industrial scale in the 20th century. Mrs Marshall, a distinguished cookbook writer, publisher of her own magazine and owner of a store that sold cooking appliances she invented herself, gave a recipe in 1898 for a cake that looked exactly the same but had a different name. She added flavour to her marzipan by adding maraschino liqueur.

There are special cake tins for Battenberg cake that yield four bars of cake that you just have to trim. If you don’t have a Battenberg tin, simply make two cakes in separate tins or make one cake in a larger tin and build a dam with foil to keep the batter separate.

Ingredients

For the home-made marzipan (or use 400 g/14 oz ready-made marzipan)

  • 100 g ( oz) icing (confectioners’) sugar
  • 100 g ( oz) caster (superfine) sugar
  • 180 g (6 oz) almond meal
  • 20 g (¾ oz) apricot kernels
  • 1 tsp rosewater
  • 1 egg, beaten

For the cake

  • 175 g (6 oz) butter, at room temperature
  • 175 g (6 oz) caster (superfine) sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 135 g plain (all-purpose) flour
  • 35 g ( oz) almond meal
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • natural pink food colouring
  • 3-4 tbsp apricot jam
  • butter, for greasing
  • flour, for dusting

Method

For a Battenberg tin or a 22 x 15 cm (8/½ x 6 inch) cake tin

It is best to make the marzipan a day in advance. Sift the icing sugar, caster sugar and almond meal into a large bowl and mix well. Soak the apricot kernels in boiling water for 5 minutes, then remove the skins. Using a mortar and pestle, finely crush the apricot kernels and add the rosewater or maraschino liqueur.

Make a well in the dry ingredients and add the egg and the apricot kernel mixture. Use a spatula or wooden spoon to mix everything well, then use your hands to knead the marzipan. If necessary, add a teaspoon of water at a time until it comes together but doesn’t become sticky. Wrap the marzipan in plastic wrap and let it rest at room temperature.

Preheat your oven to 180°C (350°F) and prepare the tin.

For the cake, put the butter and sugar in a bowl and beat until creamy. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add a teaspoon of the flour with the last egg to prevent the mixture from separating.

Add the remaining flour, the almond meal and baking powder and mix well. Divide the batter in half and add colouring to one half. Pour the batter into the cake tin, keeping the colours separate. Bake in the middle of the oven for 25-30 minutes.

When the cake has cooled completely, cut out 3 x 3 cm (1¼ x 1¼ inch) bars from each colour, making sure they are nicely square and uniform. You can skip this step if you have a Battenberg tin and just trim where necessary.

Gently heat the apricot jam. Spread a little of the warm jam on the sides of the cake bars where they will be stuck together to create the iconic stained-glass window effect.

Roll out your marzipan to about 5 mm (¼ in) thick. Brush the marzipan with the jam and place the assembled cake on top. Trim the marzipan and wrap it around the cake. Trim the ends of the cake for a neat finish.