As a member country of the Commonwealth, we in New Zealand celebrate the Queen’s birthday on the first Monday of each June.
This year, I thought it might be fun to mark the royal occasion with a Battenberg cake – a cake purportedly named in honour of the marriage of Princess Victoria – a granddaughter of Queen Victoria – to Prince Louis of Battenberg in 1884 (Wikipedia).
The Battenberg cake is basically a simple checkerboard of pink and yellow cake squares, held together with jam and covered in marzipan. It may look fancy, and even a little intimidating, but believe me it’s actually pretty simple and I’ve included lots of process photos below. It only took about two hours, from start to finish, to make (including baking and resting time), so it’s really quite a doable task to serve it for morning tea.
Thanks to BBC Good Food.com for this great little recipe which I converted to gluten-free. It’s been on my ‘must make’ list now for a couple of years and I’m so glad I finally had the excuse to make it (not that one needs an excuse!). It’s a darned tasty little cake, but you most assuredly need to love the flavour of almond – with both ground almonds and almond extract in the cake, along with the almond flavoured marzipan, you simply can’t escape it!
It’s quite a sweet cake, though the apricot jam provides a nice touch of tang (for that reason, I’ve increased the jam component as I felt there wasn’t quite enough). I’m going to make this again most definitely – next time I want to pair it with my home-made raspberry jam which is nice and tart, and flavour the pink cake with rose water. In the meantime, give this standard recipe a try – I’m sure you’ll love it as much as we did!
- 175g (6.1 oz) really soft butter
- 175g (6.1 oz) golden caster sugar (superfine) - I used regular caster sugar
- 3 medium eggs
- 50g (1.7 oz) ground almonds (almond meal)
- 140g (4.9 oz) self-raising flour (I used a gluten-free flour blend plus one teaspoon baking powder)
- 1/2 extra teaspoon baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon almond extract (I used 1/4 teaspoon almond extract paste)
- Pink food colouring
- 150g (5.2 oz) apricot jam
- Icing sugar (confectioner's sugar), for dusting
- 500g (17.6 oz) pack white marzipan (almond flavoured icing) - you won't need all of this - you can freeze left-overs for another time
- Heat oven to 180C (360F).
- Grease a 20cm (8 inch) square tin (it doesn't need to be a deep sided tin as the cakes are quite shallow). Cut a piece of baking paper twice the length of the tin and fold the paper in half widthways. Open out the paper and push up the centre fold to make a pleat at least as high as your tin. Use a foil insert to strengthen this pleat - measure a length of foil to sit inside the pleat and fold it over several times to increase its sturdiness. Line the base of the tin with this, making any adjustments to ensure the pleat runs down the centre of the tin making in effect two rectangular 'tins' within the tin. It helps to have an overhang of baking paper on each side so you can lift the cakes out once baked.
- Put all the cake ingredients except the food colouring in a large mixing bowl and blend with an electric hand whisk until smooth.
- Tip half the cake mixture into one side of the tin (I recommend you weigh the mixture first so you can calculate the half amount exactly).
- Mix the food colouring into the remaining cake mixture. When you have a smooth and vivid pink colour, scrape this mixture into the other side of the tin, then level the surface of the two cakes with an offset spatula.
- Bake for 25-30 mins until the tops are lightly golden and a skewer comes out clean. Cool in the tin for 15 mins, then transfer to a wire rack (lifting the cakes out by holding onto the overhanging sides and middle pleat of baking paper - a second person to help is useful!) to cool completely.
- Once cooled, place the cakes on a chopping board and trim the sides of each one to give you a straight edge.
- Cut each cake in half lengthways to give you 2 pink and 2 plain rectangular sponges, using a ruler if you want to be really exact. If the sponges are a little taller than they are wide, trim some sponge from the tops as well – this will ensure you have a perfect square when you come to assemble the cake.
- Heat the apricot jam in a small pan or the microwave, then sieve it.
- Lightly dust a work surface with a little icing sugar, then roll out the marzipan to a rectangle big enough to wrap around the whole cake.
- Brush the surface of the marzipan with the warm apricot jam (if you find the jam too thick to spread, add a touch of boiling water to thin it down), then place 1 plain sponge and 1 pink sponge side by side on top (in the middle), brushing the inside edge of the cakes with a little jam to stick them together (I found applying the jam with a small offset spatula worked better than a brush and avoided dragging crumbs).
- Brush the top of the cakes with more jam, then place the remaining sponges on top, with more jam in between, in a checkerboard pattern.
- If you have any left over jam, brush it over the outside of the assembled cake. Then, carefully lift the marzipan over the cake, smoothing it over the top and sides, and join it together on the top of the cake (roughly in the middle), easing it together with your fingers - don't worry if it's not perfect - this will be underneath the cake in the end and no-one will see it.
- Gently roll the cake over with the seam underneath. Using a sharp knife, trim about a centimetre off each end of cake (which will automatically trim the marzipan at the same time) and place on a serving platter.
- If you wish to make any designs in the marzipan, you can do so now (I pressed a diamond design cutter into the top, then placed silver cachous at the intersecting lines, adhering them with a small dot of jam). Alternatively, you can crimp the top edges with your fingers or simply keep it plain.
- Slice into 8 thick slices and serve.
Food Photography Info: Canon 550D (EOS Rebel T2i); Sigma 30mm 1.4 DC ‘Art’ lens / Combination of natural lighting and continuous fluorescent lighting softbox