Battenberg cake has got to be one of my all time favourites. The yellow and pink checkerboard pattern of sponge stuck together with apricot jam and all wrapped up in a beautiful blanket of marzipan. What’s not to love? My dad and I used to be the only ones in the house who like marzipan, so whenever a Battenberg managed to wind its way into the cake tin, it was us and only us who would much our way through it. Now? Things have changed. We have to fight for a slice like it’s the last morsel of food on earth. So, before there is nothing left to photograph, let’s get on with it.
First off, the sponge. It’s pretty straightforward: a three-egg mix with a few tablespoons of flour taken out and replaced with ground almonds. This mixture is then separated in half, and each portion coloured yellow and pink. Some people like to leave the flavours out of the initial “mother” batter, and then flavour the yellow almond or lemon, and the pink rose or strawberry. I’m not a massive fan of floral flavours, so I stuck to the almond essence for both colours, but if you’re feeling more adventurous, go for it. Hell, Heston Blumenthal even flavoured his yellow mix with chamomile tea, so there really are no boundaries.
Once coloured, you can either go for the traditional square checkerboard approach, or you can, like me, mix it up a bit (literally). So long as the intensity of each of the colours is high enough, marbling the two together works really well. Blob some of each colour into the pan, swirl and repeat until all the batter is used up. This way is a little less mathematical, and a little more ‘just go for it’ – evidently my style of baking.
Once the cake is baked, all is left is the assembly. This is where it is so much easier than cuboids. Levelling the cake and sandwiching it like you would any other layer cake means all that is left to do is cover it in marzipan. The original flavour combination of almond and apricot just works so well, there is absolutely no reason to change it. The apricot jam isn’t overpowering and provides only a slight sweetness, which balances with the marzipan perfectly. You can decide how thick you like your marzipan, but I kept to the thinner side so any added decorations I stuck on would not result in layers upon layers of sugary sweet marzipan (as much as I love it), so bear that in mind when rolling it out.
Then all that’s left to do is eat it. A nice cup of tea on the side, or a scoop of ice-cream if you want to serve it with dessert. Any which way you eat this, it’s sure to be a new favourite.
For the Sponge
- 3 Medium Free-range Eggs
- 175g Softened Butter or Margarine
- 175g of caster sugar
- 150g of self-raising flour
- 25g Ground Almonds
- 1 tsp Almond Essence
For the Jam
- Approx 200g of Apricot Jam (1/2 Jar)
For the Marzipan
- Approx 250g Natural Marzipan (1/2 Pack)
- Preheat the oven to 180°c/350 Fahrenheit/Gas Mark 4; Grease and line a 7″ circular tin.
Cream the butter/maragarine and the sugar together in a large mizing bowl
Add in the rest of the ingredients and beat (until just combined) by hand or with electric beaters. Be careful not to over-mix the batter
Use a spatula to remove all of the mixture from the bowl into the tin and gently smooth the surface of the cake.
Place the tins on the middle shelf of the oven and bake for 35-40 minutes. Don’t be tempted to open the door while they’re cooking, but after 20 minutes do look through the door to check them. You may need to place a small tin foil ‘hat’ to stop the top from catching.
- After the time has elapsed, remove from the tin and set aside to cool completely.
- Level the top of the cake, and then slice into 2/3 layers.
- Sandwich each layer with apricot jam and then spread the jam all over the sides to lock in any crumbs.
- Roll out the marzipan larger the diameter of the cake and to around 5mm (the thickness of a pound coin)
- Drape over the cake. Cut off the excess and tuck in around the edges; then decorate as you wish.