Friday, 8 November 2013

Traditional Battenberg Cake

I am delighted with the Battenberg Cake tin that I recently purchased. The tin has removable dividers that easily create the different coloured/flavoured strips that are required when baking a Battenberg.

The tins are manufactured by Silverwood and can be purchased online from but I bought mine in Kitchen Compliments – a kitchen supplies shop located on South Anne Street in Dublin.

Battenberg Cake is believed to have been originally made to celebrate the marriage of Queen Victoria’s daughter to Prince Louis of Battenberg in 1884. Essentially Battenberg Cake is a light sponge cake, which may or may not include ground almonds in the cake batter. The cake is covered in marzipan and when cut into slices displays the distinctive pink and pale yellow checkerboard pattern for which it is famous. This pattern is achieved by sandwiching contrasting layers of coloured sponge together with jam. Strictly speaking apricot jam should be used throughout, but I prefer to use raspberry jam to sandwich the layers together because I like the more defined cross that is created by the darker jam and which separates the coloured sponges, but I do use apricot jam to help the marzipan stick to the outside of the cake.

Battenberg Cake is one of those cakes which have an instant visual appeal, but all too often shop-bought versions are disappointing and cloyingly sweet. Home-made versions really are far superior.

Being a fan of almonds, this cake really appeals to me with its thick coat of marzipan. The recipe that I give is for a cooked marzipan, but many recipes for Battenberg Cake also use uncooked almond paste. The reason I use cooked marzipan is because I find that it is less crumbly and easier to roll out and mould against the cake. Alternatively, you can use shop bought marzipan, but it often has quite an artificial taste. Any left-over marzipan can be stored for up to a week wrapped in cling film in the fridge, but I tend to use it up immediately to form small little discs about 4cms wide which I dip in dark melted chocolate and then allowed to cool to create little sweets to treat myself with.

I have recently been thinking of variations to the basic Battenberg theme. I am quite intrigued by the idea of making marzipan using different nuts and I have mentioned elsewhere that I am keen to experiment using the Frangelico – a hazelnut flavoured liqueur that I recently bought. I would love to make a hazelnut and chocolate sponge variation and introduce a pear flavour somehow. I also think that a pistachio marzipan encasing an orange or lemon/pistachio sponge combination could be interesting.


175g butter, softened, plus extra for greasing
175g caster sugar
3 large eggs
175g self-raising flour
½ tsp vanilla paste
A small amount of red/pink food colouring paste
6 tblsp raspberry jam

225g granulated or caster sugar
75ml water
175g ground almonds
½ tsp almond extract
1 egg white lightly beaten
To assemble:
6 tblsp apricot jam, warmed and sieved
A little icing sugar to dust your work surface


1. Preheat the oven to 190C/Fan 170C/Gas Mark 5.
2. Base line your Battenberg tin with some baking parchment cut to size. Grease with a little of the butter and then lightly flour, shaking out any excess.
3. Cream the butter and sugar together until light and a paler colour. Add the eggs a little at a time and beat well to fully incorporate. Add in the flour and mix again briefly until just combined.
Remove half of the batter to a separate bowl, using a scale for accuracy if you wish and add the food colouring. Fold into the batter until combined.
4. Spoon the plain batter into two sections of the Battenberg tin and the coloured batter into the remaining two sections, smoothing out evenly. Bake in the preheated oven for approximately 20-25 minutes until the sponges have risen and are shrinking back slightly from the edge of the tin. Allow to cool in the tin for about five minutes and remove from the tin and allow to cool completely on a wire cooling rack.
5. You should have four strips of cake; two plain and two pink. When completely cool trim, if necessary so that they are all a similar size.
6. Warm the raspberry jam in a small saucepan and then pass through a fine sieve into a small bowl to remove the seeds and smooth any lumps.
7. Brush the long side of one of the sponges with jam and sandwich together with a sponge of a contrasting colour. Do the same with other two sponges. Sandwich the two pairs of sponges together to achieve a checkerboard pattern and set aside whilst you make the marzipan.
8. Put the sugar and water into a medium sized, heavy based saucepan and bring to the boil. Allow to bubble until the mixture reaches the “soft-ball” stage (116C on a sugar thermometer). Remove the saucepan from the heat but continue stirring the mixture for another minute or two until it turns cloudy. Tip in the ground almonds, almond extract and egg-white and mix well until all the ingredients are well-combined. You should have a very stiff past-like mixture at this stage. Allow to cool completely and then knead briefly into a ball. Cover with cling-film and refrigerate until required.
To finish the cake:
9. Lightly dust your work-surface with icing sugar and roll out the marzipan into a rectangle approximately 40cms x 20cms, about 5mm thick – it should be large enough to wrap around the cake completely, leaving the ends exposed. Lightly brush the outside of the assembled sponges with the prepared apricot jam and place on the marzipan. Carefully wrap the marzipan around the cake, pressing the edges where both edges of the marzipan meet so that they firmly encase the cake.
10. Turn the cake over so that this seam/join is on the bottom. Neaten the ends of the cake by trimming a thin slice off each end. Place on serving plate.

Makes 1 cake.