Back in the olden days, whenever I paid a visit to my Nan and Gramp in Cheltenham, there were certain foodstuffs I was guaranteed to enjoy. Items that were surefire crowd pleasers in the under 10 category, namely Dairylea triangles, tiny boxes of Kellogg’s cereals (aka the variety pack) and, best of all, battenberg cake.
I developed highly prescriptive methods to be utilised when eating each of these treats. Dairylea triangles must always be consumed in pairs, one thinly spread in a sandwich, cut into neat quarters and one meticulously removed from its tinfoil wrapper and nibbled delicately. The cereal should be consumed dry, straight from the box and by the handful, usually whilst watching cartoons on a Saturday morning.
But my favourite ritual involved the battenberg. A single, chunky slice would carefully be peeled, preferably in one perfect sliver of marzipan. Only then could the squares be separated and eaten one at a time, in alternating colours of pink and yellow. People who bite straight into a slice of battenburg frankly freak me out, how can they not know how wrong that is? Admittedly, I may missing out on the combination of flavours that biting off a corner would provide, but I do love a routine.
Now every time I eat a battenberg (or, more unusually Dairylea or a Kellogg’s variety pack) the memories of weekends with my Nan & Gramp come flooding back. Isn’t the human brain a marvellous thing? What better reason is there to make my own battenberg cake? However, part of the credit for this cake appearing on my blog has to go to my boyfriend who is utterly obsessed with marzipan and put in a special request.
I don’t exactly have a reputation for making attractive cakes, I’ve always focused my attention on cakes that taste awesome, but are a little dubious in the looks department. Hideously lumpy ginger cakes, lemon polenta cakes that have sunk in the middle, cracked cheesecakes, I really don’t have the patience to make a beautiful cake, so making a pretty battenberg proved a little challenging.
I was also a little terrified by the construction process, I didn’t want to end up with a lumpy, uneven cake, I wanted it to be beautifully smooth and perfectly straight. That’s where my trusty dressmaking tape measure came into play.
The cakes were cut in half and trimmed, then glued together in alternating colours with a little melted jam. I went with blackberry jelly for one cake (left over from my Blackberry & Coconut Squares) and raspberry jam for the other, yes for some reason I made 2! If you’re averse to pips you can sieve the jam after you’ve warmed it.
After rolling the marzipan into a large rectangle on an icing sugar coated board (the measuring tape came back into play!), the cake was placed on top, coated on the outside with more jam and then snuggled into it’s marzipan blanket.
A little trim of the ends and there you have it, a perfectly pretty battenberg, or at least as close as I’m going to get to pretty!
Slightly adapted from BBC Good Food
Makes 1 cake
175g softened unsalted butter
175g caster sugar
3 large eggs
50g ground almonds
140g self-raising flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp almond extract (optional, I didn’t have any!)
Pink food colouring
100g jam or jelly
Icing sugar for dusting
Start by preheating your oven to 180C / 160C Fan / 350F and greasing and lining a couple of 22cm x 8cm loaf tins. (Alternatively you can use a battenberg tin or a 20cm square tin with a divider down the middle made out of tin foil and baking paper)
Cream together the butter and sugar, I used a stand mixer but you can just as easily do this in a large bowl with a wooden spoon. Next beat in the eggs, then the almonds, flour and baking powder.
Next you will need to split the mix between 2 bowls, if you want to be super precise, use a set of scales. I ended up with about 330g in each bowl. Mix some food colouring into one of the bowls until you obtain just the right shade of pink.
Tip the mixtures into the 2 tins and pop them both in the oven for 30-35 minutes, until a skewer inserted into the centre of the cakes comes out clean. Cool them in their tins for 10 minutes, then transfer them to a wire rack to cool completely.
Put the cakes onto a chopping board and cut each one in half, then trim the edges until they are straight and reasonably square at the ends. Heat the jam in a small pan and then sieve it if you want to.
Lightly dust a work surface or large chopping board with icing sugar and roll out the marzipan into a 35cm x 24cm rectangle. Brush the top and sides of a piece of plain sponge with jam, then do the same with a strip of pink sponge and stick the 2 together, side by side. Gently place the other 2 sponges on top, opposite colours on each, brushing all the edges with jam.
Next place the cake, jam side down, onto the short end of the marzipan rectangle. Brush the top with jam and then roll. Sit the cake on the side with the join and trim the ends. Enjoy with a nice cup of tea.