Food

The Kitchn: Battenberg Cake Is a Piece of British History

BY Kristina Vänni TIMEMay 24, 2022 PRINT

For a quintessentially British experience, enjoy a slice of Battenberg cake with a cup of afternoon tea. It is equally delicious when served alongside a cup of coffee, or as a sweet treat after dinner. This distinctive and elegant cake has a long history in the United Kingdom. It is said that the cake was originally created to celebrate the marriage of British Princess Victoria to German Prince Louis of Battenberg in 1884. The intention was to create a dessert that honored both British and German tastes and sensibilities.

While the cake looks like it would be difficult to make, it’s actually quite easy and doesn’t even require a special baking pan. All you have to do is divide an 8-by-8-inch square pan into two equal sections and bake two different color batters on each side. Once the cake is trimmed, the four pieces are arranged into the signature checkered pattern. The entire cake is then encased in marzipan.

This marzipan coating serves two purposes: The sweet marzipan is a delicious contrast to the light sponge cake, and it also keeps the cake fresh by wrapping it all tightly in a flavorful blanket. The marzipan is certainly a nod to the cake’s German heritage, because Germany is often referred to as the marzipan capital of Europe. It is also an ornate, decadent touch that makes this special-occasion treat feel quite distinctive. This recipe calls for ready-to-roll marzipan for ease of preparation. It can be found in the baking section of some specialty shops or it can be ordered online.

Why Is a Battenberg Cake Pink and Yellow?

A classic Battenberg cake is made with yellow and pink cake in a checkered pattern. It is said that these four blocks represent the four princes of Battenberg. The cake was created to satisfy both the British palate as well as German aesthetics. The design reflects German rococo architecture as well as favorite German ingredients such as apricot jam and marzipan. These flavors were also popular with the English palate. This traditional cake has been a favorite treat in the U.K. since the 1800s. Even today, there is a checkered emblem on the front of emergency vehicles in England. These are commonly referred to as “Battenberg markings.”

What Is a Battenberg Cake Made Of?

Battenberg cake is made of pink and yellow almond-flavored sponge cakes that are cut into equal-sized pieces and pressed together using apricot jam to form a checkered pattern. The cake is then covered in a sheet of rolled marzipan.

What Does a Battenberg Cake Taste Like?

Battenberg cake tastes like a light, almond-flavored sponge cake with a hint of apricot jam. The marzipan coating is very sweet and also almond-flavored.

Origin of Battenberg Cake

The Battenberg cake is a classic British dessert that originated in the United Kingdom in 1884. It was created in honor of the marriage of Princess Victoria to Prince Louis of Battenberg. Throughout history this cake has also been called church window cake, checkerboard cake, domino cake, Neapolitan Roll.

Battenberg Cake

Serves 8

2 sticks (8 ounce) unsalted butter

Cooking spray

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1/4 cup blanched almond meal

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

1 cup granulated sugar

4 large eggs

1/4 cup whole milk

1/2 teaspoon almond extract

Pink or red food coloring

3/4 cup apricot jam

1 (about 15-ounce) box ready to roll marzipan, or 2 (7-ounce) boxes marzipan

Powdered sugar, for dusting and rolling

1. Place 2 sticks unsalted butter in the bowl of a stand mixer (or large bowl if using an electric hand mixer). Let sit at room temperature until softened, at least 1 hour.

2. Arrange a rack in the middle of the oven and heat the oven to 350 F. Meanwhile, prepare an 8-by-8-inch square baking pan by dividing it in two sections: Line it with two sheets of aluminum foil, arranging them to meet in the center to form a wall. Press the foil into the bottom and up the edges, and flatten the wall in the center to form a straight line. You should now have two rectangular sections of equal size and shape. Coat the foil with cooking spray.

3. Place 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, 1/4 cup blanched almond meal, 1 teaspoon baking powder, and 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt in a medium bowl and whisk to combine.

4. Add 1 cup granulated sugar to the butter and beat with the paddle attachment on medium speed until light and fluffy, 1 to 2 minutes. Beat in 4 large eggs one at a time, scraping down the sides of the bowl after each addition (it will look curdled).

5. Add half of the flour mixture and beat on the lowest speed until just combined. Add 1/4 cup whole milk and 1/2 teaspoon almond extract, and beat on low speed until just combined. Add the remaining flour mixture and beat until just combined.

6. Pour half of the batter (about 16 ounces) into one half of the baking dish, spread into an even layer, and smooth the top. Mix pink or red food coloring a few drops at a time into the remaining batter until the desired shade of pink (somewhere between a pale and bubble gum pink) is achieved. Pour the pink batter into the other half of the pan and spread and smooth the top. Tap the pan lightly on the counter a few times to help eliminate any air bubbles in the batter.

7. Bake until a tester inserted into the center of each side comes out clean, 30 to 35 minutes. Let the cake cool in the pan for 10 minutes. Invert each side onto a wire rack and let cool completely.

8. Trim the top and sides of the cakes so they’re the same size. Cut each cake in half lengthwise to make 4 long rectangles.

9. Warm 3/4 cup apricot jam in the microwave for 30 seconds (or warm on the stovetop). Press the warm jam through a fine-mesh strainer and into a small bowl to remove any large chunks of apricot.

10. Brush the long, cut side of one pink rectangle piece with the jam. Place a yellow piece next to it and gently push the two pieces together, using the jam to adhere. Brush the top surface of these two pieces with jam. Place the second yellow piece on top of the first pink piece and brush the long cut side of this piece with jam. Place the second pink piece next to it and gently press all the pieces together to form a checkerboard pattern when viewed from the side.

11. Lightly dust a work surface with powdered sugar. Place 1 package ready to roll marzipan on the sugar and roll out into a large rectangle about 1/4-inch thick. (Alternatively, knead two 7-ounce packages marzipan together, then roll out.) It needs to be large enough to wrap around the top and long sides of the cake, with the ends uncovered.

12. Brush all the outside edges of the assembled cake with jam. Transfer the cake onto the marzipan rectangle and wrap with the marzipan, smoothing and pressing the sides gently to adhere. Trim off the excess marzipan (discard or save for another use) and gently press to seal the edges together. Trim any excess on both ends of the cake. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour to chill and firm up. Cut crosswise into 1-inch thick slices.

Recipe Notes: Leftovers can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to four days or frozen for up to three months.

 

©2022 Apartment Therapy. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

Kristina Vänni is a contributor to TheKitchn.com, a nationally known blog for people who love food and home cooking. Submit any comments or questions to editorial@thekitchn.com. Copyright 2021 Apartment Therapy. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.
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