Mandy of What The Fruitcake?! came to our rescue last minute to present us with the Battenberg Cake challenge! She highlighted Mary Berry’s techniques and recipes to allow us to create this unique little cake with ease. This cake was created as a wedding cake for royalty. The first one was made to celebrate the marriage of Queen Victoria’s granddaughter, Princess Victoria, to husband Prince Louis of Battenberg.

It is traditionally flavoured with almond and has the signature Battenberg markings, that is, the yellow and pink squares, said to represent the four princes of Battenberg. The strips of sponge are glued together using jam – normally apricot – and the whole cake is covered in marzipan. Sometimes the edges are crimped and the top is patterned with a knife.

The traditional Battenberg recipe for this month’s challenge comes from Mary Berry’s “Baking Bible”. It’s an all in one cake method, so very simple, quick and very few dirty dishes! Although there are specialised Battenberg cake tins available, you don’t need one. This can be baked in a square baking tin and a divide made with foil to separate the two batters. This recipe really is all about simplicity. The batter is your basic sponge recipe, equal amounts of butter, sugar and flour (in weight) and it’s not a fussy recipe at all.

Our challenge as Daring Bakers was to make a Battenberg cake in the traditional square oblong shape with at least two different coloured checks and be covered in a firm edible covering like marzipan, rolled fondant or chocolate plastique. The cake could be glued together with jam, buttercream, curd or ganache. The given flavour option, besides the traditional Battenberg, was coffee & walnut, held together with coffee buttercream. Other popular flavours are lemon & orange sponge glued with lemon curd or coconut sponge with raspberry jam.

TRADITIONAL BATTENBERG

 

Ingredients:

¾ cup (1½ sticks) 175gm /6 oz unsalted butter

¾ cup / 175gm /6 oz caster sugar

1¼ cups / 175gm /6 oz self raising flour

3 large eggs, room temperature

½ cup / 65gm/2 1/3 oz ground almonds

3/4 tsp / 3½ gm baking powder

½ tsp / 2½ ml vanilla extract

1/4 tsp (1¼ ml) almond extract

Red food colouring, paste, liquid or gel

1/3 cup (80 ml) 100gm /3 ½ oz apricot jam

1 cup / 225gm /8 oz marzipan, natural or yellow

Method:

  • Preheat oven to moderate 350°F/180°C/160°C Fan Assisted/Gas Mark 4. Grease an 8”/20cm square baking tin with butter.
  • Line the tin with parchment paper, creating a divide in the middle with the parchment or foil or prepare Battenberg tin.

  • Whisk together the dry ingredients then combine with the wet ingredients in a large bowl.
  • Beat together just until the ingredients are combined and the batter is smooth.

  • Spoon half the mixture into one side of the prepared baking tin. Add a few drops of red food colour to the remaining batter.
  • Stir until the colour is thoroughly distributed. Spoon the pink batter into the other half of the prepared baking tin.

  • Smooth the surface of the batter with a spatula, making sure batter is in each corner.
  • Bake for 25-30mins until the cake is well risen, springs back when lightly touched and a toothpick comes out clean.

  • Leave to cool in the tin for a few minutes before turning out to cool thoroughly on a wire rack.
  • Once completely cool, trim the edges of the cake with a long serrated knife.

  • Cut each coloured sponge in half lengthways so that you are left with four long strips of sponge.
  • Neaten the strips and trim as necessary so that your checkered pattern is as neat and even as possible.

  • Gently heat the apricot jam and pass through a small sieve. Brush warmed jam onto the strips of cake to stick the cake together in a checkered pattern – one yellow next to one pink; one pink next to one yellow on top).

  • Dust a large flat surface with icing sugar then roll the marzipan in an oblong shape wide enough to cover the length of the cake.
  • It must be long enough to completely wrap the cake. Brush the top of the cake with apricot jam.

  • Place the cake on the marzipan, jam side down, either in the middle or to the one side of the marzipan.
  • Brush the remaining three sides with jam. Press the marzipan around the cake.

  • Make sure the join is either neatly in the one corner, or will be underneath the cake once turned over. Carefully flip the cake over so that the seam is under the cake. Neaten the ends and trim off a small bit of cake on both ends to reveal the pattern.

It was an overall lovely challenge, giving me my first opportunity to work with marzipan or pâte d’amande. Though my battenberg cakes did not turn out to be beautiful, symmetrical cubes of contrasting colours, I was happy to note that they were, at least, edible. The contrast between the coffee and the walnut dough was not so striking once the cakes were baked; maybe a chocolate and peanut butter combo would have made a better visual impact.

COFFEE & WALNUT BATTENBERG

Ingredients:

¾ cup (1½ sticks) 175gm /6 oz unsalted butter

¾ cup / 175gm /6 oz caster sugar

1¼ cups / 175gm /6 oz self raising flour

3 large eggs, room temperature

½ cup / 65gm /2 1/3 oz ground almonds

3/4 tsp / 3½ gm baking powder

3 tsp (15 ml) milk

½ tsp (2½ ml) vanilla extract

1½ tsp (7½ ml) 7 gm instant coffee powder or granules

3 Tbsp / 25gm/1 oz walnuts, roughly chopped

½ cup (1 stick) 115gm /4 oz unsalted butter

2 cups / 225gm /8 oz powdered (Icing/Confectioners’) sugar

½ tsp / 2 gm instant coffee

1½ tsp (7½ ml) milk or cream

1 cup / 225gm /8 oz marzipan, natural or yellow

Method:

  • Preheat oven to moderate 350°F/180°C/160°C Fan Assisted/Gas Mark 4. Grease an 8”/20cm square baking tin with butter.
  • Line the tin with parchment paper, creating a divide in the middle with the parchment or foil or prepare a Battenberg tin.
  • Whisk together dry ingredients (except walnuts and coffee) and combine with the wet ingredients (except vanilla and milk).

  • Beat together just until the ingredients are combined and the batter is smooth.
  • Spoon half the mixture into a separate bowl and stir in the vanilla, 1½ teaspoons milk and chopped walnuts.
  • Spoon the walnut mixture into the one side of the prepared baking tin.

  • Dissolve the coffee in the remaining 1½ teaspoon milk and add to the remaining batter, stir until just combined.
  • Spoon the coffee batter into the other half of the prepared baking tin. Smooth the surface of the batter with a spatula, making sure batter is in each corner. Bake for 25-30mins until the cake is well risen, springs back when lightly touched.

  • Leave to cool in the tin for a few minutes before turning out to cool thoroughly on a wire rack.
  • Once completely cool, trim the edges of the cake with a long serrated knife. Cut each sponge in half lengthways so that you are left with four long strips of sponge. Neaten the strips and trim as necessary so that your checkered pattern is as neat and even as possible.

  • Combine the buttercream ingredients together and mix until combined. Spread a thin layer of buttercream onto the strips of cake to stick the cake together in a checkered pattern (one yellow, next to one pink; one pink next to one yellow on top).
  • Dust a large flat surface with icing sugar then roll the marzipan in an oblong shape that is wide enough to cover the length of the cake.

  • It should be long enough to completely wrap the cake. Spread the top of the cake with a thin layer of buttercream.
  • Place the cake on the marzipan, buttercream side down. Spread buttercream onto the remaining three sides.
  • Press marzipan around cake, making sure the join is either neatly in the one corner, or will be underneath cake once turned over.

  • Carefully flip the cake over so that the seam is under the cake and score the top of the cake with a knife, you can also crimp the top corners with your fingers to decorate. Neaten the ends of the cake and remove excess marzipan.
  • Trim off a small bit of cake on both ends to reveal the pattern. Makes 8-10 servings.

A few tips when working with marzipan/fondant/chocolate plastique in humid and hot weather. Firstly, keep it cool. It does need to be pliable, but it won’t hurt to chill it just slightly to help keep your covering from “melting” and becoming too sticky to work with. You do need to knead it to get it ready for rolling and covering but try to handle it as little as possible as soon as it’s pliable enough, and if you need to, roll out the marzipan in between sheets of parchment paper and use plenty of corn flour or powdered sugar on your rolling pin, hands, surface etc.

CHOCOLATE PLASTIQUE

Ingredients:

For Dark Chocolate Plastique

200gm /7 oz Good Quality Dark Chocolate (70% Cocoa content)

¼ cup / 60ml /2 oz Light Corn Syrup / Glucose Syrup / Golden Syrup

For Milk Chocolate Plastique

200gm /7 oz Good Quality Milk Chocolate (+-50% Cocoa content)

3 tbs / 45ml /1½ oz Light Corn Syrup / Glucose Syrup / Golden Syrup

For White Chocolate Plastique

200gm /7 oz Good Quality Milk Chocolate (+-50% Cocoa content)

2 tbs / 30ml /1 oz Light Corn Syrup / Glucose Syrup / Golden Syrup

Method:

  • Melt the chocolate in a double boiler or in a heatproof bowl over a pot of simmering water, stir occasionally.
  • Once completely melted, remove from heat and allow to cool a bit. Stir in corn syrup / glucose syrup / golden syrup.
  • It will seize up almost immediately, just keep stirring until mixed and it comes away from the side of the bowl.
  • Transfer chocolate into a sealable bag, spread the chocolate out then seal the bag.

  • Leave overnight or refrigerate for about 2 hours until completely firm.
  • Turn out from the bag and knead on a surface dusted with powdered sugar.
  • At first it will just break , but as you knead, it will warm up and start to become pliable.
  • Knead until it’s pliable enough to roll out or mould for about 5 – 10 mins.

Storage Instructions:
– Battenberg cake will keep for 3-4 days stored at room temperature in an airtight container.
– Keep chocolate plastique in an airtight container at room temperature; it will keep for as long as the expiry date on the chocolate wrapper.

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