This month's Daring Bakers' Challenge was a type of cake I'd never heard of before: Battenberg Cake. The first Battenberg Cake was a wedding cake for Queen Victoria's granddaughter and the Prince of Battenberg. The two-color checkerboard pattern is known as Batternberg markings. This challenge was very fun (and very British) - my favorite so far!
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.
I decided to make the traditional Battenberg Cake, which is almond-flavored and covered in marzipan, but there are endless variations out there. The cake itself was not difficult to make. With the traditional cake, there is only one almond-flavored batter, half of which is dyed pink (I actually added a little yellow dye to the other half because I wanted some extra color in my cake). The challenge page detailed how to divide a square pan in half using aluminum foil and parchment paper to keep the differently-colored batters separate. I was a bit skeptical of this method until I finished mixing the batter. Because the batter is very thick, it didn't find its way into the cracks and small openings in the divider, and the colors didn't mix at all.
After the four cake pieces were cut and glued together with some warm apricot jam, it was time to cover the cake in marzipan. I'd never worked with marzipan before, and was a bit nervous about this step. I found it to be more brittle and unforgiving than fondant (although much much tastier). Small cracks formed at each corner of the cake where I pulled the marzipan a bit too tight.
Traditionally, the top of the Battenberg Cake is scored with a cross-hatch pattern for decoration. I've always been fascinated by the beautiful scrollwork that can be done with royal icing on cakes, and decided to give that a try instead. This is not as difficult as I thought it would be, provided that the royal icing is at the correct consistency. To thick, and the royal icing will look choppy. To thin, and it will spread out too much, losing detail.
For the center of my royal icing design, I decided to pipe a flower and use the brush embroidery technique. The idea is to make the flower look like it's been embroidered onto the cake by brushing the royal icing from the outline into the center. I think I achieved moderate success here - it doesn't look horrible, but it doesn't really look as amazing as most of the images online. In my opinion, this looks very beautiful when done right, so I'll keep practicing.
This was a very almond-y cake. Do not make this cake if you aren't a huge fan of almonds (I am, luckily). I also found it a bit dry - I'd suggest pairing it with some coffee or tea (probably tea...this is a British cake after all) to help with the dryness a bit. Overall, a really fun, and ultimately tasty challenge!
|Pretty cake slice!|
Traditional Battenberg CakeAdapted from Mary Berry’s “Baking Bible”.
1¼ cups all-purpose flour
½ cup ground almonds
2¾ teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
¾ cup caster sugar (or just regular sugar that you've obliterated in a food processor)
¾ cup (1½ sticks) unsalted butter, softened & cut in cubes
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
¼ teaspoon almond extract
red or pink food coloring
yellow food coloring (optional)
⅓ cup (approximate) apricot jam
8 oz marzipan
- Preheat your oven to 350° F.
- Grease an 8” square baking pan with butter or oil
Fold some aluminum foil several times over and shape so that it fits in the baking pan. Line the pan with parchment paper, creating a divide in the middle over the aluminum foil.
- Whisk together the dry ingredients and combine with the wet ingredients in a large bowl. Beat together dry and wet just until the ingredients are combined and the batter is smooth.
- Divide the batter in two, and place one half in another bowl. Color one half with pink or red food coloring, and the other with yellow (optional).
- Spoon one half into one half of the divided baking pan. Make sure to get the batter into each corner. Repeat with the other half.
- Bake for 25-30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
- Leave to cool in the pan for a few minutes before turning out to cool thoroughly on a wire rack.
Once completely cool, trim the edges of the cake.
- Cut each colored 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 (20 seconds in the microwave should work) 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. On top of that, one pink next to one yellow).
- 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 and long enough to completely wrap the cake.
- Brush the top of the cake with apricot jam and place the cake on one end of the marzipan, jam side down. Brush the remaining three sides with jam and roll the cake around the marzipan. Carefully flip the cake over so that the seam is under the cake.
- Cut a small portion off of each end of the cake to reveal the checkerboard pattern.
Royal IcingMakes a small batch - enough for doing the piping work for this Battenberg Cake.
1 cup powdered sugar
½ tablespoon meringue powder
1½ tablespoons water (plus more for getting the right consistency)
- Mix all ingredients on low speed for 8-10 minutes.
- Spoon the royal icing into bowls and color however you like.
- Add water until the royal icing is at the correct consistency. For scrollwork, you want the royal icing to smooth out when you drop it onto a surface. I added about 2 teaspoons more water to get this. For the flower, you may want a slightly stiffer consistency - I added only 1 teaspoon water.