June 27, 2012

Battenberg Cake (Daring Bakers' Challenge)

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 Cake
Adapted 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
3 eggs
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

  1. Preheat your oven to 350° F. 
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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).
  5. 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.
  6. Bake for 25-30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
  7. 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.  
  8. 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.
  9. Gently heat the apricot jam (20 seconds in the microwave should work) and pass through a small sieve.
  10. 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).
  11. 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.
  12. 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.
  13. Cut a small portion off of each end of the cake to reveal the checkerboard pattern.
Royal Icing
Makes 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)
food coloring

  1. Mix all ingredients on low speed for 8-10 minutes.
  2. Spoon the royal icing into bowls and color however you like.
  3. 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.


  1. What beautiful piping on the top - a really lovely looking cake!

    1. Thanks! I noticed that you also did some piping on your Battenberg, but with dark chocolate. I've never tried that before - I'm sure it tastes better than royal icing!

  2. The cake is really beautiful. It looks so moist. I bet it tasted as great as it looked.

    1. Thanks! I actually could have done with a bit more moisture. I noticed someone else doing the challenge added a bit of milk to the recipe - I might try that if I make this again. It did taste good though.

  3. Beautiful both the cake and the piping on top. Your cubes turned out perfect! I agree with you , very fun and very British!

    1. Yes, I can just imagine having this cake at a tea party. Thanks!

  4. AnonymousJune 27, 2012

    What a gorgeous Battenburg. I especially love the icing decorations on top. Very neat looking.

    1. Thanks! I'm pretty happy that I gave royal icing piping a try - it's a neat substance!

  5. Your cakes baked so beautifully and evenly! I'm with you on serving with coffee or tea because of the dryness. The end result and your piping is just so beautiful. Great job!

  6. Hi Laura! Thank you for dropping by! Now I have been able to follow you back to your blog which is gorgeous! Your photography is fantastic and if this is you just getting into baking - I can't wait to see when you are fully accomplished! Wonderful battenberg!

  7. Wow! What a gorgeous Battenberg. Your icing work is awesome - I've never heard of the "embroidery" technique you used, but I think I may have found a new challenge to take on... Great job!

  8. Great job, it looks beautiful. Your brushwork embroidery inspired me to try it next time!

  9. Your Battenberg cake version is so cute!
    I also fell in love with the pink version
    But the flowers decoration on top really "takes the cake"

  10. I thought my sponge was nice and moist when I first trimmed the two flavors, but after eating the assembled cake, I agree, it was kind of dry. Your cake is really beautiful, I love the flower!

  11. AnonymousJune 28, 2012

    Oh man, your Battenberg is perfect! The decoration is just beautiful. You're so talented :)

  12. Very pretty cake, Laura! I love the technique you used to make the flower!

  13. i like the pink and yellow layers and the flower design on top. very pretty!

  14. Wow! That looks like the PERFECT Battenberg cake. I think I'll be making this one for the opening ceremony of the Olympics in London...to be served with tea (of course)! Thanks for the inspiration.

  15. I attempted this cake after reading it's history with my 10 year old daughter due to its rich history and a nice introduction to European traditions for teaching children. It came out a little crumbly as we are not use to working with recipes of this nature here in America where most things start in a box and call for oil and some kind of liquid. After we cut it up it started to crumble but my daughter couldn't contain herself and started eating the parts that broke off so we had a few missing links in our cake puzzle but nothing marzipan can't and won't fix with the apricot preserves. I am so glad we did this because it made her feel so fancy and technical at the same time with it's history as we talked about that. It's an excellent teaching tool with children who are directed towards baking and learning things of this nature. I came across your site after looking at many different variations of the cake in English food sites and am glad I chose yours. The marzipan apricot really impressed her and gave her a sense of fine cooking after her becoming addicted to cooking shows from her fancy to cakes.


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