This month’s daring bakers challenge was to make a battenberg cake – a square oblong cake with 2 different colored checks and an edible marzipan covering. Traditionally made as a wedding cake for royalty, the first cake celebrated the marriage of Queen Victoria’s granddaughter, Princess Victoria to Prince Louise of Battenberg. It was flavored with almond and had the traditional yellow and pink squares – representing the 4 princes of Battenberg.
Not a big fan of anything pink nor of food coloring, I went with the non traditional recipe provided – the coffee and walnut version. Now if you had been able to watch me make this you would instantly see that I am not exactly cut out for baking. The recipe calls for an 8 inch baking tin with a parchment paper aluminum foil divider that you can pour the two different batters into their own equal sections. Well I figured a 9 x 13 inch baking pan was the closest thing I had and using the piece of paper I printed the recipe on to mark 8 inches I tried to divide the pan (because I mean, why would I own a ruler, right?). With my aluminum foil indestructible dividers set up I started on the recipe.
Unwilling to splurge on this foreign-to-me caster sugar I went with regular white sugar and substituted rice flour (which I had leftover from Dutch Crunch Bread) for the ground almonds. Without a proper Kitchen Aid (which I dream of) I resorted to my hand mixer – which, may I note, only contains one beater as D somehow managed to lose the other one years ago (how I would love to know). With flour sputtering out of the bowl the kitchen counter was starting to develop a more interesting pattern. A spill of milk and coffee further colored the counter. Finally the cake was ready for baking and I loaded my baking pan-turned into official battenberg cake tin bravely into the oven.
30 minutes later, with the yellow cake oozing past my no longer indestructible divider, the cake was ready. Though the yellow cake part had spread into more of a trapezoidal shape and was a little more crumbly than I had hoped for – the flavors were all there. And so I trimmed the edges, tried to create an even square face shape for each cake strip, and went about slabbing on the buttercream and forming the cake into its checkered square pattern. As you can spot in the photos I did not exactly get the cake to be filled with 4 perfectly squared checkered strips – but I think it’s close enough.
With my first attempt at working with marzipan I hit a few snags. How do you roll it out perfectly? I used a glass (naturally I do not own a rolling pin) and it kept sticking to the sides (annoyingly). Good thing the cake has 4 sides and I could hid the side with the most marzipan snags on the bottom.
And so you see after some minor struggles and a mess made out of the kitchen this stunning dessert was complete. Almost too pretty to eat, I’d say. D and I shared a slice – not bad, not bad at all. The almond, coffee and walnut flavors are all easily identifiable though subtle enough to softly blend together in your mouth.
- ¾ cup (1½ sticks) Unsalted Butter, softened & cut in cubes
- ¾ cup Caster Sugar
- 1¼ cups Self-Raising Flour (*note on how to make your own)
- 3 Large Eggs, room temp
- ½ cup Ground Almonds (Can be substituted with ground rice)
- ¾ teaspoon Baking Powder
- 3 teaspoon Milk
- ½ teaspoon Vanilla Extract
- 1½ teaspoons Instant Coffee Powder or Granules
- 3 Tablespoons Walnuts, roughly chopped
- ½ cup (1 stick) Unsalted Butter
- 2 cups Powdered Sugar
- ½ teaspoon Instant Coffee
- 1½ teaspoons Milk
- 8 oz Marzipan
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F
- Grease an 8 inch square baking pan with butter
- Line the pan with parchment paper, forming a divide in the middle with the parchment or aluminum foil.
- Whisk together caster sugar, flour, ground almonds and baking powder and combine with the butter and eggs in a large bowl. Beat together until the ingredients are combined and the batter is smooth
- Place half the mixture into a smaller bowl, add the vanilla, 1½ teaspoons milk and chopped walnuts. Mix until smooth.
- Add the walnut batter into one side of the divided baking pan
- Dissolve the coffee in the remaining 1½ teaspoon milk and add to the remaining batter. Mix until smooth.
- Add the coffee batter into the other half of the divided baking pan
- 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, and a toothpick comes out clean.
- Leave to cool in the pan for a few minutes and then remove from the pan to cool completely.
- Once cool cut each section in half and continue to trim the edges until you have 4 even sized pieces.
- To make the buttercream: In a separate bowl combine the 1 stick butter, powdered sugar, ½ teaspoon instant coffee and 1½ teaspoons milk. Beat until smooth.
- Spread a thin layer of buttercream on the inside strips of the cake to stick the strips together in a checkered pattern, one light next to one darker one and and switching the two underneath.
- Dust a large cutting board with some powdered sugar and roll the marzipan out into a thin rectangular shape - large enough to cover all 4 sides of the cake.
- Spread a layer of buttercream on top of the cake.
- Buttercream side down, place the cake on the marzipan.
- Continue to spread buttercream on remaining sides of the cake and press the marzipan around the sides.
- Flip the cake over so that the marzipan seam is on the bottom.
- Trim off excess marzipan and using a knife, score the top of the cake.