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.
Now, I had never heard of a Battenberg Cake before, but it turns out that they are cute little checkerboard-patterned cakes that were originally created to celebrate the wedding of Queen Victoria's granddaughter to Prince Louis of, you guessed it, Battenberg.
So, being that this was the month of celebrating the Queen's jubilee (and, I must admit that I am fascinated with the history associated with the British monarchy, so this challenge was extra fun...), we were challenged to celebrate with a cake designed for British royalty.
To create the checkerboard effect, they actually sell Battenberg Cake pans. Yup, pans with dividers so that it bakes up in strips that you can then just line up appropriately.
Or you can divide your regular cake pan in half with parchment paper and hope for the best.
Which is what we did.
Little miss helped me measure to make sure that my divider was in the right place.
And then we made our cake batter. It's pretty much a basic pound cake recipe, with butter, sugar, flour and eggs. The recipe that Mandy provided calls for ground nuts to be added in, as well, to help with the cake's sustainability. We don't bake with nuts. So the alternative was offered to use ground rice instead. Which I am sure works just fine, but it sounded a bit odd to me. So I added ground flax seed instead.
The other change that I made was due to another thing we avoid baking with in our house - food coloring. You see, a traditional Battenberg Cake is half white and half pink - made pink with the addition of red food coloring. So rather than messing with beets to try to attain a pink cake, I chose to make half of my cake chocolate, instead, using my darkest cocoa powder.
All looked great as the cake went into the oven, and smelled deliciously buttery as it baked, but something must have gone wrong, because this is what I pulled out of the oven.
Needless to say, I was very disappointed. I wasn't sure what to do, because that was a lot of butter to just chuck, and I wasn't sure that I wanted to try again.
But I didn't want to give up, so the next day, I tried again. Using a slightly different recipe. Well, not really that different - all of the ingredients were the same (though this recipe did not call for ground nuts/rice/flax/anything), but the method was different. You see, the recipe that Mandy provided used the "all in one" method - mix all of the ingredients in a bowl at the same time and there you go. This "alternate" recipe used the creaming method, whereby the butter and sugar are creamed together first, then the eggs beaten in, then the dry ingredients incorporated. I thought that I might have better results regarding the structure and integrity of my cake with this alternate method, so I gave it a shot.
Once again, I divided the pan and made half of my batter chocolate, leaving the other half plain.
And the results?
Only slightly less sinky. And pretty uneven, too.
Needless to say, I was pretty disappointed. Again.
But at this point, three sticks of butter, six eggs and plenty of flour and sugar later, I was committed. SO I figured that between the four halves, I could make this work.
And with a little creative cutting, I was able to kind of piece together something that could possibly be workable.
But the cake itself is only one component of a Battenberg. Once the cake is constructed, it is then wrapped. Usually in marzipan. Which is made out of ground almonds. Once again, we don't do nuts. But Mandy gave us a couple of alternatives, one of which was something called chocolate plastique, or modeling chocolate. And it looked easy to make. All you do is melt some chocolate.
Once it's nice and melty, add in some corn syrup.
And that's it. Stir it until it cools, knead it for a while, then you can store it in a zip-top bag in the fridge until you need it. Easy, peasy and totally nut free. Hooray!
So once my cakes were cut and set aside, I started rolling out my chocolate. Which I had taken out hours and hours before to allow it to come to room temperature. And that little miss and I took turns kneading (still in the zip-top bag) in order to make it nice and pliable.
Yes, I am fully aware of what that looks like.
But it rolled out really beautifully!
And we were soon ready to construct our Battenberg!
To glue the layers together, I decided to go with a candy bar theme and use caramel sauce.
Then I had to carefully transfer the cakes to the rolled out chocolate and wrap the whole thing up.
Trim the edges, add some decorative hash marks and pearlized sprinkles, and there you have it!
Aside from the color difference in the vanilla squares (since one had ground flax mixed in and the other didn't), it actually kind of looked like it was supposed to!
When daddy came home from work and saw the finished cake on the counter, he was pretty impressed, which was just about all the validation I needed for the work and frustration involved in the process.
And then we cut into it and it was absolutely delicious. Very sweet, so a small piece was plenty, but between the buttery pound cake, the smooth caramel sauce and the fun chocolate covering, it made for a really nice dessert.
Mandy, thank you so much for sharing this fun celebration cake with us, and for doing such a wonderful job with your last-minute hosting role!
To see the other truly impressive cakes baked in the kitchen this month, check them out here.
Traditional Battenberg Cake
(challenge recipe, from Mary Berry's "Baking Bible")
For the cake:
¾ cup (1½ sticks) 175gm / 6 oz Unsalted Butter, softened & cut in cubes
¾ cup / 175gm / 6 oz Caster Sugar
1¼ cups / 175gm / 6 oz Self-Raising Flour
3 Large Eggs, room temp
½ cup / 65gm/ 2 1/3 oz Ground Almonds (Can be substituted with ground rice)
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
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 by brushing the tin with melted butter and flouring.
Whisk together the dry ingredients then combine with the wet ingredients in a large bowl and beat together just until the ingredients are combined and the batter is smooth.
Spoon half the mixture into the one side of the prepared baking tin.
Add a few drops of red food liquid/gel/paste to the remaining batter, stir until the colour is thoroughly distributed. Add more colour as needed until desired color is reached.
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 25-30 minutes until the cake is well risen, springs back when lightly touched and a toothpick comes out clean (it should shrink away from the sides of the pan).
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. 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.
Place the cake on the marzipan, jam side down.
Brush the remaining three sides with jam.
Press the marzipan around the cake, making 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 and score the top of the cake with a knife, you can also crimp the top corners with your fingers to decorate, if you would like.
Neaten the ends of the cake and remove excess marzipan by trimming off a small bit of cake on both ends to reveal the pattern.
Notes: I used ground flax instead of ground almonds and omitted the almond extract. Instead of a few drops of red food coloring, I used a bit of dark cocoa powder. I used caramel sauce instead of jam as the "glue" to hold my pattern together, and instead of marzipan, I used semi-sweet modeling chocolate, for which the recipe is provided below.
Semi-Sweet Chocolate Modeling Paste
(from Joy of Baking)
7 ounces (200 grams) semi-sweet chocolate, chopped
3 1/2 - 4 tablespoons light corn syrup
Melt the chocolate in a double boiler or metal bowl set over a pan of simmering water. Stir the chocolate until melted and smooth. Remove from heat and stir until smooth and cooled a bit.
Stir in the corn syrup. The chocolate will stiffen almost immediately. Stir until completely combined. Transfer the chocolate to a sturdy plastic freezer bag and refrigerate until firm (about two hours, or longer is fine).
When the dough is firm, remove from the refrigerator, and knead it until it is soft enough to work with. If it is too hard, cut off small pieces, and knead until pliable. Grease the counter where you are working with oil or spray with Pam so the chocolate won't stick.