If you wish to demonstrate effortless cake superiority to your friends, nothing will do the job better than this showboat of a cake. (Fellow pedants may point at the title of this post and tell me off; you’re right, it is also spelled ‘Battenberg’, but ‘Battenburg’ gets more hits on Google, and a lot of people get to this blog through Google searches. Yes, I’m pimping for hits.)
Battenberg is the spelling which is, in fact, correct; the cake is named for the (originally German) family who made up part of the British royal family, and eventually renamed themselves Mountbatten in World War I to distance themselves from Germany. It’s not clear who first came up with it, but they must have been pleased with themselves; it looks impressive and tastes fabulous, if you’re one of those sensible people who likes marzipan. If you’re not, go and cook last week’s cake instead.
Mary Berry’s Battenberg (she calls it Battenburg) cake recipe says you need:
100g soft margarine (I use butter)
100g caster sugar
2 extra large eggs
50g ground rice
100g self-raising flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
a few drops of almond essence
red food colouring (you can buy pink food colouring now, which is what’s in the cake above)
3-4 tablespoons apricot jam (I used strawberry – I like strawberry jam)
Preheat the oven to 160c/325f/Gas 3.
Mary Berry beats the butter, sugar, eggs, ground rice, flour, baking powder and almond essence for two minutes until smooth, adds the colouring to on half and then cooks the two halves in the same low, wide tin. I’ve tried this before, and it’s almost impossible to get a reasonably neat line at the colour boundary, so I now use two separate loaf tins, which means you have to cook the cake a little longer than the 40 minutes she suggests (try 50 minutes and test with a skewer). One reasonably foolproof way to tell whether your cake is done is Mr Weasel’s Aural Method, where you get close to the cake and have a listen. An underdone cake will be making tiny, fizzy, popping noises. A cake which is cooked properly doesn’t pop or fizz.
Don’t turn the cakes out until they have had some time to cool, or they will be crumbly. (I was a little too eager with the white half, which, as you can see from the picture, is – well – crumbly. It’s not the end of the world; you can glue any dreadful errors back on with jam. This cake is more forgiving than it looks.) Trim each of the two cakes into two cuboids, each with the same square cross-section, so that you can put them all together later. (Can you tell I’ve been working on editing some secondary school maths materials?) Warm your jam (if, like mine, it is a jam with pips, strain it after warming) in a saucepan until it is runny and spreadable, and assemble the cake in the traditional chequerboard pattern.
Roll the marzipan into an oblong big enough to wrap the cake in. Slather some more jam on the now glued-together cake, and roll it all up in the marzipan, smoothing the join. Make criss-cross patterns on the top with a butter knife. It may not be quite as unnaturally regular as Mr Kipling’s version, but it’s just as unnaturally pink, even more unnaturally delicious, and will make your friends make the kind of unnatural noises they usually reserve for firework displays.