Battenburg cake

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)
225g marzipan

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.

18 Replies to “Battenburg cake”

  1. I was looking for a good battenberg recipe online, and decided to try yours. (I like it when people give extra instructions and show they’ve actually made the blessed recipe, rather than just copying it word for word from a book.)

    Turned out fabulously, thanks. And all the ex-pats at the party I took it to were grabbing it off the plate almost before I’d walked in the door!

  2. this cake is fab!Even better if you subsitute some of the flour(ie about 50g) for ground almonds…. it was eaten in a day and is now a regular family cake! Thanks!

  3. I always make double quantites and cook in 2 square tins. That way you get one to eat and one to freeze for no extra effort!

  4. do you get marzipan at the local grocery store, like sainsbury, tesco etc? i live in canada so it might be difficult to get my grubby paws on the stuff.

  5. Sure, I’m a couple of years late here and you probably dont remember the cake anymore BUT: it looks delicious! (And yes, I got here through google searches 😉 )
    Definitely one to add to the ” I Want To Make This!” list!

  6. Thanks for the recipe I reccommend it to anyone. But I would like to make everyone aware you need to be relaxed and focused AND buy 500g of marzipan, I used what the reciepe said and it didn't cover the cake and broke:( I think my cake was too big, so be on the safe side. Oh and if you get angry when things dont go right, DONT make this cake I punched the cake and threw it in the bin, seriously, I got that frustrated. I felt an utter failure I HATE BAKING CAKES now, and it was for my brothers birthday, which sucks even more ah well love this sight reccommending to everyone, happy cooking people dont let my negative view stop you making this cake its awsome, probably more if you accomlish the whole thing.

  7. I was looking for the Mary Berry recipe to pass onto a friend in the US, and here is it! MB has some awesome recipes, and this one is awesome. I am like you too though, I need to make the two sponges in separate tins.

  8. I made this cake as a birthday present for my dads 60th, its his favourite cake! Ive made extra and my housemates loved it! Thanks!
    I doubled the amounts and made it in two rectangle tins.
    It looks great, i made my own marzipan too!
    His birthday is tomorrow! Hopefully he'll Love it too!

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