The truth, the myths and the marzipan in between ;)
Year 1884 April 30th and a cake is born-the Battenberg cake to celebrate the marriage between the Prince Louis Alexander of Battenberg and Princess Victoria of Hesse and by Rhine on that very day.
No this is not true!, in fact this is the myth, no historical written record or proof has been found which depicts that the co called Battenberg cake was created on the occasion of this marriage. The modern version of this cake has 4 panels in colors of pink n yellow arranged in check pattern, however the cake at that time used to have 9 such sections. Now because the 4 sections since it looks like a child’s drawing of a window panel it is often known as window chapel cake in northern England. Now as with everything changes occur naturally with time, so did happen with this Battenberg cake, perhaps the cake started getting 4 panels when the mass industry production started taking place before the world war 2, we need a minimum of 4 panels to create a cross check pattern, so it makes sense to simplify things for the sake of mass production.
The creator of this Battenberg cake was Frederick Vine, a talented British food writer around that time. In fact he used to write Battenberg as “Battenburg”; after all it is his creation. His original earliest cake however did not have any check pattern; it was simple fruit loaf with lots of sultanas and candied peel. Some years after the marriage mentioned above, there was perhaps gradual appearance of this check pattern cakes, in fact in 1898 appeared Mrs. Marshall’s domino cake which looked just the same as Frederick Vine’s Battenberg cake with 9 sections and Robert Well’s Neapolitan roll which had 4 sections like the ones we see today. The distinctive thing about this cake was it was covered in almond paste which we know as marzipan in the era. If you want to read more about it and see some real pictures from that time click here http://foodhistorjottings.blogspot.co.uk/2012/04/battenburg-cake-history-again.html
This is great history food blog by the talented Ivan Day.
Now let me tell you about the cake itself, it’s a light sponge cake, the panels assembled together with apricot jam and then coated in a layer of marzipan. Now I find this cake to be a little over-sweet and you can imagine why! I mean the sponge cake is sweet, the marzipan is sweet and the apricot jam is sweet, sweet on sweet on sweet…all right. When I baked the cake I reduced the sugar in the sponge itself and I also rolled the marzipan as thin as I could. The cake looks lovely, in this bright pink n yellow squares, it can make you smile.
Hey I made my own marzipan, for the first time, that too with some changes and it worked. Well what I did was I took equal parts of almond and peanuts, took off their skin by soaking them in hot water, not boiling water, for about 5 minutes when the skin comes off easily, then I pat them dry with a towel and then in a strong blender I made almost a smooth powder out of them, it doesn't have to be very smooth, and then I take equal amount of castor sugar and I combine them with this castor sugar with a bit of red rum. I used red rum because I love the flavor and I think red rum gives it a longer shelf life. And I did have a bit of fun with the marzipan, now I will call it “MARZIFUN” and you can have a look at them… child’s play right! Imagine you give this to a group of children and what amazing things they will come up with! You can even eat all that fun literally.
Now one interesting thing about the prince Louis of Battenberg though it is not related to the cake, is he was of German origin and later on he was a member of the British Royal family, he was appointed the captain, the admiral, the first sea-lord by the royal family. So he modified his family name from Battenberg to Mountbatten since there were rumors that the British royal family must be pro-German. I am sure he has eaten this cake many times. Well for you, readers I have this cartoon from “punch” depicting this modification of his family name.
Oh! I did have a bit of fun with the marzipan, my hands made some caterpillar and some weird animals and I don’t even know what to call them!
I thought I will tell you about the Battenberg markings which are high-visibility markings on the sides of the emergency vehicles used in some European countries and some more. Mostly they are in green and blue or yellow squares in a check pattern just like the cake! The name for the markings most probably comes from the similarity in appearance of the cross section of the cake.
So when I will be carrying the cake walking in the street, tell me will you be able to see it from far! And then you will go home and make it. Ha-hah. Now I will tell you the recipe. Bon appétit.
The Recipe: you will need
For the sponge
175g/6oz very soft butter, plus extra for greasing
175g castor sugar (I put the sugar a bit less like 155g)
175g self-raising flour or all purpose flour
3 medium eggs
1 tbsp of vanilla extract
Zest of 1 orange, zest of 1 or 2 limes
1 tbsp of fresh orange juice
1 tbsp of baking powder if using all purpose flour/1 tsp baking powder if using self-raising flour
A pinch of salt
Some drops of pink food color.
For the covering
200g of marzipan
About 6 tbsp of apricot jam
3 tbsp of icing sugar for rolling the marzipan
You need a brush to coat the cake with warm apricot jam.
For the marzipan
2 tsp of red rum
1. Let’s begin with making the marzipan. Measure 50 g of almonds and peanuts each, if you like almonds more measure 100g of almond. Heat some water in pan to almost boiling, then take it off the heat and when the temp, reduces slightly pour the almonds and the peanuts in separate pans by dividing the water in 2 pans. Now give them about 5 minutes, then start with the almonds, with your fingers if you press the almonds you will see the skin has come loose, you may have to scratch them a bit, so de-skin all of them. It will take a bit of time to de-skin both the almonds and the peanuts, when done pat them dry with a towel, then in a grinder place the almonds, grind to almost the smooth powder, same with the peanuts, in case of peanuts you will find that the powder of them looks more like a smooth dough. Now measure 100 g of icing sugar. In a big bowl mix the powder of both almonds n peanuts with the icing sugar with a wooden spatula, when well combined add 1 tsp of rum and mix well, you will see that the mixture has begin to come together like a dough now add 1 more tsp if you think it needs, then mix well with your hands until the whole mixture comes together like a smooth dough. Here you have just made fresh marzipan! Now wrap it in cling film and freeze it.
2. Pre-heat the oven to 180 C/350 F/gas mark 4. Grease a 20cm/8in square tin with butter, as for me I buttered a 1 lb loaf tin very lightly and I lined the loaf tin with baking parchment paper and buttered it. With an aluminum foil I made a pleat and place it in the center along the length of the tin so that I can bake the 2 colored cakes in the same tin.
3. Start creaming the butter with a whisk; when the butter attains a light color add the castor sugar and cream it until it becomes lighter in color for about 5 minutes. Then add 1 egg and whisk until it is fully incorporated, then add the 2nd egg and do the same, then with the 3rd egg shift a little flour on top of the egg in the cake mixture and beat it in. we are doing this so that the mixture wont curdle, even if it curdles it will be fine. So when the eggs are all in add the lime and orange zest and vanilla essence to the mixture and whisk it in. Then pour the baking powder, a pinch of salt into the flour and shift the flour in 2 batches into the wet mixture and mix well. Now divide the mixture in 2 equal parts and to one part add 1-2 drops of pink food color just to attain the pink shade. Now to the other part add the orange juice and mix well. Now pour the pink and the yellow mixture in the tin and place them in the middle of the oven for about 30 minutes until a skewer inserted comes out clean and the cake springs back when touched.
4. Take the cakes out of the tin after 10 minutes and when they have cooled off, take a sharp knife and cut both of them along the length into rectangular stripes which has around 1 inch/2.5 cm square sides. Do them with both the yellow and the pink sponge. Then warm the apricot jam in a pan, with a brush apply the sides of the first 3 strips of cake to stick them together, now brush on the top side of them and take one opposite colored strip and brush its downside and put it on the first base strip of the cake, brush its side and place another strip of cake beside it and the same for the last strip. Now brush the jam all over the cake lightly with the jam.
5. Roll the marzipan on a flat surface dusted with icing sugar to a thickness you want. I rolled it to the minimum thickness I could, and make sure the rolled surface is big enough to wrap the cake all around. Then brush the inside of the rolled marzipan with apricot jam, then place the cake in the middle and warp it. Pinch the meeting sides together with your fingers. And now with sharp knife slowly cut across the length t reveal the checkered pattern. You are done!
It is a bit of work and after all the hard work it does look lovely. Since it’s a tea cake get some tea!