Monday, December 02, 2013

How to make a fuss-free Battenberg cake

How to make a traditional Battenberg cake without investing in a special tin. And there’s very little washing up either!
How to make a fuss-free Battenberg cake
Indulging a sudden urge for Battenberg cake one weekend, I took to my collection of baking books to find the very best recipe. But to my dismay, most of them involved a fancy Battenberg tin (separated into four sections by alloy barriers) at a cost of around £15; a purchase I wasn’t willing to make, or trek into town for.

So, still desperate for Battenberg, I decided to try and make my cake using a single, square tin instead. Surely, with a decent ruler and a sharp knife, I could create the same checkerboard effect? Thankfully, the method worked. Here’s how I did it, in case you fancy making your own fuss-free Battenberg one day.

If you’re making Battenberg my way, you’ll end up with two cakes instead of one – by no means a bad thing, especially because the sponges freeze well. First, you’ll need to make both an almond cake batter (the yellow stripes), and a pink batter (the pink stripes). For the former, I creamed together: 175g of butter with the same amount of golden caster sugar; 140g self-raising flour; 60g ground almonds; ½ teaspoon of baking powder to give it extra lift; three eggs; and a dash of almond extract. Plop it all into an 18cm square tin lined with baking parchment, and bake for around 30 minutes at 180C/160C fan/gas 4.cake

While you’re waiting, prepare the pink batter. It’s exactly the same as your almond cake, but minus the almond extract and plus plenty of pink food colouring – I must have used half a little bottle of Dr Oetker ‘Hot Pink’ food colouring. You can add a drop of vanilla extract, too. By the time you’ve finished your pink batter, the first cake will probably be done. Let it rest in its tin for five minutes or so, before transferring to a wire rack to cool. You can fill the same tin with your pink batter straight away, and return it to the oven for 30 minutes.

Now you’ll have two 18cm squares of cake – one yellow-ish, one pink. They should be roughly the same size, but don’t worry if one’s gone a bit wobbly. Take a ruler and trim the cakes to make them the same size, making sure to eat the offcuts. Next, you’ll need to cut each cake into four lengthwise strips, giving you eight altogether – the components of two individual Battenberg cakes.
The width of each cake strip should be the same as its height. First measure the height of your Battenberg cake before cutting it (with a sharp knife) into same-size strips. So, if your cake is 3cm high, cut it into four 3cm-wide strips.

Select two yellow strips of cake and two pink strips, then roll your sleeves up – we’re ready to assemble.cake
Apricot jam is your glue. You’ll need about half a jar of the stuff; heat it in a saucepan or the microwave so it thins out a bit. Sandwich one yellow cake strip together with one pink strip, using the jam as adhesive (you can apply it either with a teaspoon or a pastry brush). Slather the top of this layer in jam, then top it with another two cake strips, making sure you create a checkerboard effect.

Next, cover the whole cake in jam (aside from the front face) – it’s the only way the marzipan will stick to the sponge.
You’ll need a whole 500g pack of marzipan for one Battenberg cake. I like using golden marzipan, although you may prefer to use the white variety. Roll it out on a dusting of icing sugar until it looks big enough to cover your cake – it should be about 1cm thick, and certainly not thin enough to see through.cake

When you're ready, and using your rolling pin for help, lift up the marzipan sheet and lay it over the cake, so it covers it entirely. Use your hands to smooth the marzipan around the cake. Cut away the extra marzipan using a very sharp knife – you could use any leftovers for other baking projects (marzipan can be stored in the fridge).cake

Finish your Battenberg cake with a little dusting of icing sugar, and eat! You can either make another Battenberg cake from the four remaining cake strips immediately (recommended if you've a large party of hungry friends to feed), or put them in the freezer for a rainy day.