raspberry and lemon battenberg
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What’s pink and yellow and rolled in marzipan? Old fashioned Battenberg had been as pretty as a picture long before unicorns came to Instagram.
Battenberg is a bizarre cake: a pink and yellow chessboard made of sponge, stuck together with jam and all of it wrapped in marzipan. My inquisitive mind can’t help but speculate how this may have come about as I am a staunch believer in cooking serendipity.
A marble cake gone wrong because the chef forgot to swirl? A Swiss roll made by a geometry obsessive? A Victoria sponge in a fancy dress? And yes, the latter is actually probably the closest to the mark as the cake was allegedly created on the occasion of the marriage of Princess Victoria, a granddaughter of Queen Victoria, to Prince Louis of Battenberg in 1884.
Whatever its origin, I was distrustful for a long time, mainly on account of the marzipan involved. Shop-bought marzipan was all I knew, which is vile stuff, reeking of almond essence and tasting like a scented candle. Make it at home though – and as I discovered it is neither difficult nor costly – and the world of marzipan confectionery opens up.
The chequered slices pink and yellow simply look fun and it’s definitely a baking exercise to coax kids into the kitchen. You might think a super-special tin is required but it’s surprisingly easy to keep the two coloured sponges separate from each other with just a folded up strip of parchment; it is well-behaved sponge that rises regimentally evenly.
Rolling out the marzipan is the only tricky part: make sure your work surface is liberally dusted with icing sugar – when else will the little ones be told they should spill sugar all over the kitchen? – and the marzipan is at room temperature. It can well be made in advance and even frozen though it keeps very well being a mainly sugar paste, but make sure it’s ambient temperature when you get rolling.
raspberry and lemon battenbergServings: 10Time: 1 hour 20 minutes
- For the sponge:
- 175g unsalted butter, softened
- 175g caster sugar
- 3 large eggs
- 175g plain flour
- ½ tsp salt
- 2 tsp baking powder
- a few drops of rose water
- pink food colouring
- zest grated from 1 lime
- For the marzipan:
- 110g shelled hazelnuts
- 110g ground almonds
- 240g icing sugar
- 2 egg yolks
- juice squeezed from 1 lemon
- For the filling:
- ½ jar good raspberry jam
1. Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/gas 4. Butter a 21 x 15cm Battenberg tin. You can use an ordinary 20 x 20cm square cake tin: line it with a strip of parchment folded up across the middle to separate the two cakes.
2. Beat the butter with sugar until pale and fluffy. Add the eggs one by one, then stir together the flour, salt and baking powder and add it in one go. Beat until combined.
3. Transfer half of the mix (345g) to a clean bowl. Stir the rose water and pink colouring into this portion and the lime zest into the other. Spoon the mixes into the prepared tin and bake for 20-25 minutes until a skewer inserted into the cakes comes out clean. Take out of the oven and cool in the tin.
4. Prepare the marzipan while the sponges are cooling: in the food processor whiz the hazelnuts into powder. Add the almonds, icing sugar and pulse to mix. Add the egg yolks and lemon and pulse until the marzipan comes together. Turn out onto a work surface and knead until it’s soft and pliable; add a little more lemon juice if it’s still crumbly.
5. When the sponges are cold, turn them out and cut each in three strips about 3 cm wide and 3cm thick; trim any uneven sides.
6. Dust the work surface with icing sugar. Roll out the marzipan to a thickness of 3-4mm, to roughly a 30 x 36cm rectangle. Spread the marzipan with a little jam.
7. Place a pink and two yellow strips on the marzipan, spreading jam on their sides to stick them together. Spread more jam over the top, then repeat with reverse colour strips also melded with jam to create a checkered pattern.
8. Wrap the marzipan around the cake tightly, trim to join it on the top side. Pinch the joint and any cracks on the sides together with your fingers, then turn it over to a serving tray or plate, seam side down. Trim the excess marzipan around the edges.
9. Keep the cake at room temperature, slice with a bread or pastry knife.