Battenberg cake. Mmmmm. According to that fount of all not-quite-fully-accurate knowledge, Wikipedia, Battenberg cake was first invented for a wedding. Aww, how sweet. I like that story, and thus I will choose to believe it is true. I also like Battenberg cake. In fact it is one of my favourite, if not *the* favourite of all the cakes I have eaten in all my years on this green earth. Sadly, I have not eaten it for over seven years, due to my slightly skewiff immune system and its resulting response to anything containing gluten. Boo. That all changed this weekend though when I had to make a birthday cake in the space of about two hours, and decided I would not have time for a “proper” birthday cake, layers icing and all, and instead plumped for the close second-best option, a Battenberg cake. Which was 1) everything I remembered and more in terms of almondy deliciousness and 2) ridiculously easy. The hardest bit was lining the baking tin with two separate pieces of greaseproof paper (I kid you not, took me ages to get them creased just right and then I realised I had to take them out again to grease them, gahh, it was a nightmare), and peeling the marzipan off my shiny new pastry mat (just because it’s silicone, doesn’t mean sticky, sugary marzipan won’t stick to it). In all this was ready for eating in under two hours, even with the aforementioned screw-ups.
Adapted slightly from Waitrose
Homemade marzipan, what a revelation. Really easy to pull together and the lemon juice gives it just a hint of a citrusy aftertaste, just enough to give it that edge over slightly bland shop-bought stuff.
150g butter, softened
150g caster sugar
3 eggs plus an extra egg white (in total for the sponge and marzipan you will use 5 eggs)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
150g gf flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
Pinch of salt
1 drop red food colouring
4 tablespoons jam, either apricot or strawberry
75g caster sugar
75g icing sugar
1 egg yolk (use the spare one left over from the sponge)
200g ground almonds
1 teaspoon almond essence
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
1. Preheat the oven to 160 C. Line an 8″ square (20cm) baking tin with two pieces of greased parchment paper; these should effectively split the tin in half, so you can cook two different coloured cakes in the one tin.
2. For the sponge, cream together the butter and the sugar until light and creamy. Beat in the eggs one at a time, then the egg white. Stir in the gf flour, baking powder and salt until smooth. If the batter seems too thick (it should be a thick dropping consistency) then add a tablespoon of milk, but I didn’t need to.
3. Separate the batter evenly into two bowls. Add a single drop of red food colouring to one bowl and stir well until the batter is an even pink colour. Spoon this batter into one side of the cake tin and smooth the top. Wash your spoon/spatula and then add the vanilla essence to the other bowl of mixture. Stir well, then spoon this into the other side of the cake tin. Smooth down the top and bake the cakes in the oven for 25 minutes, or until a skewer comes out clean. Leave the cakes to cool in the tin for 5 minutes, then turn out onto a cooling rack.
4. While the cake is cooking, make the marzipan. In a bain marie whisk together the icing sugar, caster sugar, egg and egg yolk over a medium heat until the mixture thickens up slightly and is very pale. This should take about 10 minutes. Remove the mixture from the heat and stir in the ground almonds and almond essence. Add the lemon juice, a drop at a time, making sure you don’t make the mixture too wet. The marzipan should come together in a cohesive, but at this stage very sticky ball. Bring into as neat a ball as possible, then wrap in clingfilm and refrigerate for 30 minutes or so to firm it up.
5. Stack the two sponges on top of each other, trim the sides so they are the same size and shape, and then cut them in half lengthways so you have two strips of each colour cake. Lightly dust your bench with icing sugar and roll out the marzipan into a rectangle, 20×35 cm. Melt the jam in a small bowl in the microwave for 20 seconds and brush some of this all over the rolled marzipan. Then lay one of the strips of sponge on the marzipan, crosswise. Brush the sponge with more jam, and put a contrasting coloured sponge strip next to it. Brush the top and side of this with sponge, then lay the other two strips of sponge on top of the first two. Brush the tops of these with jam too, then carefully lift the marzipan up round the cake and press down on the join to seal. Brush off any excess icing sugar, and return the cake to the fridge for another 30 minutes for the marzipan to firm up again.
Serve at room temperature. I can’t comment on how well it keeps, but I imagine it keeps ok in the fridge, probably not so well at room temperature.