The Perfect Battenburg

battenburg close up.jpg gf.jpgHaving finished the week feeling battered and bruised, my thoughts turned to a classic cake, which always makes me smile.  The Battenburg is such a joy to look at.  Gorgeous velvety buttermilk cake, wrapped in a  blanket of marzipan.  What could be better? A gluten free version of course. 

I did some practice runs for a class I will be teaching at Leith's School of Wine, using my very own buttermilk cake recipe.  It works a dream, the cake being resilient enough to put up with all the trimming and moving around.  Taste wise, it's got it all.  Buttery, moist  with a nice crumb, the apricot jam adds just the right amount of tartness to off set of the layer of marzipan. 

What follows are my step by step instructions on how to achieve the perfect Battenburg. I cannot take full credit for this as I had my mentor and teacher Max Clark on hand, giving her advice and assistance on this process.  Max is the buyer at Leith's School of Food and Wine  (and the author of the very successful Leith's Meat Bible ). She has been a teacher at Leith's for 23 years and was my teacher when I was a student there.  This lovely lady has seen it all and really knows her stuff.  When I ask for her advice, she gives it with amazing generosity.  She's a teacher through and through. 

Assembling  the Perfect Battenburg

Use the recipe for Tunis Cake in the recipe section.  You won't need the chocolate frosting bit.  This recipe is enough to make a decent sized Battenburg.  Follow the instructions for making the cake up until pouring it into the cake tin.  From then on here's what you need to do:

Prepare two loaf tins (straight sides are best) measuring approximately 22 cm x 12.5 cm.  Line them with greaseproof paper or use a ready made greaseproof liner.  The idea being that you want to be able to get the cake out easily.

When preparing your batter, take 1/2 of the batter out and place it in a separate bowl.  Add a few drops of red food colouring, but be careful not to overdo it or your cake will be fuschia instead of pink.  To the other half of the batter add a drop of yellow colouring.  In actual fact this isn't strictly necessary as having the contrast between pink cake and light golden cake is fine and the less food colouring the use the better.  Pour the same amount of batter into each loaf tin and even them out so that they rise evenly in the oven.  The loaf tins will only be about 1/3 full, but this is fine. They will rise in the oven a bit and when you stack one on top of the other, you will get the height.  I promise.

Bake your loaf cakes for about 15 - 20 minutes.  Test for doneness by inserting a wooden toothpick. This should emerge clean.  While the cakes are baking place a sheet of greaseproof paper on a wire cooling rack and sprinkle with caster sugar.  When your cake is baked, leave it to sit for a few minutes before turning it out.  If you try to turn it over too soon, ie when just hot out of the oven, it's liable to fall apart.  Leave it for a good 5 - 10 minutes then gently turn it upside down onto the sugared greaseproof.  Leave it to cool completely before proceeding with the recipe.  You can refrigerate the cake overnight and then assemble it in the morning. 

To assemble your cake

battenburg slices close up.jpg gf.jpgTrim off the edges of your cake to make a neat rectangle.  It's best to use a long sharp knife to do this and try to make a clean cut so that the edges are neat and sharp.  I do not bother cutting the ends at this point, but if you want to that's fine.  Now cut each rectangle in half lengthwise, so that you have two neat logs of cake.  Do the same with the other loaf.  (For those of you who are eagled eyed, you will notice from the photo above that there is a chocolate version.  Yes, you can make your cake using a tablespoon of cocoa powder in the mix and then using the other half plain or adding pink colouring).

Prepare some apricot glaze.  Take a few good spoonfuls of apricot jam and warm it through gently in the microwave or in a saucepan.  Add a little hot water to loosen it slightly.  When just warm and liquidy (do not boil), put the jam through a sieve to get rid of any lumps. Keep the jam warm.

Now stack your cake logs in the traditional harlequin pattern. Try and assemble these so that the flatest surface is on the bottom and so they are broadly even in height.  This bit is fiddly, so handle the cakes gently so they don't break up.  Once you've decided on what goes where, take them apart.  Dab each log with a little warm jam, so that they stick to each other.  Don't overdo the jam.  You want just enough to act as a glue.  And this is where Max's wise words really come to life.  The jam needs to be warm, not cold.  A little warm jam will go a long way!  You should now have an assembled cake without it's marzipan overcoat. 

Marzipan (allow about 1 block of marzipan per cake)

Dust your work surface with a little caster sugar.  Roll out your marzipan as evenly as is humanly possible  to a thickness of 1/2 inch and nto a rectangular shape, mirroring the size of your cake.  Measure your cake (by adding up the measurement of the sides and testing your mathematical abilities) and roll the marzipan just shy of the size required.  The reason being is the marzipan will stretch a bit and it's better to have a tight fitting overcoat, then one which sags and looks a little limp.  You are going for smart Jermyn Street tailoring and not the Primark effect.  Believe me, I've been there.

Brush the top of your cake with a little jam  and place the cake, top side down in the middle of your rolled out marzipan   Brush the other 3 sides very lightly with WARM apricot jam.  Now pull the two sides up to meet in the middle, stretching a little as you go. I think about cosmetic surgery when doing this.  Make a neat seal and flatten it slightly.  Marzipan is very pliable so this should not be difficult and if it does tear, you can patch it. It won't look very neat but you can say, it's Battenburg Shabby Chic.  

battenburg in marzipan wrap.jpg gf.jpgFold the shorter sides up as if you were wrapping a parcel and trim off any excess.  Press down on all the sides so that the marzipan sticks to the cake.  Now carefully turn the cake right side up and press down with your hands to mold the marzipan to the cake. 

That's it!  Your done.  Breathe a little sigh of relief.  Leave the cake to sit at least 30 minutes to allow it to set, before you attempt to cut it.  I know.  This is very hard and I kept walking around my cake, thinking I can't wait to cut that bit on the end to see what's inside.  Trust me, it's worth waiting.  Go and have a cold shower! 

battenburg slice on a plate 3.jpg gf.jpgWhen you are ready to cut your cake, (and this is possibly one of the most exciting things you will do this year) use a sharp knife.  Cut off the ends and voila!  You will have a gorgeous, delicious Battenburg.  Enjoy!

Homework:  Send me a picture of your creations.  I'd love to see them.  Or write a comment detailing your Battenburg experiences.

Once you've mastered this the world is your oyster.  Next on the agenda is Max's Gorgeous Fondant Fancies.  Yes folks, this is on the cards.  The thought of little cute bite sized cakes, with a layer of buttercream and then bathed in fondant, makes me swoon.  These little beauties are every cupcake's nightmare (if cupcakes could talk, which I am told they can't).




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adriana's picture
adriana wrote 8 years 47 weeks ago

Congratulations to Leith's Students!

Just wanted to say a big congratulations to the Leith's students on todays gluten free cake and biscuit masterclass.  You turned out some gorgeous Battenbergs!