Battenberg, king of cakes! Quintessentially British with its familiar checked pink and yellow sponge, tang of raspberry jam and soothing blanket of marzipan - nothing says 'Afternoon Tea' quite like a slice of Battenberg and a cup of tea.
Greaseproof baking paper
2 large free-range eggs, lightly beaten
120g caster sugar, plus extra for dusting
120g baking margarine/softened butter
120g self-raising flour, plus extra for dusting the tin
¼ tsp baking powder
3 tbs ground almonds
2 tbs semi-skimmed milk
pink gel food colour
seedless raspberry jam
icing sugar for dusting
- Preheat the oven to 150c fan (302f).
- Grease the base of the cake tin, the insides of the wall panels and both sides of the internal panels. Cut a rectangle of greaseproof paper to sit perfectly inside the base of the tin. Dust the inside of the wall panels and both sides of the internal panels with flour before assembling.
- Cream the margarine and sugar together, adding the egg bit by bit, followed by the flour, the baking powder and finally the almonds. Stir until the mixture comes together and is smooth – try not to mix for too long.
- Divide the mixture equally between the two smaller mixing bowls. Add a couple of drops of pink food colour to one bowl and mix just long enough to get a uniformly pink colour (be careful not to add too much colour as we want a fairly soft pink sponge).
- Using a dessert spoon and a mini spatula, transfer the pink cake mixture into two channels of the cake tin. Try to divide the mixture as equally as possible and use the palette knife to spread it evenly along the length of each channel. Repeat with the uncoloured cake mixture, transferring it to the remaining two channels of the cake tin.
- Place the tin in the oven and bake for 20 minutes. After this time, you may need to give the cake another five minutes. Repeat the checking process at five minute intervals until done. It will be fully baked when risen and springy to the touch. (Be careful! A cake tester will show if the cake is ready. Insert it into the cake, if it appears to be clean when removed from the sponge, it is done.)
- Remove the cake from the oven and leave to cool for ten minutes on a cooling rack.
- When the cake tin is cool enough to handle, level off any raised parts of the cake peeking over the top of the tin. A bread knife is really useful for this.
- Gently run a sharp knife around the sides of the cake tin and each side of the panels. Remove the panels and invert the tin over the cooling rack. Peel off the greaseproof paper and turn the cakes right side up to cool completely.
- Assemble the four cakes in the classic two-by-two alternating colour Battenberg formation by using the pastry brush to paint each adjoining length of cake with seedless raspberry jam and sticking the cakes into place.
- Dust your work surface with icing sugar and roll out the marzipan into an oblong measuring approximately 25cm wide and 35cm long.
- Paint the underside of the Battenberg with raspberry jam and place in the middle of the strip of marzipan. Then paint the sides of the cake with more jam, and pull up the sides of the marzipan to cover the cake completely. Trim along the seam if you need to.
- Smooth the marzipan with your fingers. Don't worry if it tears, you will be able to push it back together with your fingers. If you have one, a fondant smoother will give a very professional finish.
- Turn the cake over, so that the seam is now underneath the cake, dust with caster sugar, and place on a cake stand, plate or doily.
- To cut a rectangle of greaseproof paper to fit the inside of the tin, place the tin on a large piece of paper and draw around it with a pen or pencil. Cut out the rectangle (taking care to cut inside the markings so that ink/pencil cannot contaminate the food).
- If the jam is too solid, transfer some to a microwavable bowl and blast in the microwave for a few seconds to liquefy.
- After 'glueing' the four cakes into the two-by-two shape, wrap the whole thing in clingfilm and pop it in the freezer while you prepare the marzipan – it will make the cake much easier to handle!
- While the cake is frozen, if you want to you can trim off any lumps and bumps to make the cake as near perfect a cuboid as possible! This step is not compulsory!