Desserts from the United Kingdom are more popular than ever, thanks in part to The Great British Baking Show. The bake off has introduced viewers in the States to all kinds of intriguing British recipes like Victoria sponge, Bakewell Tarts and sticky toffee pudding. But one of the most visually stunning bakes is this Battenberg cake recipe.
Word has it that Queen Elizabeth has requested a Battenberg cake for her upcoming platinum jubilee celebration to mark 70 years on the throne. It’s just one of the foods the Queen loves to eat.
What is Battenberg Cake?
Battenberg Cake was created in 1884 as the royal wedding cake for Princess Victoria, granddaughter of Queen Victoria, and her husband Prince Louis of the Battenberg family. Though the prince eventually changed his name to Mountbatten during World War I, the name of this cake stayed the same. The most recognizable feature of a British Battenberg cake is the checkerboard pattern inside the slices, traditionally made with pink and yellow cake. The strips of almond-flavored sponge are held together with a generous brushing of apricot jam, then wrapped in a layer of rolled marzipan.
Battenberg cake is one of many classic British foods!
What is marzipan?
This sweet confection is a blend of ground almonds and sugar. Look for tubes of the thick paste stocked in the baking aisle of stores from producers like Odense. Marzipan is thick enough to cover cakes, much like fondant. It’s also used to add sweet almond flavor to other baked goods, like apple tarts.
How to Make Battenberg Cake
This recipe makes a medium-sized cake that will serve about six people. Though there are several steps to making a Battenberg, they’re fairly easy as long as you give yourself enough time for baking, cooling, rolling and assembling.
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup almond flour
3/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 large eggs, room temperature
1 teaspoon almond extract
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/3 cup milk, room temperature
Pink food coloring
1/3 cup apricot jam or preserves
2 packages (6-8 ounces) marzipan
Confectioners’ sugar (to roll out the marzipan)
Editor’s Tip: You can purchase store-bought marzipan or make it from scratch. It’s surprisingly easy to make marzipan at home!
Tools You’ll Need
Rolling Pin: This tapered pin makes it easy to roll out the marzipan paste.
8×8 Baking Pan: No fancy cake mold necessary! Just use your trusty 8-inch square baking pan.
Parchment Paper: Use this to line the pan and help divide it into two sections.
Step 1: Prepare the parchment and foil
Cut a piece of parchment paper to a size of 16×7-1/2 in. Fold the parchment in half by bringing the two short ends together and making a crease in the middle; set aside. Cut a piece of foil to 12×7 in. Bring the two short sides together to fold it in half. Then fold again by the new short side into thirds, to create a 6×2-in. folded piece of foil.
Step 2: Line the pan
Preheat the oven to 350°F and place a rack in the center. Spray the bottom and sides of the baking pan with nonstick spray. Drape the parchment over the baking pan with the crease facing up. Slide the folded foil under the crease. Press the paper down into the pan on either side of the foil so that it sticks to the greased surface of the pan—this will create a dam to divide the pan into two sections. Smooth the paper over the bottom and up the sides, and adjust the dam so it’s sitting in the center of the pan.
Step 3: Blend the flours and butter
Place the flour, almond flour and softened butter in the bowl of a stand mixer. Blend these together on medium speed, scraping as needed, for about 2 minutes until the mixture looks like cookie dough.
Step 3: Finish the batter
Sprinkle the sugar, baking powder and salt over the butter mixture and run the mixer on low until they’re incorporated. Add in the eggs one at a time, mixing briefly after each one. Add in the almond and vanilla extracts and milk. Mix the batter for 2 to 3 minutes until the ingredients are incorporated and the batter looks smooth.
Step 4: Add food coloring to half of the batter
Divide the cake batter in half between two bowls. (Measure using a kitchen scale or divide into two glass Pyrex measuring cups so you can see the amounts.) Add a few drops of pink food coloring to one of the bowls and gently stir it through.
Step 5: Add batters to the pan and bake
Pour the pink cake batter into one side of the prepared cake pan, and pour the untinted batter into the other side. Smooth the batter to fill the spaces completely. Place the pan in the oven and bake for 33-35 minutes, until a tester inserted into the center of each cake comes out clean. When done, place the pan on a cooling rack to cool completely.
Step 6: Trim the cakes
Once cooled, run a knife around the outside edges of both the pink and yellow cakes. Remove the cakes from the pan, peel off the parchment and put the cakes on a cutting board. Use a serrated knife or sharp chef’s knife to slice across the top of each cake, removing any doming to make the tops flat.
Then, place one cake on top of the other, lining up the edges. Use your knife to slice down along a long edge through both cakes—this is to trim and make both cakes have a clean, even edge. Repeat this on the other long side. (Don’t worry about the short edges for now.) Finally, cut down through the middle of the cakes, parallel to the long side, to cut them in half. This will create four long pieces of cake, two pink and two yellow.
Step 7: Roll out the marzipan
Dust a large cutting board and rolling pin with confectioners’ sugar. Open the marzipan packages and combine them into one large lump of marzipan.
Editor’s Tip: The marzipan is very sticky, so dust your cutting board, hands and pin often, as well as the marzipan. Roll it out gently—every time you do, pick up and rotate the marzipan to make sure it doesn’t stick to the board. Add more confectioners’ sugar underneath as needed. Roll it out to a 1/4-in. thickness.
Step 8: Cut the marzipan
Use a paring knife and ruler to cut a rectangle of marzipan big enough to wrap around the cake.
To measure accurately, stack your cake strips, two on the bottom and two on top. Measure the length of the cake, and add 2 inches—this will be the short side of your rectangle. Measure the width and height of the four sides of your cake: add these together, then add another 2 or 3 inches to account for the thickness of the marzipan—this is the long side of your rectangle.
Keep this marzipan rectangle on your cutting board because the cake will be assembled right on top!
Step 9: Assemble the cake
Warm up the apricot jam in a small dish in the microwave, just until it’s loose enough to brush. Use a pastry brush to brush the tops and long sides of one yellow cake strip and one pink cake strip. Place them top-down on the marzipan rectangle, with the long sides of the cake parallel to the short side of the marzipan, and push them together. Brush these with more apricot jam. Brush the top and sides of the other pink and yellow cake strips and place these on top, yellow on pink and pink on yellow.
Push the pieces all together to make a tight checkerboard pattern. Go over the top and long sides with more jam to make sure they’re coated.
Step 10: Wrap it in marzipan
Fold up the sides of the marzipan rectangle and snugly wrap it over the cake—the marzipan tears easily so be gentle. Fold it up over the top, and press the seams together, trimming away any extra.
When finished, carefully pick up the wrapped cake and turn it over so that the seam sits underneath. Gently smooth out any wrinkles or tears, and use a moistened paper towel to dab away any streaks of confectioners’ sugar.
Step 11: Slice the ends and decorate
Carefully move the wrapped cake to a serving platter. Use a sharp knife to slice off 1/2 inch of each short end; this makes both ends look clean and sharp. You can decorate the top if you wish with molded pieces of marzipan or fresh flowers, or by using a paring knife to decoratively score the marzipan.
Use a sharp knife to cut slices of the cake to serve your guests.
Tips for Making Battenberg Cake
What are some flavor variations of this Battenberg cake recipe?
Though pink and yellow are the traditional colors and almond is the traditional flavor, it’s fun to swap in different flavors. The 2020 season of the Great British Baking Show featured Battenberg cakes for Cake Week and bakers had intriguing cake flavor combinations, like lemon with orange, chocolate espresso, lemon and rose, and pomegranate with pistachio. The cake is a great canvas to blend flavors together.
As judge Prue Leith would remind you, neatness and precision are the most important elements of a Battenberg. No matter how you change up the flavors, assemble and cover your cake carefully to make that picture-perfect checkerboard inside with a smooth finish outside.
What are some ingredient substitutions you can make?
Just as you can change the cake flavor, you can also substitute different flavors of jam. For example, we found that raspberry jam was delicious with the almond cake. Or skip the jam altogether and use frosting between the cake layers instead. If you’re not a fan of almonds in general, use fondant to cover the cake instead, rolling and measuring it the same way as directed above.
How should you store Battenberg cake?
To keep the marzipan and cake from drying out, cover the cake tightly with plastic wrap. The cake will keep at room temperature for up to 3 days. If wrapped very well, the cake can also be frozen for up to one month. Allow it to thaw in the refrigerator before serving.
What can I do with leftover marzipan?
Tightly wrap any leftover marzipan to prevent it from drying out. Keep it in the fridge for 2 weeks or in the freezer for up to 3 months. It’s delicious in all kinds of marzipan candy recipes and marzipan cookies!
1 / 16