There’s something about food traditions that speaks to my soul, even when the traditions aren’t my own. In honor of Queen Elizabeth II’s diamond jubilee earlier this month, the Daring Kitchen challenged its bakers to make a traditional English cake – the Battenberg Cake.
Mandy of What The Fruitcake?! came to our rescue last minute to present us with the Battenberg Cake challenge! She highlighted Mary Berry’s techniques and recipes to allow us to create this unique little cake with ease.
Battenberg cake is a traditional German-style cake that first made an appearance in England when Queen Victoria’s granddaughter Princess Victoria of Hesse and by Rhine married the German prince, Louis of Battenberg. The traditional recipe is an almond sponge cake, half dyed pink, cut into rectangles and assembled in a checkerboard configuration. The individual cakes are glued together using apricot jam and the entire cake is then wrapped in marzipan. For my own purposes, I decided to make the smaller cakes not only two different colors, but two different flavors as well. I settled on lavender and vanilla flavored joconde cakes, swapped the apricot jam for lemon curd to add some tangy brightness, and ditched the marzipan in favor of marshmallow fondant because, well, I hate marzipan with an unbridled passion.
In order to make the cake with a minimum amount of waste, a battenberg cake pan, a square pan that allows two or more batters to be baked side-by-side, should be purchased or rigged. For a four-square battenberg cake, a reasonable substitute can be made by simply folding a piece of aluminum foil the width of your cake pan over on itself a few times. Place the barrier in the center and cover with parchment before filling the pan with your batters – voila! instant battenberg cake pan!
Lavender-Lemon Battenberg Cake
Makes 1 Cake
Lavender and Vanilla Jocondes
- 1 cup All-purpose flour
- 1 cup plus 2 Tbsp Confectioners’ sugar, sifted
- 1 1/2 cups White rice flour
- 2 large Eggs
- 5 large Egg yolks
- 6 large Egg whites
- 1/4 cup plus 2 Tbsp Granulated sugar
- 2 tsp Vanilla extract
- 2 tsp Lavender flowers, minced
- Blue and pink food coloring gel
Carefully mince the lavender flowers until they are a very fine, almost powdery texture and set aside. In a medium bowl, sift together the all-purpose flour, confectioners’ sugar, and rice flour. Set this mixture aside as well.
Place egg yolks and whole eggs in a large bowl and beat with hand mixer on medium speed for approximately 3 minutes until light in color and thick in volume. Increase mixer speed to medium-high and beat for another 3 minutes. Switch mixer speed to low and gradually add flour mixture, mixing just until combined. Add vanilla extract and mix on low for another couple of seconds until incorporated.
In a separate bowl, whip egg whites on medium speed for 2 minutes. When the egg whites are frothy, slowly add the granulated sugar (a couple tablespoons at a time), and increase the mixer speed to medium-high. Whip until the egg whites reach stiff peaks, about 5 minutes.
With a rubber spatula, very carefully fold the meringue into the cake batter in 3 additions. Fold until fully combined. Place approximately half of this batter into one of the sections of the cake pan. To the remaining cake batter, add minced lavender flowers, 2 drops blue food coloring, and 1 drop pink food coloring. Fold again until fully combined. Pour the lavender joconde batter into the second portion of your cake pan. Gently rap pan against a counter to get rid of any large air bubbles. Bake 50-65 minutes until knife inserted in center comes out clean. Set aside and allow to cool completely.
- 1/2 package Miniature marshmallows
- 1 tsp Water
- 1 tsp Clear vanilla extract
- 3-6 cups Confectioners’ sugar
Warning: this is messy. Very, very messy. Place marshmallows in a very large, microwave-safe bowl. Add water and vanilla extract, and mix to coat. Place the bowl in the microwave and microwave on high for 10 second intervals until marshmallows are puffed and can be easily stirred with a rubber spatula. Add 2 cups of the confectioners’ sugar to the bowl and stir with spatula until fully incorporated or too stiff to be stirred. Turn out onto a work surface and gradually knead in more sugar by hand until dough is smooth and malleable without being overly sticky. You may need more or less sugar depending on a number of factors, so go by feel rather than measurements. Roll fondant into a ball and wrap in plastic until ready to use.
Assembly and Decoration
- Vanilla joconde
- Lavender joconde
- 1/4 cup Lemon Curd
- Marshmallow fondant
With a serrated knife, even out the tops of both cakes. Using your knife, carefully cut each joconde into two rectangles of the exact same proportions for a total of four sections of cake. The closer to even the individual cakes are, the more easily the larger cake will fit together. Heat the lemon curd either on the stove top or in the microwave until easily spreadable. Take one of the vanilla joconde rectangles and coat one of the long sides with lemon curd using a pastry brush. Carefully match up to one of the lavender joconde rectangles, using the lemon curd to act as a glue to bind them together. Repeat this process with the other two rectangles so that you’re left with two cakes, each two colors. Use the lemon curd to adhere these cakes together to make one single cake with the different colors creating a checkerboard pattern. Set aside.
Dust your work surface and rolling pin liberally with confectioners’ sugar. Carefully roll out the marshmallow fondant into a rectangle large enough to cover the entire cake. Brush one long side of the cake with lemon curd and place, lemon curd down, on the marshmallow fondant. Brush the remaining long sides of the cake with lemon curd and roll the fondant over and around the cake until it’s snug and the seam is under the cake or in one of the lower edges. Trim excess fondant with a sharp knife. Use the same knife to score a cushion pattern in the top. With a serrated knife, cut off each of the short ends for a neat, finished appearance.
The cake portion of this recipe is very delicate and not overly sweet. If you’ve never had a joconde before, the texture is incredibly smooth and light. The lemon curd is a perfect accent to this cake because where the lavender and vanilla are warm, earthy flavors, the lemon is bright and helps the cake maintain the lightness you want in a tea cake. Oh, speaking of tea, it’s one of the many things that can be substituted exactly for the lavender in this recipe. I’m thinking an Earl Grey Battenberg with Orange Preserves may just make it to the menu for the next High Tea.