Sunday, February 07, 2016

Battenberg Cake for Downton Night

After last week's spew fest, I decided to hold off on making flummery pudding this week.  Whoa!  I just knew Robert Crawley's health would take a turn for the worst this season but I had no idea he was going to spray blood all over a dinner party. 
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While it did make for exciting television, I had a difficult time stomaching my Chelsea Bun... and I thought they were a rather delicious bit of jammy goodness.

I am looking forward to some fun between Lady Edith and Lady Mary as Lady Edith's new confidence and willingness to take on a new life seems to have enrobed her with Teflon armor.  I like this Edith.  No, I LOVE this Edith!  I just hope Mary doesn't blab what she has discovered about her sister.  That is all we need.

Tonight's Downton dessert is Battenberg cake.  I have seen this dessert on many a tea table, mostly in magazines, and thought it would be too difficult so I keep passing it by.  However, I stumbled upon this recipe and thought, "Hey, I can do that!"  Battenberg isn't difficult per se, but it can a bit tricky if one doesn't have a properly sized pan (which I don't). 

"What is a Battenberg cake?" you ask.  Well, it is a Victorian era dessert created to celebrate the marriage of Queen Victoria's granddaughter, Princess Victoria, to Prince Louis of Battenbug.  The checkered pattern was to represent the four princes of Battenberg.  Usually, the pattern is yellow and pink but in honor of the Denver Broncos Superbowl win, I made one in orange and blue.

While my final product tasted delicious, it was about as ugly as they come.  The marzipan layer was too thick, my sections of cake were not as even as I initially thought them to be, the colors were unattractive and prior to slicing, it looked like a loaf of wheat bread.  HIDEOUS.  If you choose to make this usually elegant dessert, either buy your marzipan or use blanched almonds and stick with the traditional cake colors.

Here was my process (so you know what NOT to do).

Ingredients for the Cake:
  • 1 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/4 teaspoon almond extract
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • Food coloring (in the colors you are using -- Traditionally, one portion is left alone and the other is dyed pink using red food coloring.  I dyed one portion orange and the other blue.)

Ingredients for topping:
  • 1 cup apricot jam 
  • 2 teaspoons water
  • 2 cups ground almonds (blanched)
  • 3 cups confectioners sugar
  • 1 egg, room temperature
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon lemon juice
  • 1/4 teaspoon almond extract


In a large bowl, add the butter, sugar, eggs, vanilla, almond extract, flour, baking powder, and salt.   Using a hand mixer, blend until the ingredients come together.  Do not over mix.

Separate the thick batter into two equal portions, placing one portion into a separate bowl.  Add food coloring to the batter as desired.

In a Battenberg cake pan, place the batter into separate compartments.  If no Battenberg pan is available, separate an 8"x8" pan using foil and parchment as directed here.  Otherwise, prepare two loaf pans with parchment and place a chunk of foil about 2" from the end to ensure there is enough batter to bake to approximately the same size. 

Bake in a 350 degree Fahrenheit oven for 25 to 30 minutes, until toothpick comes out clean.  Remove from oven and cool in pan for 5 minutes.  Then, lift from the pan by the parchment and continue to cool completely.

In a small bowl, mix the jam and a little water to loosen a bit but do not make it watery. This will be the glue used to bring together the checkerboard pattern. 

To make the homemade marzipan, bring together the ground almonds (mine weren't blanched so the final product will not be light in color), confectioner's sugar, egg, lemon juice, and almond extract in the bowl of a mixer.  Blend until it becomes a paste.  (I neglected to get a photo of this process.)

Once the cakes are cool, cut each colored cake in half lengthwise and trim to equal sizes.  This will ensure that when stacked upon each other, they are the same size.  Once trimmed, coat each side of the cakes with apricot jam and stack together in a checkerboard fashion. 
Roll out the marzipan and cover the entire Battenberg.  Using a small paring knife, make an indented pattern on the top as a decorative flourish.  Mine was soo ugly I didn't bother.

I found it difficult to roll the marzipan to a very thin layer.  I recruited my husband to help me but even he was unable to get it really thin.  I finally gave up and went with it the way I had it.

When serving, cut into small slices to display the checkerboard pattern.

Enjoy with a piping hot cup of tea.  Tonight, I am enjoying Snowflake Tea from the Tea Cozy!  Snowflake tea is a black tea with a lovely aroma and light flavor of coconut, a perfect accompaniment to the nutty flavor of the marzipan... even though this confection was most certainly NOT a feast for the eyes.

Based on the previews this week, we finally get to lay eyes on Lady Mary's turquoise and gold dress.  I have been waiting for this for a long time.  Magnificent elegance.  I think it might be my favorite evening look she has worn.
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I think we will also see Edith's relationship with the agent continue to grow.  I think this is also contributing to her growing confidence.  So far, he seems like a keeper!
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I do hope Mr. and Mrs. Bates' baby continues to grow healthy and strong.  I really don't want to see them disappointed again.  Feeling sad for the Bates is not a fun way to pass the time. My fingers are crossed for Mr. Carson as well.  If he keeps talking to Mrs. Hughes/Carson the way he has, well, that Scottish chickie is going to give him a good wallop! 

Let the drama begin!