Squiffy Battenberg

As a married woman I often have to…..to…ugh…..compromise. In this instance I allowed my son’s first birthday cake to be a battenberg. To me this is a shameful way to mark such a milestone but Husband’s birthday memories are punctuated by battenberg.

To me a battenberg reminds me of Dad being let loose in the supermarket or Granny’s cupboard of sweet things. I’m not against them by any means but they lack the frivolity of a true birthday cake.

That being said my son’s favourite food at the moment is whatever is in his hand so I don’t think he’ll hold it against me.

Now, as per usual, I was taken off guard by Wednesday. A battenberg is an easy beast to tame if you have the bare minimal in your cupboards and marzipan. I, conveniently, was without marzipan. Having never made such things before I was wary but it’s actually fierce simple.

Oven Temperature 180 Celsius

Orange marzipan;

Ground almonds  125g

Caster sugar           90g

Icing sugar              90g

Orange zest             1

Egg                            1


Eggs                           5

Caster sugar             285g

Butter                        285g

Self raising flour      285g

Vanilla essence

Pink food colouring

Dark red jam

Preheat the oven. Then to the marzipan. I kind of used this BBC recipe. Measure out the almonds and sugars into a mixing bowl and stir to combine. Add in the zest of one orange and stir again. Beat the egg and pour it into the sugary almond mix, then stir together using a spoon.

Once it starts forming a kind of dough you can start working it together with your hands. Now, the original recipe says to add more icing sugar if the mix is too wet. My mix was far too wet and so I ended up adding another 50g or so of icing sugar. I’ll leave this up to you though. Add enough to make the marzipan just dry enough to not stick entirely to your hands. Like plasticine. Cover it and pop it in the fridge.

I forgot to take a picture but imagine marzipan. It looks like that but with some zesty bits.

For the cake you’ll need to line a tin. It might just be easier to line two small loaf tins or you can try to construct the monstrosity below like me. I can’t fully explain how I did it. There was lots of swearing but essentially you line the tin like normal (see how here) but with an extra fold down the central, long axis. This is the hardest part of the whole recipe.

damn you tin
damn you tin

Add all of the cake ingredients to a large mixing bowl and beat to combine. Divide this batter in two, leaving half in the original bowl and pouring/ dolloping the other half into a fresh bowl. Add as much pink food colouring to one half to make it as garish as you fancy. Leave the other half untouched.

so subtle
so subtle

Pour the pink batter to one side of the tin’s divide and the plain batter to the other. Resist smoothing either side down till they’re both in place or the central partition will collapse and there will be more swearing.

tin:1, me:1
tin:1, me:1

Place the tin in the oven and bake for anything up to an hour. I didn’t expect it to take so long but it did. The cake should be good and brown, firm to the touch and a knife should come out relatively clean after piercing the cake.


Remove it from the oven and let it cool down completely before pulling the two sides apart.

so. very. satisfying.
so. very. satisfying.

The next part may also require a degree of swearing depending on how perfect you want the end cake to look. Slice off the bulgy top of both the pink and plain sponge so they end up the same depth. Then place one on top of the other and cut down, through both cakes, along the long axis so you end up with four pieces of sponge, two pieces the same size that will go on to become your cake and another two, scraggy bits that shall be eaten by you as you finish the making assembling the cake. The two good pieces should, at least in theory, be twice as wide as they are deep. Who knew maths would be so helpful.

not quite as 'twice as wide as deep' as I may have liked
not quite as ‘twice as wide as deep’ as I may have liked

With the two pieces still one on top of the other slice down the centre, again on the long axis.

Hopefully you will now have four pieces of cake. Two pink and two plain. All the same size (ish)?

Ideally these four pieces should be cuboid with a perfectly square cross section. Mine weren’t and I don’t care. I do warn you. If you start slicing bits off trying to even things up you can soon end up with a very small cake and a very large waste pile.

Oh look, a very large waste pile. Why couldn't I just have left it like the last photo? One day I shall listen to myself.
Oh look, a very large waste pile. Why couldn’t I just have left it like the last photo? One day I shall listen to myself.

To roll out the marzipan cut a large piece of cling film and place it on the work surface. Place the marzipan on top and then place another piece of clingfilm on top. Now roll. You need the marzipan to be big enough to cover all four sides.

Once rolled remove the top layer of clingfilm carefully.

May I just show you the chaos that my sublimely helpful son has me baking in?

almost too helpful, that’s him in the right hand cupboard

Spread one long side of a pink piece with jam and place jam side down on the marzipan, more or less in the middle – if you’re using thick jam it might help to pop it in the microwave to melt it a little. Spread jam on two sides of a plain piece and place this piece beside the pink piece so that one jam side touches it and the other is facing down to the marzipan.

Now spread jam over the top of both those pieces.

Stay with me.

Jam one long side of a plain piece and put it on top of the pink piece so the jam side faces inwards. Now place the remaining pink piece on the jammy gap that should be awaiting it.

Finally, as far as the jam is concerned, spread jam over all the naked, exposed sponge sides.

oh my, what a beautiful cake
oh my, what a beautiful cake

Using the clingfilm under the marzipan bring the marzipan up and over the sides and top of the sponge. Keeping the clingfilm on, apply some gentle pressure to make sure all the layers stick together. Twist the ends of the clingfilm like a christmas cracker and leave it in the fridge so you can gather yourself and have a cup of tea.

christmas cracker awaiting trimming
christmas cracker awaiting trimming

It isn’t that complicated, it’s just a pain in the arse to explain.

When you’re ready, take the cake out of the fridge and remove the clingfilm. Trim off the ends to neaten the cake up. Have another cup of tea.


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