Battenberg Cake

Battenberg cake, a checkered sponge cake with apricot jam filling and a marzipan coat, was created to celebrate the marriage of Queen Victoria’s granddaughter, Princess Victoria, to Prince Louis of Battenberg in 1884. The four cake panels symbolize the four princes of Battenberg.

That’s the word on the street, anyway.

Other sources claim the whimsical cake originally had nine sections, not the four you see today.

Who’s counting, I say. This English tea cake is irresistibly festive and begs to be served at a party or celebration; a bridal tea or baby shower seems fitting. In our family, the annual occasion is my mother’s birthday, as Battenberg cake is her favorite sweet confection and you can’t, to my knowledge, find it anywhere in Alabama.

In years past, I’ve made the marzipan from scratch. You could, realistically, make all components of the cake yourself: the marzipan, the sponge cake, the jam. Do that. I will applaud you from the sidelines. I, on the other hand, have surrendered making the marzipan and jam this go-around.

In lieu of using artificial food coloring this year, I made a concentrated strawberry syrup that I hoped, when added to the batter, would give the pink cake its rosy color. The syrup, after a 30-minute reduction, was thick and sticky and a deep gorgeous pink, but not even a quarter cup revved the cake color up to anything beyond a blush, even after baking. So when I made another batch, I begrudgingly added a few drops of food coloring. I’ll revisit the experiment another time.

Let’s move on to a success: the sponge cake, light and springy with hints of lemon and vanilla.

I’m a few weeks late making my mother’s birthday cake, but this year’s Battenberg is one of the best yet. I think she’ll forgive me.

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