Wednesday, June 27, 2012

June Daring Bakers' Challenge - Battenberg Cake

This month's Daring Bakers' Challenge was something new to me, an apparently was pulled together very quickly when the wonderful blogger who was scheduled to host had a sudden family situation to attend to, and had to bow out. But with so many wonderful food bloggers and creative bakers in our Daring Kitchen family, all was not lost for the month of June.

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.

Now, I had never heard of a Battenberg Cake before, but it turns out that they are cute little checkerboard-patterned cakes that were originally created to celebrate the wedding of Queen Victoria's granddaughter to Prince Louis of, you guessed it, Battenberg.

So, being that this was the month of celebrating the Queen's jubilee (and, I must admit that I am fascinated with the history associated with the British monarchy, so this challenge was extra fun...), we were challenged to celebrate with a cake designed for British royalty.

To create the checkerboard effect, they actually sell Battenberg Cake pans. Yup, pans with dividers so that it bakes up in strips that you can then just line up appropriately.

Or you can divide your regular cake pan in half with parchment paper and hope for the best.

Which is what we did.

Little miss helped me measure to make sure that my divider was in the right place.

And then we made our cake batter. It's pretty much a basic pound cake recipe, with butter, sugar, flour and eggs. The recipe that Mandy provided calls for ground nuts to be added in, as well, to help with the cake's sustainability. We don't bake with nuts. So the alternative was offered to use ground rice instead. Which I am sure works just fine, but it sounded a bit odd to me. So I added ground flax seed instead.

The other change that I made was due to another thing we avoid baking with in our house - food coloring. You see, a traditional Battenberg Cake is half white and half pink - made pink with the addition of red food coloring.  So rather than messing with beets to try to attain a pink cake, I chose to make half of my cake chocolate, instead, using my darkest cocoa powder.

All looked great as the cake went into the oven, and smelled deliciously buttery as it baked, but something must have gone wrong, because this is what I pulled out of the oven.

Holy sink-holes.

Needless to say, I was very disappointed.  I wasn't sure what to do, because that was a lot of butter to just chuck, and I wasn't sure that I wanted to try again.

But I didn't want to give up, so the next day, I tried again. Using a slightly different recipe. Well, not really that different - all of the ingredients were the same (though this recipe did not call for ground nuts/rice/flax/anything), but the method was different. You see, the recipe that Mandy provided used the "all in one" method - mix all of the ingredients in a bowl at the same time and there you go.  This "alternate" recipe used the creaming method, whereby the butter and sugar are creamed together first, then the eggs beaten in, then the dry ingredients incorporated.  I thought that I might have better results regarding the structure and integrity of my cake with this alternate method, so I gave it a shot.

Once again, I divided the pan and made half of my batter chocolate, leaving the other half plain.

And the results?

Only slightly less sinky. And pretty uneven, too.

Needless to say, I was pretty disappointed. Again.

But at this point, three sticks of butter, six eggs and plenty of flour and sugar later, I was committed. SO I figured that between the four halves, I could make this work.

And with a little creative cutting, I was able to kind of piece together something that could possibly be workable.

But the cake itself is only one component of a Battenberg. Once the cake is constructed, it is then wrapped. Usually in marzipan. Which is made out of ground almonds. Once again, we don't do nuts. But Mandy gave us a couple of alternatives, one of which was something called chocolate plastique, or modeling chocolate. And it looked easy to make.  All you do is melt some chocolate.

Once it's nice and melty, add in some corn syrup.

And that's it. Stir it until it cools, knead it for a while, then you can store it in a zip-top bag in the fridge until you need it. Easy, peasy and totally nut free. Hooray!

So once my cakes were cut and set aside, I started rolling out my chocolate. Which I had taken out hours and hours before to allow it to come to room temperature. And that little miss and I took turns kneading (still in the zip-top bag) in order to make it nice and pliable.

Yes, I am fully aware of what that looks like.

But it rolled out really beautifully!

And we were soon ready to construct our Battenberg!

To glue the layers together, I decided to go with a candy bar theme and use caramel sauce.

Then I had to carefully transfer the cakes to the rolled out chocolate and wrap the whole thing up.

Trim the edges, add some decorative hash marks and pearlized sprinkles, and there you have it!

Aside from the color difference in the vanilla squares (since one had ground flax mixed in and the other didn't), it actually kind of looked like it was supposed to!

When daddy came home from work and saw the finished cake on the counter, he was pretty impressed, which was just about all the validation I needed for the work and frustration involved in the process.

And then we cut into it and it was absolutely delicious. Very sweet, so a small piece was plenty, but between the buttery pound cake, the smooth caramel sauce and the fun chocolate covering, it made for a really nice dessert.

Mandy, thank you so much for sharing this fun celebration cake with us, and for doing such a wonderful job with your last-minute hosting role!

To see the other truly impressive cakes baked in the kitchen this month, check them out here.

Traditional Battenberg Cake
(challenge recipe, from Mary Berry's "Baking Bible")

For the cake:
¾ cup (1½ sticks) 175gm / 6 oz Unsalted Butter, softened & cut in cubes
¾ cup / 175gm / 6 oz Caster Sugar
1¼ cups / 175gm / 6 oz Self-Raising Flour
3 Large Eggs, room temp
½ cup / 65gm/ 2 1/3 oz Ground Almonds (Can be substituted with ground rice)
3/4 tsp / 3½ gm Baking Powder
½ tsp / 2½ ml Vanilla Extract
1/4 tsp (1¼ ml) Almond Extract
Red Food Colouring, paste, liquid or gel

To finish:
1/3 cup (80 ml) 100gm /3 ½ oz Apricot Jam
1 cup / 225gm / 8 oz Marzipan, natural or yellow

Preheat oven to moderate 350°F/180°C/160°C Fan Assisted/Gas Mark 4.
Grease an 8”/20cm square baking tin with butter.
Line the tin with parchment paper, creating a divide in the middle with the parchment (or foil) OR Prepare Battenberg tin by brushing the tin with melted butter and flouring.
Whisk together the dry ingredients then combine with the wet ingredients in a large bowl and beat together just until the ingredients are combined and the batter is smooth.
Spoon half the mixture into the one side of the prepared baking tin.
Add a few drops of red food liquid/gel/paste to the remaining batter, stir until the colour is thoroughly distributed. Add more colour as needed until desired color is reached.
Spoon the pink batter into the other half of the prepared baking tin.
Smooth the surface of the batter with a spatula, making sure batter is in each corner.
Bake for 25-30 minutes until the cake is well risen, springs back when lightly touched and a toothpick comes out clean (it should shrink away from the sides of the pan).
Leave to cool in the tin for a few minutes before turning out to cool thoroughly on a wire rack.
Once completely cool, trim the edges of the cake with a long serrated knife.
Cut each coloured sponge in half lengthways so that you are left with four long strips of sponge.
Neaten the strips and trim as necessary so that your checkered pattern is as neat and even as possible.
Gently heat the apricot jam and pass through a small sieve.
Brush warmed jam onto the strips of cake to stick the cake together in a checkered pattern (one yellow next to one pink. On top of that, one pink next to one yellow).
Dust a large flat surface with icing sugar then roll the marzipan in an oblong shape that is wide enough to cover the length of the cake and long enough to completely wrap the cake.
Brush the top of the cake with apricot jam.
Place the cake on the marzipan, jam side down.
Brush the remaining three sides with jam.
Press the marzipan around the cake, making sure the join is either neatly in the one corner, or will be underneath the cake once turned over.
Carefully flip the cake over so that the seam is under the cake and score the top of the cake with a knife, you can also crimp the top corners with your fingers to decorate, if you would like.
Neaten the ends of the cake and remove excess marzipan by trimming off a small bit of cake on both ends to reveal the pattern.

Notes: I used ground flax instead of ground almonds and omitted the almond extract. Instead of a few drops of red food coloring, I used a bit of dark cocoa powder. I used caramel sauce instead of jam as the "glue" to hold my pattern together, and instead of marzipan, I used semi-sweet modeling chocolate, for which the recipe is provided below.

Semi-Sweet Chocolate Modeling Paste
(from Joy of Baking)

7 ounces (200 grams) semi-sweet chocolate, chopped
3 1/2 - 4 tablespoons light corn syrup

Melt the chocolate in a double boiler or metal bowl set over a pan of simmering water.  Stir the chocolate until melted and smooth.  Remove from heat and stir until smooth and cooled a bit.
Stir in the corn syrup.  The chocolate will stiffen almost immediately.  Stir until completely combined.  Transfer the chocolate to a sturdy plastic freezer bag and refrigerate until firm (about two hours, or longer is fine).
When the dough is firm, remove from the refrigerator, and knead it until it is soft enough to work with.  If it is too hard, cut off small pieces, and knead until pliable.  Grease the counter where you are working with oil or spray with Pam so the chocolate won't stick.



  1. Your chocolate plastique looks perfect! Not a line or crease in sight. Sigh! I wish mine worked out...

  2. I am so envious of your chocolate plastique - it looks fantastic. I also love the use of caramel sauce as glue - inspired.

  3. Wow - you did a great job of pulling everything together to come up with a lovely end result. It is fun to see everyone's take on this challenge.

  4. Looking at your finished cake, you would never know you had trouble with it! The chocolate plastique looks great and I'll have to try it--it looks fun to play with.

  5. You did a great job!!!! You overcome the obsticles perfectly!!!

  6. Lovely! This was why I so enjoyed Daring Bakers!

  7. What fantastic chocolate plastique - and the finished cake doesn't give away a hit of all the troubles you had creating it! Glad it tasted delicious too ;o)

  8. I need to master on the plastique, made a similar cake except with green and choco chips on one of the cakes. Your plastique looks so pliable. The cake has come out awesome and perfect. Love the cute little pearls on top of the cake. Jayanthi(

  9. Based on your final result, you would never know that those cakes gave you so much trouble! I wonder what was up with the sunken middles? Regardless, the chocolate-vanilla-caramel sauce combo sounds AWESOME and it looks beautiful! Great job!

  10. I'm not sure I would have even noticed the different colors of the vanilla cakes had you not pointed it out; it's just a lovely cake! And the caramel sauce - oh my goodness! I'm with you on not using artificial colors. I wish I would have used chocolate like you did though.

  11. Way to persevere, Shelley! Your chocolate plastique is so smooth and if you hadn't told the story I wouldn't have guessed you had so much trouble.

    Also, the idea of using a ruler to make sure your two cake halves in the makeshift Battenberg is brilliant. That didn't even occur to me. Ha!

  12. Your Battenburg looks delicious! I didn't have the onions to tackle the plastique, so I bow to your daring, and also to your persistence in trying a second time with the cake. Looks like it was well worth it. :)

  13. Your chocolate pastique looks fantastic. I know a lot of bakers had problems with it - so I wasn't game to try. After seeing yours maybe I'll have a go. I too, made two cakes but it was because I didn't get around to decorating the first one. We just ate it as it was. I love the chocolate vanilla version. I'd do that one next time. Looks delicious!

  14. Despite the problems you ran into, your cake turned out fantastic.

  15. Your cake looks great, and I think it tasted amazing - chocolate and caramel, what else could you want ? :))

  16. Well done for not giving up. Your end result looks stunning and I love the idea of the chocolate and caramel combo.

  17. Great result, I have to try that chocolate plastic

  18. Caramel and chocolate? Oooh, I am so going to make this!

  19. Wow, your Battenberg cake looks very pretty and yes, the difference in the colors look like they were meant to be like that, and the chocolate plastique is just perfect. Great job!

  20. Well done! I admire you for not giving up. Your cake looks very yummy. I have to give the chocolate plastique a go next time. Thanks for all the helpful step photos.

  21. Yummmm!
    Your Battenberg cake version looks so tasty!
    I just love the flavors and colors combination

  22. I love your finished cake Shelley and I love your choice for caramel,
    I made the cake for a friend's party and had so many problems (one cake rose more than the other,very hot day, chocolate melted on me, no time to take a picture)so I decided to sit this one out. I think you did a brilliant job and your cake looks amazing, and your cut slices look mouth watering

  23. Nom nom nom :D
    You finished cake looks amazing. The pearls are so chic...why haven't I thought about it?!!
    Your chocolate plastique looks flawless too. I'm sure the secret is the help you got from the little miss. ;)

  24. Kudos to you, good that you tried again. Your assembled cake turned out beautiful. I love the candy bar theme you had, must've been super good with the caramel. And perfect job on the plastique- the quilting looks gorgeous!

  25. I love that you managed to piece together a perfect battenberg even though you bhad some sinkholes in your cakes. Great cutting, Shelley! The caramel filling is to.die.for, and paired with the chocolate plastique, it's like a candy bar battenberg! Loved reading about how it came together finally, as always! It looks so professional!

  26. This was indeed a challenge - yours turned out really well and I have chocolate plastique envy Shelley - your little girl will have such an extensive repetoire of baking skills !! :

  27. Love the step be step photos! Your cake looks awesome even though it does seem like you had your fair share of disappointments along the way. Very committed of you to make a whole extra batch though! I'm not a fan of food coloring either and didn't have almonds on hand so I just added rice flour which you don't taste even the slightest bit, though I do wonder if the ground almonds contribute a significantly different flavor...

  28. I love the detail pic! Frankly I dont have so much patience . Love the way your chocolate is so neat and looks like a breeze I had a little trouble with marzipan. And your work area is so neat . My kitchen was in need of strong cleaning after I baked !! And those little hands surely were great help am sure :)))

  29. Love the determination and the finished cake looks fantastic! I never throw anything away since it might come in handy the next time I'm baking... Super. Best, sandie

  30. The cake turned out beautifully! A true testament to perseverance! Oh, and your plastique is absolutely gorgeous. My white modeling chocolate turned out less than stellar and ended up in the bin. Great job this month, ladies!

  31. Cool, we both made choc bar battenbergs! I wish I'd gone for the chocolate plastique too - yours looks so perfect, and I love the little decorative sugar balls. Fantastic battenberg, Shelley. :)

  32. What a wonderful flavor combination. Great job on this challenge.

  33. Your chocolate plastique looks so perfect. I love chocolate so I would love a piece of that cake right now! The caramel is a brilliant idea.

  34. Aweosme job, Shelley!!! That was some very creative cutting, and you did an awesome job making this cake work! Your plastique is fantastic - great job! All in all, your battenburg rocked it! :)


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