I've been watching episodes of The Great British Bake Off (a competitive baking show for British home bakers) almost non-stop this past month and have been so inspired by the delicious bakes the contestants of the show were challenged to create. I am also in LOVE with English baker and "cake queen" Mary Berry. She's delightful. One week, she challenged the contestants to bake her famed Battenburg cake, a basic sponge in two colours, arranged in a checkerboard pattern and then wrapped in marzipan. It was such a pretty cake and I wanted to jump right up and march into my kitchen and join the challenge myself.
Well, I didn't. I remained in the lounge chair watching the episode and then another two after and then I went to bed. Oh well.
And then I logged on to the Daring Baker's site to see what our challenge for July was. In a "celebration" of past Daring Baker and Daring Cook challenges, Lis challenged all of us to search through the Daring Kitchen archives and pick any one we'd like! The REAL challenge was picking which delicious recipe(s) to try.
I knew immediately what recipe I wanted to try: the Battenburg cake, of course! This was originally a challenge posed by Mandy of What the Fruitcake? last June. Mandy provided some neat tips on the techniques and flavours for making a beautiful Battenburg cake, referring to Mary Berry's recipe.
I dove right in.
175g softened butter
175g self-raising flour
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp ground ginger
1/2 cup coconut, freshly grated
5 tbsp apricot jam
The first step is to prepare the baking tin: a 8" X 8" cake tin which is divided in two parts with just parchment paper. What? here's how. First, grease the base of the baking tin with butter. Next, cut a sheet of parchment paper that is twice the length of your tin (so, 16"). Make a crease in the center and then fit the left and right sides of the parchment to fit the tin. Because of the butter, the paper will stick to the bottom and you will be left with extra paper in the middle. Perfect, fold this up to form a divider between the right and left sides of the tin.
Next the batter. The cake is a basic sponge with equal amounts of butter, sugar and flour. Mix all ingredients together. Yup, you don't have to cream the butter and sugar together first and then add the eggs and flour. You can chuck everything in and mix them all together from the start.
Divide in two.
I flavoured one part of the batter with ground ginger (and no colour) and the other with fresh coconut and a drop of pink colouring (I coloured this batter pink, reminiscent of the coconut candy desserts that my mother used to make).
Fill the batters into the separated sections of the tin and bake for about 30 mins.
Once the cake is done, allow to cool in the tin for 10 mins and then rremove them gently onto your cutting board, allowing them to cool completely. Both sides should be equal but if, like me, you divided the tin slightly unevenly with one side slightly larger than the other, you need to gently trim the cakes to size. Cut off uneven edges too. If one cake has risen a little more than the other, gently press the one that's taller so that they are equal in height.
Cut each cake in half, lengthwise.
So now you have two long strips of pink and two long strips of yellow.
Place the one strip of pink and one strip of yellow side by side and once again, make sure they are identical in length and height. Keep the pink one of the right and the yellow on the left.
Heat the apricot jam until it thins out.
Using a brush, spread the apricot jam on the side of one log and then bring then two strips together. The jam should act as glue and with a little pressure the two strips should join as one. Perfect. Now, repeat with the remaining strips, this time put the yellow on your right and the pink on your left. Brush with jam and join them together.
Now you have two pairs. Brush the top of one pair with jam and gently lift the other pair and place it on top of the jammy surface. Gently press together so they are stuck. You have your checkerboard cake!
Now for the marzipan. I didn't have 200g of marzipan. I thought I did but it turns out I only had about 100g - I'd apparently used the other 100g for another recipe some time back and forgot all about it. Sheesh. I therefore had to cut my cake in half and wrap only one portion, thus creating mini Battenburg cakes. Boo hoo hoo.
So, knead the marzipan so it's soft and easy to work with. Dust the cutting board with icing sugar and roll the marzipan out: it should be oblong and big enough to cover the sides and top of the cake.
Brush the top of the cake with jam and then gently place the cake, jam side down, on the sheet of marzipan. Brush the remaining three sides with jam and gently fold the marzipan over the cake, making sure the seams are either along the sides or at the top of the cake.
Now, flip the cake so the seams go to the bottom. My seaming was rather untidy but I will do better next time :)
Using a small, sharp knife, score the top surface of the marzipan so you get a square (or diamond, if you like) pattern and decorate.
Chill the cake and then cut and serve :)