I have never understood the allure of the gimmicky Halloween dessert. It could be because I’m not a child anymore, but even if I had a child, I would feed my spawn maybe one dessert with food colour in it and that would probably be the single red velvet I’ll make in a year (For last year’s red velvet cake recipe click here).
Halloween also happens to be a time when the world (and Instagram) makes me realise how truly shit I am when it comes to DIY stuff. Like, I could not be bothered with making ghoulish eyes or candy bones and even if I tried, I’d suck at it so much. I thought maybe this year I’d do a fun Netflix-y Sabrina-themed dish and anything I could think of involved making horns or pentagram cakes and other nonsense that would suck the soul out of me. I sat through an entire season of The Curious Creations of Christine McConnell and came out feeling more inadequate than I had before, so yeah, I didn’t want to do a Halloween thing this year.
I did crave some kind of cake though. I’m always looking for excuses to make some anyway, so this Battenberg cake seemed like a super idea. It’s a bit fiddly yes, as allBattenberg cakes are, but that’s more to do with the marzipan than the cake itself. Battenberg cake was named in honour of the marriage of Prince Louis Of Battenberg to Princess Victoria, granddaughter of Queen Victoria (so confusing). It’s also referred to as a checkered cake, a Domino cake and it’s a close cousin of the Neapolitan roll. Simply explained, the Battenberg is baked as two separate loaf cakes which are then trimmed and sliced lengthwise so that all four rectangles look the same. The cake is then glued together using jam, traditionally apricot but I want this cake to bleed so strawberry or raspberry in this case. The cake is then covered with marzipan. The edges are trimmed away to reveal the chequered pattern and it’s cut and served with tea.
Now I insist that you make your marzipan from scratch. The homemade stuff just tastes so much better. This is an almond marzipan by the way and if you prefer a cashew marzipan and have a grandma or aunt’s recipe, go for that, and give me a recipe too.
Bleeding Battenberg Cake or Chocolate and Coffee Battenberg
Battenberg cakes are a gorgeous chequered tea time confection and keeps well too. This special Battenberg has a coffee and chocolate cake sandwiched with bleeding strawberry jam in between and chocolate almond marzipan all around.
For The Cakes
Eggs 4, at room temperature
Caster sugar 210g
All-purpose flour 170g, whisked very well
Almond flour 45g
Salt two pinches
Milk 60ml, plus 30ml
Vanilla essence 1 1/2 tsp
Salted Butter 170g, melted
Coffee 1 tsp, instant will do
Cocoa powder 20g
Almonds 70g optional, chopped
For The Chocolate Marzipan
Almond flour 250g
Caster sugar 185g
Icing sugar 125g
Rosewater 1 tsp, preferably Key brand
Cocoa powder 4 tbsp
Strawberry/Raspberry jam 175g
Sugar syrup made with equal parts sugar and water
Grease two 8-inch loaf tins and line with baking paper. Preheat an oven to 180 degrees celsius.
Whisk together the all-purpose flour, almond flour and salt together in a bowl very well.
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, add the eggs and caster sugar and beat on medium-speed for 8-10 minutes or until ribbon stage. Ribbon stage is when the mixture in the bowl has doubles in volume, looks thick and the mixture falls upon itself in slowly dissolving ribbons and stays there for a fraction of a second before dissolving. Add the 60ml milk and the vanilla essence and whisk again till well incorporated, for a minute more.
Take the bowl off the stand mixer and add the whisked dry ingredients and fold a couple of times carefully until some dry pockets of flour still remain. Add the melted butter and fold again. Divide this mixture equally between two bowls. Divide the 30ml of milk into two small bowls. Stir the cocoa powder in one and coffee powder in the other and add to the respective batters to make one a cocoa and the other a coffee sponge. Fold both of these through the cake batter. Fold the additional almonds into both batters if using, else leave it out.
Transfer the cake batter to the tins and transfer to the oven. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the centre of both cakes comes out clean.
Let the cakes cool in the pan for 10 minutes before transferring them to a wire rack to let them cool completely.
While the cakes are cooling, you want to start on the marzipan. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, add the two sugars, the almond meal and cocoa powder and run the machine on low speed once to combine everything. Then slowly add the first egg in while the machine is still running and let the dough begin to come together. When it looks like it’s coming together but still needs a touch more of something, add the rosewater and briefly run the machine again until the dough starts to ride up the paddle. That’s when you gotta stop and gather the marzipan in a clingfilm and pack it up and transfer to the refrigerator to chill for at least an hour.
When the cakes have cooled, begin by trimming any domed tops from both the cakes. Next up, cut each cake into half lengthwise down the middle so you have four rectangular strips. Now get the jam out and make the sugar syrup soak. Brush the sugar syrup soak on all the four cakes, sides included. If your jam is too firm to brush, add a teensy bit of water and give it 15 second bursts in the microwave till it is easy to brush. Now using the jam as a glue, you want to brush the sides of the alternating rectangular sponges with jam and fit them together side by side, really snug. Next, brush the top of these sponges liberally with jam too, then jam the sides of the alternating rectangular sponges left and place them over to form the chequered pattern. Now begin trimming the sides of the cake using a sharp knife so you have a neat looking rectangle all around without any indentations or bumps from the tin.
Once you have achieved this neat rectangle, set aside till it is time to roll out the marzipan.
In a cool room, preferably with air conditioning and a tabletop to work on, sprinkle over a very generous layer of icing sugar. After you have sprinkled the generous layer of sugar on the work surface, begin rolling out the marzipan briskly but also carefully. Remember that you just want the marzipan to be long enough to come up the long sides of the cake and fold underneath. The top and bottom corners shall be left uncovered.
Once you have rolled the marzipan out, brush the surface liberally with the red jam and carefully with the help of spatulas, lift and place the cake in the centre. Fold over the sides of the marzipan over the top of the battenberg cake, trimming any excess that might add an ugly thickness to this layer. This top shall become the bottom so don’t worry too much about how neat it looks. You just want even thickness. Once you snugly packed the marzipan around the sides of the Battenberg, using a sharp knife slice down right through the cake on both the top and bottom to cut off the excess marzipan and leave you with a ready battenberg chequered pattern reveal. Turn the cake over and serve, cut into slices with tea on the side.