if i’m making something like cookie dough stuffed brownies or chocolate layer cake — desserts i’ve made once a week for the past few years — i can bake for hours without actually thinking about the baking itself. it’s nice, because i can watch netflix, listen to music, or just let my mind wander while my muscle memory takes over.
on the other side of the spectrum, something like this battenberg cake demands my full attention. i had a bit of a respite while the cakes baked, but other than that, it was hours of intense measurement (both volume and length) and careful assembly. this type of baking is also nice in its own way; after a week of exams, nothing could’ve been more therapeutic than concentrating on an intricate cake for a whole day.
battenberg cake originated in england, named in honor of princess victoria’s marriage to prince louis of battenberg in 1884. it tastes foreign; its strong almond flavor, small square shape, and overall delicate nature set it apart from any traditional U.S. cake, but this is what i love about it. if you have a spare afternoon and a mind that needs clearing, i encourage you to make it!
makes three small battenberg cakes / recipe from marbled, swirled, and layered
- 6 eggs
- 3 egg yolks
- 6 tbsp heavy cream
- 1 1/2 tsp kosher salt
- 4 1/2 cups sugar
- 2 1/2 cups (4 1/2 sticks) butter, room temperature
- 8 oz cream cheese, room temperature
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 4 1/2 cups flour
- 1 cup almond meal
- 2 tsp almond extract
- 2 tsp raspberry extract (optional)
- red food coloring
- 1 (12 oz) jar seedless raspberry jam
- 1/4 cup powdered sugar
- 14 oz marzipan
- a bit of whipped cream or frosting
- fresh raspberries
preheat the oven to 300º. grease two 5×9-inch loaf pans and line with parchment paper. combine the eggs, egg yolks, cream, and salt in a bowl and whisk vigorously. place the sugar, butter, cream cheese, and vanilla in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, and beat on medium speed until the mixture is fluffy, about 3 minutes. scrape down the sides of the bowl and turn the mixer back on. drizzle the egg mixture into the bowl.
whisk together the flour and almond meal in a large bowl until uniform in color, then add to the stand mixer in three additions. scoop half the batter into the bowl that had the flour in it. add the raspberry extract (if you’re using it) and a few drops of red food coloring. stir with a spatula until the batter is pink. transfer to one of the loaf pans.
add the almond extract to the batter in the stand mixer bowl and beat to incorporate. transfer into the other loaf pan. bake both until a toothpick inserted in the center of each cake comes out clean*, about 1 hour and 40 minutes. let cool in the pans, then use the parchment paper to lift the cakes out of the pans. cool completely on a wire rack.
to assemble, trim all sides of the cakes to square them off. cut each loaf into thirds lengthwise, then cut each long piece in half length-wise to make 6 long, square logs. take one log of pink cake and spread raspberry jam on top and on one long side. lay a yellow log next to it. brush the top of the yellow cake with raspberry jam, then place two more logs on top of the ones you have, spreading jam in between them and alternating the colors so you have a checkerboard. you should have enough logs to make three small cakes. place the cakes in the fridge while you roll out the marzipan.
dust a clean surface with the powdered sugar and roll a third of the marzipan into a large rectangle, about 1/4-inch thick. take one of the cakes out of the fridge and carefully drape the marzipan over it, smoothing it with your hands. try and do this quickly to prevent the marzipan from drying out or tearing. if it tears, wet your fingers with some water and rub over the tear to seal it. cover the remaining cakes with the rest of the marzipan. to finish, pipe three small dollops of whipped cream or frosting onto the cakes and top with fresh raspberries.
*with regular cakes, i usually don’t bother with the toothpick test and count on the “feel” of the cake (how much it springs back when i touch it) to determine when they’re done cooking. with a loaf cake, however, you must use a toothpick with loaf cakes. the center could still be raw even if the top of the cake is golden brown and springy.