A historic cake fit for a princess
The spate of royal weddings recently made it fitting to pay homage to a cake designed for a royal celebration many years ago, writes Hennie Fisher
ABATTENBURG cake consists of rectangular light sponge bars — some recipes advise a firmer, richer sponge such as Genoise be used — sandwiched together in a chequered pattern, half coloured pink and the other left natural.
Like all food items with a long history — and this one originated in 1884 in honour of the marriage of Princess Victoria of HesseDarmstadt, granddaughter of Queen Victoria, to Prince Louis of Battenburg — not all the specifics are clear cut.
Not having made a Battenburg cake before I thought it a great idea to attempt one for a Sunday afternoon tea. None of the research delivered the particular version I had always pictured, namely of a chequered pink and white cake covered in marzipan and with an outer layer of pistachio-green fondant.
It is the fondant layer that appeared to be incorrect. Some recipes suggest a chequerboard with four squares, while others suggest nine squares.
Assembling the cake from a number of smaller pieces might also pose difficulty in getting the cake to hold its shape, and some recipes suggest assembling the cake a good 48 hours in advance to facilitate adherence.
The four squares have a much nicer historical context as they apparently symbolised the four Battenburg princes: Louis, Alexander, Henry and Francis Joseph. The royal family after whom the cake was named eventually changed their name from Battenburg to Mountbatten when the Saxe-Coburg-Gothas became the House of Windsor in 1917, following the sinking of the Sicilian cruise ship Lusitania, when relations between England and Germany grew tense.
There are many recipes available for the actual cake part, so I would suggest making your favourite butter cake recipe. Some internet recipes suggest using a cake mix, and while the better quality mixes may not need to stand back for cakes made from scratch, the volumes may be tricky.
The following recipe is from The Sarie Food Magazine dated May 16 2001, and also makes some really good cupcakes. Feathery light but with the right balance of sweetness and firmness, the cake improves greatly from day one to the next in taste and texture.
The volumes here are for double the original recipe and make a 7cm x 7cm x 28cm cake loaf, with enough batter left over to make twelve smallish cupcakes for the kids to have their own tea party.
The easiest thing to do in terms of the portioning is to place your loaf tin on the scale and weigh out 700 grams of batter, then do the same with another 700g and colour it pink before filling the second loaf tin. To ensure variety, flavour the remainder of the batter with another ingredient (lemon rind works well) for the cupcakes.