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

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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.

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