All’s square in love and cake

The Irish Times Magazine - - FOOD -

Asim­ple sponge cake is a gate­way to a world of fun. Nov­elty cakes are 10 a penny these days, but in times past it took a grand event such as a royal wed­ding to cre­ate a con­cep­tual cel­e­bra­tion cake such as the clas­sic Bat­ten­berg cake – the four squares rep­re­sent­ing four princes. Loved by many, it still reigns supreme along the aisle of your lo­cal shop. You can’t miss its cheer­ful che­quer­board mark­ings and Neapoli­tan colour­ing. It is equally loathed by mil­lions ( per­haps they don’t like marzi­pan).

If you have a bit of time, this is the ul­ti­mate home- made cake to present for af­ter­noon tea. The pre­dom­i­nant apricot and al­mond flavours are cosy com­pan­ions. The apricot jam is the “glue” hold­ing the cake pieces to­gether ( less tra­di­tional, but rasp­berry jam could also be used). The al­mond paste ( marzi­pan) en­velops the cake. It is in­tensely sweet, so to soften the sugar rush I rec­om­mend rolling out the marzi­pan thinly. An­other tip is to keep your marzi­pan chilled as it can be­come sticky and dif­fi­cult to roll out if han­dled too much.

If you have a bud­ding en­gi­neer in your house, they will en­joy the con­struc­tion phase, build­ing the two- by- two blocks of sponge to cre­ate the sig­na­ture che­quer­board pat­tern. A square cake tin with a pa­per di­vider in the mid­dle en­ables you to bake both coloured sponges to­gether. Af­ter that it is not overly com­pli­cated. Some sponge trim­mings will be left over and these can ei­ther be frozen and used in tri­fle or rolled up with any re­main­ing marzi­pan and dipped in choco­late to make cake pops. When us­ing food colour­ing, buy paste or gel colour­ings as they do not fade when baked.

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