Battenberg cake

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Although the exact origins of battenberg cake are unclear, it is generally believed that it was invented to celebrate the wedding of Louis Battenberg to Princess Victoria 1884. The first records of battenberg actually described a cake with nine squares, and it wasn’t until it began to be industrially produced that the number was scaled down to four. Even with only four squares, this cake is still a real test of precision and technical skill – cutting all of the squares to the same size and encircling in an even layer of marzipan is rather tricky. Speaking from experience, when choosing the red food colouring, make sure you buy a bake-safe gel – the liquid colourings will not work, and powdered berries will end up turning your sponge a lovely hue of purple.

Ingredients

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Imperial

Battenburg

1
Preheat the oven to 180°C/gas mark 4. Line a 20cm square tin with baking paper
2
Cream together the butter, sugar and vanilla essence until pale and fluffy
3
Add the eggs a little at a time until fully incorporated
4
Gently fold through the flour and ground almonds, then split the mixture between 2 bowls
5
Add the enough red food colouring to one half of the mix to create a gentle pink colour
6
Pour both mixtures into the baking tin – the pink mix on one side and the plain on the other – and bake for 20–25 minutes until a metal skewer inserted into the middle of the cake comes out clean
7
Leave to cool completely on a wire rack before cutting into 4 long fingers, roughly 3cm high and 4cm wide. Pay close attention to making sure all of the pieces are exactly the same size by lining them up next to each other – use a sharp serrated knife to help you do this
8
Gently warm the apricot jam, stirring until smooth, then use a small palette knife to smear onto the edges of the cake slices
9
Build the slices of cake like a chequerboard, pushing down to stick them together
10
Roll the marzipan out on a work surface to a thickness of 3-4mm and place the cake in the middle
11
Trim the marzipan so that there is just enough around the cake to cover it with a small overlap, then fold it up over the sides of the cake and press down to seal up the central 'seam'
12
Fold the edges of the marzipan over, trimming away any excess
13
Leave to set up in the fridge for an hour or so before slicing and serving
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