Battenberg Cake is one of my guilty pleasures and with its marzipan (almond paste) coating it always reminds me of Christmas. No one really knows its origins but it's thought that it was invented in the late 1880s.
There is a popular folk myth that Battenberg Cake was created to celebrate the wedding of Prince Louis of Battenberg to Queen Victoria's grand daughter Princess Victoria (grandmother to our Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh) in 1884. The theory behind the four sections of the cake is that they represent the four Battenberg Princes but I remember my grandmother making Battenberg Cake with 9 squares when I was a child! Early recipes did indeed have 9 squares and Battenberg Cake was also known as Domino Cake, Neopolitan Roll and Chapel (or Church) Window Cake.
The traditional recipe for Battenberg Cake is below but if you'd like to give it a Christmas twist simply use more red food colouring to deepen the pink colour to red, use green food colouring in the other portion and cover the outer layer of almond paste with white icing.
125g caster sugar
2 beaten eggs
125g self raising flour
a couple of drops of red food colouring
1 tbsp raspberry jam
2 tbsp apricot jam
75g ground almonds
75g caster sugar
75g icing sugar
a few drops of almond essence
beaten egg to bind
Grease two 450g loaf tins and line the bases with greaseproof paper. Cream the butter and sugar together, beat in the eggs and fold in the flour. Divide the mixture into 2 portions and colour one pink with a couple of drops of red food colouring. Place a portion in each tin. Bake in a moderate over (Gas 4, 180ºC) for approx 25 minutes until firm. Remove from tins and cool.
Trim the sides of each loaf and level the tops. Cut each cake in half lengthways – keeping the pieces the same size. Using the raspberry jam sandwich the 4 portions together, arranging pink and white alternately.
For the Almond Paste
Combine the ingredients using enough beaten egg to make a firm paste. Use a piece of waxed paper, sprinkle well with caster sugar and on it rollout the paste to fit around the sides of the cake. Spread the paste with apricot jam and place the cake on the paste at one end. Carefully wrap the paste around the cake, pressing so that it sticks. Press the edges together to seal. Trim the ends of the cake, flute along the top edges and dredge with caster sugar.