Mandy of What The Fruitcake?! came to our rescue last minute to present us with the Battenberg Cake challenge! She highlighted Mary Berry’s techniques and recipes to allow us to create this unique little cake with ease.
The Daring Bakers are a great group to be involved in, if only because it gets you to try things that you may have been *meaning* to do but not quite getting round to for some time. Like Battenberg cake. I’ve wanted to try one of these awesome, chequered cakes for ages but it was always supplanted by some other shiny cake that popped over my bakey horizon. This month, I had to actually give Battenberg a try, and I’m glad of it.
I’ve been thinking of making an alternative to marzipan quite a lot lately, and wondering how a pecan marzipan would work out. A quick search showed that at least one other person had wondered about the same thing, and found that it worked out just fine. This other person was Dan Leperd, and you can find his recipe for spiced pecan marzipan here. I left out the cinnamon, changed the honey for maple agave syrup and used all liquid glucose instead of part glucose and part glycerine. Here are the stages of pecan marzipan making:
You mix ground pecans and icing sugar, then in a pot mix brown sugar, egg yolks, maple syrup, liquid glucose and vanilla. You put the pot over a low heat and whisk until light and fluffy. Combine the two and you’ve got yourself pecan marzipan. I added extra icing sugar to get the right consistency – a little more might not have gone amiss, given that my marzipan ended up getting a bit melty in the sunshine…
With the marzipan resting and cooling, I went about making the Battenberg sponge. Mary Berry advocates a simple sponge recipe and the all in one method, which makes things much quicker. However, I didn’t exactly follow the given directions and ended up making one plain sponge and one mocha sponge, both wheat free, and then over mixing them in an effort to get the consistency right, so the sponge took longer than I’d have hoped. It also had a very dense final texture from the overworking – curse you, wheat free flour! I even messed up splitting the sponge mix in two, so the plain side ended up having more than the mocha. All that aside, in the end I still had enough sponge to make two small Battenberg cakes, which is just what I wanted. The situation was not beyond redemption.
I didn’t put in a tinfoil barrier between the two kinds of sponge – I figured if I was going to have to trim the edges away anyway, there was no point adding more crumpled tinfoil to the bin.
I trimmed all the edges, and the top surface of the plain sponge to make the two the same thickness. Then I used a tape measure (no joke) to slice each flavour of sponge into four equal strips. I stacked them up to see how they would look in the finished result. Pretty cool, was the answer to that question. Not perfect, but pretty cool.
I sandwiched all the strips together with chocolate buttercream, then coated the three outside edges with buttercream, too. Then I split the marzipan in half and rolled it out until it was big enough to wrap around the first Battenberg. I carefully lifted the cake onto the marzipan, turning it so that the bottom was now on the side, which meant I could coat it with buttercream too. Then I carefully wrapped the marzipan around the cake, pressing to get a smooth finish, and trimmed off the edges. I repeated this with the second half of marzipan and the second cake.
When both cakes were done, I took a very narrow slice off each end, to properly level them off, then applied little gold decorations along the top, as a slicing guide as much as for aesthetics.
They weren’t perfect, but I was pretty pleased none the less, and they sliced up a lot more neatly than I’d worried. I had visions of squares of cake pinging off into corners of the room. I gave myself more work than I had to, by choosing to make the marzipan myself, choosing to make the sponge wheat free and choosing to make the cake alongside making some bread and starting some Limoncello brewing. The Rock Salt Kitchen was a hive of activity! I wouldn’t recommend it, if I’m honest… I did really enjoy the pecan marzipan and will be making that in place of normal marzipan again. I can recommend it for people who don’t enjoy marzipan, the texture is the same but the taste is very different. Maybe make it in advance, though…
Thank you Mandy for a brilliant challenge. I look forward to reading all the other Daring Bakers posts to see the variety in colour, flavour and decoration that everyone came up with.