If you know me even the slightest you’ll know that sometime in the last couple of years I became a little bit obsessed with the amazing show that is The Great British Bake Off. Something about it’s rather constructive format, one that both challenges the bakers and viewers while also providing drama without tearing people down is refreshing in our reality tv show world. Earlier this year I set out on my own baking challenge, to bake something new each week for 52 weeks. It’s been quite a challenge but it’s opened my eyes a bit more to the baking world. While the GBBO latest season ended this week, I was happy to see that Canada’s version, The Great Canadian Baking Show started the day after.
I was already sold on the show before it even started, not only because it’s a spinoff of one of my favourites but because it’s hosted by one of my favourite Canadians Dan Levy. After watching the first episode I was definitely sold, it’s a polite take on a cooking challenge show, one that feels doable, that doesn’t feel like the judges are just waiting to rip someone apart. It feels Canadian in all the right ways. And because it feels so down to earth, I decided that I’d add it into my baking challenge and bake along with the show, tackling one of the bakes each week. This week it was….the Battenberg Cake.
The Battenberg Cake originated in England in the late 19th century and is apparently named in honour of the wedding of Princess Victoria (Granddaughter of Queen Victoria) to Prince Louis of Battenberg. I’ve seen it made on several seasons of British Bake Off and have picked it up and analyzed it in Tesco many a time but never got around to baking it. And for good reason.
This week the cake was featured in the technical challenge, where the bakers are given very sparse instructions and short amount of time to bake something they find out only minutes before. Thank god I wasn’t facing the same time challenge as I would have most definitely come in last. While at first everything was going along great, even dividing the pan into two mini pans with tinfoil, I ended up taking the cake out a few minutes too soon and the pink half was a bit too wet. So round two it was.
After some cursing (not the only ones yelled during this bake) I started again and this time everything was baked perfectly. In the episode they added pistachio paste and cherry juice to colour their cakes but I followed a more traditional recipe that called for white and pink dyed with food colouring.
Once the cake was cooled it was time to assemble and it was pretty therapeutic, almost like cake jenga or cake legos. Stacking them opposite colours. Suddenly the fun disappeared as I found out how miserable marzipan is. I rolled it, it stuck. I sprinkled icing sugar, it still stuck. Finally when I got it to the point it was rolled enough without sticking to the counter top, I rolled the cake inside it and cursed again as it slid and slipped around inside it’s new marzipan jacket. It was awkward and the ends looked a bit like a pale white fish had swallowed a cake whole.
A few deep breaths and prayers to Mary Berry, I sliced the cake and was pleasantly surprised with how it all looked. My first, and likely last, Battenberg Cake. Now onto Bread week next week!
Here’s the recipe from the CBC Website (note that I omitted the pistachio, cherry, and extra fondant)
For the cake:
265 g butter, softened
265 g caster sugar
265 g self-rising flour
3/4 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp cherry extract
1 tbsp pistachio paste
To assemble and decorate:
3/4 cup cherry jam
500 g marzipan
red food colouring
white rolling fondant
icing sugar (for rolling)
Preheat oven to 375°F.
Grease a 9-inch square baking pan. Take a long strip of parchment paper (8-inches by 15-inches) and make a 3-inch fold in the center. This will act as the division in the pan so that both flavours of sponge can bake at the same time. Line the pan with the parchment, keeping the division in the center.
Mix butter, sugar, eggs, flour and vanilla until well combined. Divide batter equally into two bowls.
To one bowl, add cherry extract. To the other bowl, add pistachio paste.
Spoon the cake batters into each side of the prepared pan and smooth the tops.
Bake until done, 25 – 30 minutes. Cool in pan for about 5 minutes, then turn out on a wire rack. Leave to cool completely.
While cake cools, knead red food paste into fondant to colour it pink. Wrap tightly with plastic wrap and set aside.
Place one sponge cake on top of the other. Trim the crust edges so both cakes are exactly the same size. Cut in each cake in half lengthwise to make 4 long rectangles (that are perfectly square).
Warm the cherry jam in a saucepan; then press through a sieve to strain out seeds.
Brush the long side of one of the sponge cakes with jam, then sandwich the sponge together with one of the opposite colour. Do the same with the other two sponges.
Place one pair of sponges on top of the other so the cake looks like a checker board. Brush the top and sides with jam.
Place the marzipan on a surface dusted with icing sugar and roll thinly into a rectangle. It should be just large enough to wrap around the cake. Trim as needed.
Turn the cake upside down on the marzipan and brush the underside of the sponges with jam.
Wrap the marzipan around the cake, pressing it gently onto the surface of the sponges, and press the ends together to make a firm seam. Set aside.
Place the fondant on a surface dusted with icing sugar and roll into a rectangle large enough to just wrap around the cake. Trim as needed.
Brush the marzipan with water. Place the cake in the center of the fondant, seam side up. Wrap the fondant around the cake so the seams meet perfectly in the center. Adhere and trim as needed to make clean ends.
Decorate with cherries and pistachios.
Servings: 1 cake