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Now an oblong light cake made up from, usually four or very occasionally nine, small slabs of cake of square cross-section in two colours (usually pink and yellow) adhered together with jam so as to present square slices showing alternating blocks of colour. The whole covered with almond paste.
The name is known at least since the end of the 19th Century, but as a coated fruit sponge cake:
Original Receipt from 'Cassell's Dictionary of Cookery' (Cassell 1883)
Crush four ounces of almonds with one egg and two table-spoonfuls of rum; then put twelve ounces of sugar with twelve yolks of eggs into a pan. Beat this until it is frothy, then add the crushed almonds, two ounces of currants, blanched and cleaned, and two ounces of mixed peel that has been passed through hot water.
Add slowly eight ounces of flour rubbed through a sieve. Mix slowly, putting in the ten whites of eggs whipped firm. Finish with six ounces of good melted butter. Cook in a plum-cake mould, buttered. Turn it out of mould to cool. Soak it in kummel, brush over with apricot jelly, and ice with fondant or syrup of kummel. Sprinkle the sides and top with chopped pistachios. Probable cost, 3s. 6d.
The first definitive reference we can find to the coloured rectangle form is in Lewis and Bromley's Book of Cakes of 1903.
Original Receipt from 'Cakes for bakers', Chicago, USA, 1922
No. 1. Battenberg Cake
Have some of the cake mixture colored pink, leave balance of cake yellow. When cool cut in about 1 inch squares, 6 inches long, and place them together in alternating colors with apricot jam. Then roll out a sheet of almond paste ... about one quarter inch thick, place the cake over it after covering it with jam to make it stick, roll the cake up in the paste, making sides neat and flat and hide the joining of the sheet. The cake may be left plain, or the edges pinched and crimped, or the top may be finished oil' with fondant icing and other decorations.
Battenberg Cake may take its name from the town of Battenberg in central Germany, the seat of the aristocratic family known in Britain as Mountbatten, whose Prince Louis married Princess Victoria, a granddaughter of Queen Victoria in 1884.
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