I was browsing pictures of cakes today (hey, it’s raining) and I saw a photo of an old friend: the Battenberg Cake. This visually striking cake is made of sponge cake slices arranged into a pink and white checker pattern, and then wrapped in marzipan. In the UK the cake is held together with jam, but the version I’m most familiar with uses buttercream icing.
I enjoy this cake. The bakery at Clayton’s Market in my hometown of Sechelt makes it on special occasions, and our family always grabbed a few when it was available. I decided to dig into the origins of the cake (as I said- raining) and it turns out it is a bit of a mystery. It is assumed that the cake is named to honour the 1884 marriage of Princess Victoria and Prince Louis of Battenberg (The town of Battenberg, Germany is the seat of the Mountbatten family).
The original version of the cake, however, had nine squares rather than four. Creating these cakes was seen as a mark of skill in apprentice bakers, and I imagine the four square version is a nod to modern cake making. The significance of the nine squares is now lost to history. No matter. It is a great tea cake that looks striking on the plate and tastes delicious!