Battenberg Cake - a British confection

Food & Drink

Battenberg Cake - a British confection

Despite its foreign-sounding name, Battenberg is a traditional English type of cake, and relatively recent in origin. It was first named and described in a bakery and confectionary publication, published in 1898. Distinctive for its check pattern alternately coloured pink and yellow when cut through, these patterns when used on emergency vehicles in the UK are officially referred to as Battenburg markings because of their resemblance to the cake. 

While the cake originates in England, its exact origins are unclear, with recipes appearing at about the same time for the same format of a light sponge cake with different sections held together with jam, and covered in marzipan, being described as "Domino Cake", "Neapolitan Roll", or "Church Window Cake".

The cake was purportedly named in honour of the marriage of Princess Victoria, a granddaughter of Queen Victoria, to Prince Louis of Battenberg in 1884. The name refers to the German town of Battenberg, Hesse. The family name actually became known in Britain since 1917 as Mountbatten. The original versions are recorded as having been made with different multiples of squares - typically nine - which only latterly, post World War Two, became reduced to the two-by-two format style that became popular with commercial British bakers such as Lyons, as it was distinctive and attractive, but more simple to make on a production line.

In the 1920's, the Battenburg cake was still being made with nine panes, as illustrated in a book called Ship's Baker by Richard Bond (London: 1923) a forgotten British food specialist on cookery at sea. A recent claim to fame for the cake style was its inclusion as one of the challenges in the Great British Bake Off.

Further reading

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