Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Mixed emotions, and Battenberg cake

On Friday Handsome Son is coming over to dinner, to celebrate his birthday, which in fact doesn't happen till the eighth.  Longtime readers may recall that Handsome Partner, after a long illness and nine years of caregiving, died on that day, quietly, at home. Son was alone with him just at that minute.  I'd left the room briefly. This often happens, I'm told, that the partner isn't there at the exact moment.

So that day is one of massive emotions in all directions.  We have marked HP's life on his own birthday in past years, so as to sort of reserve HS's birthday for himself.  But you can't ban the emotions that have to come with it.

Anyway, the dinner will be comfort food -- spaghetti with a lovely red sauce with hot Italian sausage and mushrooms, followed by a lifetime ambition of mine, Battenberg cake!

I have been going to bake one for maybe forty years, and finally got around to it.  So there's that.  I made it all from scratch, including the marzipan coat.  In fact marzipan's a lot easier to make than I had realized.

Here's the opening salvo, many ingredients.

However, I ran into technical difficulties with the cake.  Baking it was the least of my problems, though I had only two square pans both an inch bigger than the recipe wanted.  This is a problem with this kind of cake, which you have to sort of build and stack, and it's better if the slices are thick enough to work with you rather than against you..

So cake all beaten, and divided into two more or less equal parts, so you color one pink, and leave the other alone, the baking went fine, and the cake tastes okay.

However, the assembly, with a large cat prowling around and helping, was another story.  You slice up each cake, and build the slices checkerboard style, cementing them together with jam.  It starts to feel like kindergarten, where you give the kids edible stuff to build with in case anyone fancies tasting it.  And you have to sort of carpenter the slices so that there aren't thin ends.  Well, with the right size pans, there wouldn't have been thin ends, but oh well.

Once assembled, then reassembled after they fell apart, I painted all the outside with more jam as adhesive, and wrapped them in the marzipan.  I ground the almonds myself, since almond flour is wildly expensive, and has stabilizers and desiccators and who knows what else added to stop clumping.  So even the outside was a recipe unto itself.

It was one of those occasions when you have all the bowls and the rolling pin, which hardly ever gets used, and all the counter space, and various spoons and knives and measuring thingies, all over the place.

The good part is that this recipe makes two cakes, just as well considering how much work it takes to make it.  For some recipes you go through all this, divide one pan with parchment paper and put dough on each side, one colored, one plain, and after all that you have one small cake.

So here it is, and I offer it with the usual humble transparency of this blog, not fancied up by a food artist, just  presented by me.  Glad I did it, but it does look a bit Monty Python.  And I'm going to make a raspberry sauce to serve over the helpings on Friday.

However, this means I can do similar things with other recipes, too.  Bake one regular item, banana bread, maybe, slice and stack it and make it posher.  Not a bad idea.  Not sure I want to buy two right sized pans, though.

No idea why it's called Battenberg cake, though that was the Royals name before WW1 when they changed it to Mountbatten, talk about transparency, a three year old could see through that. 

My mom, no respecter of royalty, used to refer to the Queen now and then as Mrs. Guelph. And it was amazing what they learned, having left school at 12, what a grasp of history.  Because that was indeed the family name of the European dynasty she came from, long before they were kings and queens.

So I wonder if this cake is a dig at opportunistic name changes. or if a nice lady called Mrs. Battenberg got fed up of plain cake and thought she'd entertain the kids with a checkerboard one. 

and here's the cook's privilege: scraps of the cut-off cake bits and the extra marzipan, with afternoon tea. And it's worth making your own marzipan, much better than the shop stuff.

And I have a Battenberg cake in the freezer for emergencies when nothing else will do!

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