Monday 17 March 2014

12 Month Baking Challenge MARCH: Coffee and Walnut Battenberg Cake

For March's baking challenge I decided to make Mary Berry's recipe for a Coffee and Walnut Battenberg cake (original recipe found here). 

I've never made a checkerboard cake before, and don't often fiddle around with the aesthetics of my baking - I tend to go for the "rustic" look and concentrate on the flavour of the bake…so I thought this would be a great challenge for me. 

I guessed as it was a Mary Berry recipe I could safely trust that the flavour of the cake would be reliably good – so I just needed to concentrate on following her instructions to the best of my ability. I found the recipe easy to follow, and far less complicated than I had imagined. I was pleased with how my cake turned out – and all who ate it say it was a “good bake” to use a GBBO term! So I was right to trust Mary’s wisdom.

The only thing I would change in the recipe with hindsight is the amount of coffee buttercream – next time I make it I’ll definitely double the quantity as I think the cake would have benefitted from a thicker layer of buttercream to sandwich it together and fix the marzipan to the sides. This is purely down to personal taste, as I prefer my cakes to be moist and unctuous. I have changed the quantities for the buttercream below, but feel free to halve it if you’d rather make a lighter cake.

Coffee and Walnut Battenberg Cake

For the cake
  • 100g/3½oz margarine
  • 100g/3½oz caster sugar
  • 2 free-range eggs
  • 100g/3½oz self-raising flour
  • ½ tsp baking powder
  • 50g/1¾oz ground almonds
  • few drops vanilla extract
  • 3 tsp milk
  • 1½ tsp instant coffee powder
  • 25g/1oz shelled walnuts, chopped
For the coffee butter icing
  • 200g icing sugar
  • 80g butter, softened
  • 1 tsp instant coffee powder
  • 3 tsp milk
To decorate the cake
  • 225g/8oz white marzipan
  • 5 small walnut pieces


  1. For the cake, preheat the oven to 170C/325F/Gas 3. Grease the bottom and sides of a 20cm/8in square, shallow cake tin.
  2. Cut out a piece of greaseproof paper that is 7.5cm/3in longer than the length of the tin. Fold the paper in half widthways. Open out the paper and push up the centre fold to make a 4cm/1½in pleat. Line the base of the tin with this, making any adjustments to ensure the pleat runs down the centre of the tin making in effect two rectangular 'tins' within the tin.
  3. Beat the margarine, sugar, eggs, flour, baking powder and ground almonds in a large bowl for about 2-3 minutes, or until smooth, slightly lighter in colour and glossy looking. (If you put a damp cloth under the bowl, it stops it from moving around.)
  4. Spoon slightly more than half the mixture into a separate bowl and stir in the vanilla extract and 1½ teaspoons of the milk. Set aside.
  5. Mix the coffee in the remaining 1½ teaspoons of milk, stirring until it has dissolved (you don't need to heat the milk), then stir this into the other bowl of mixture along with the chopped walnuts. Spoon the vanilla mixture into one half of the tin and the coffee-walnut mixture into the other half. Level the surface of each half with a knife. Check the paper divider is still straight and in the middle.

  6. Bake in the oven for 35-40 minutes or until the cake is well risen, springy to the touch and has shrunk slightly from the sides of the tin. Leave to cool in the tin for a few minutes, then loosen the cake from the sides with a round bladed knife, turn it out, peel off the parchment liner and finish cooling on a wire rack.

  7. For the butter icing, sift the icing sugar into a medium bowl. Add the butter. Mix the coffee and milk together until the coffee has dissolved, and pour into the bowl. Beat everything together with a wooden spoon until soft and smooth. Set aside.
  8. Trim the crispy outer edges off the cooled cake with a serrated knife, then cut and trim if necessary into 4 equal strips. Lay one vanilla and one coffee-walnut strip next to each other, then use a little of the butter icing to stick them together. Spread a bit more icing on the top. Stick the remaining two strips together with icing and place them on top to create a chequerboard effect.
  9. Spread a little more icing over the top of the assembled cake.
  10. Cut two pieces of string, one that is the length of the assembled cake and one that will wrap all around it.
  11. Roll the marzipan out, on a work surface lightly dusted with sifted icing sugar, into an oblong the length of the cake and sufficiently wide to wrap around the cake, using the pieces of string as your measuring guide.
  12. Lay the butter iced side of the cake on the marzipan, positioning it so that when you lift up one long side, it perfectly covers one side of the cake (this way the join will be neatly in the corner).
  13. Reserve a teaspoonful of the icing and spread the rest over the remaining three sides of the cake (not the ends). Brush off any crumbs from the marzipan and work surface. Roll the cake over in the marzipan, pressing to neatly cover it, then brush the corner join lightly with water, pressing it to seal. (Try to avoid touching the marzipan with wet fingers as they will mark it.) Turn the cake over so that the join is underneath. Trim a slim slice from each end of the cake to neaten and show off the chequerboard effect. Smooth the marzipan over with your hands so their warmth will give it a smooth finish.
  14. While the marzipan is still soft, crimp the edges by pinching the marzipan between your thumb and first finger at a slight angle and at regular intervals. Score the top of the cake with long diagonal lines using a sharp knife. Sift over some icing sugar to lightly dust the top, then lay the walnut pieces down the centre, securing with the reserved butter icing.

    The cake serves 8 people ample slices, and is around 308 calories per slice.

    I was so pleased with the outcome of this months baking challenge and would definitely make this cake again! If you've not had a go at something like this before then I'd urge you to have a gothere is nothing like the feeling of baking something from scratch for the first time and it working well and tasting good! 

    Happy Baking! 

    Mrs B