Planet India and mighty battenburg checkerboard cake.


A few weeks ago my flatmate’s girlfriend asked if I would be willing to make a birthday cake for her this year. Of course I said yes, then she sent me this link. I was hoping she was going to send me a link to a simple chocolate cake that I could make look pretty, but no epic battenburg cake it was. Well I like a challenge and am always trying to expand my baking CV so I decided to give it a go, but was secretly dreading making it. Rather sensibly for me I planned to make this cake over two days, the baking of the cake on the first day and the construction of it on the second. I will go through the method of making it later on but essentially I would say that this recipe needs some modification. The main problem is that the cake comes out a bit too dry and falls apart, to rectify this I would probably reduce the ground almonds and flour. Though the technique for getting the checker board effect is one you could use with other cakes, I’m very keen to try a vanilla and chocolate version of this cake held together with chocolate ganache. Anyway getting back to the battenburg…. surprisingly despite all of the cakes falling apart I managed to glue it all together with apricot jam, cover it with marzipan, refrigerate it and hope it would resemble something close to a checkerboard pattern when cut, so off I went to the party cake in hand (then swiftly hid before the birthday girl saw it).

For my flatmate’s birthday we all went to Planet India, it really is quite a special and unusual place, nothing else like it in Brighton anyway. The first time I went there I didn’t really know what to think of it, it feels like you are having dinner in someone’s lounge, with saris hanging from the ceiling and the owner walking round barefoot while you eat with spoons. The menu is fully vegetarian and quite simple, but equally you get dishes that are not your usual Indian restaurant staples, plus you can get ‘Thumbs Up’ there, an Indian version of coke which is served iced cold in glass bottles. Drinking it always reminds me of sitting on plastic stools in dusty roadside restaurants in India in blistering heat eating endless curry in a state of wonder.

Fiona thumbs up

As there was a large group of us we  ordered all of the starters and shared them between us all. Ones to note and order if you go there are ketchoris which are balls of spicy peas and coconut in pastry, pani puris which are fried balls filled with chickpeas and potatoes then filled up with spicy water and taken in one bite and finally the Punjabee style samosas.

curry startersFor the main course I decided to go for the sweetcorn and patra curry,  sweetcorn and chunks of vine leave with a spicy paste in a tomato sauce. At first I didn’t think this curry was too spicy, but it’s one of those that builds with each mouthful, so by the end of the curry I was struggling and my mouth was burning.


Then came the surprise dessert…. Cat seemed pleased then she had received a birthday cake.

cat with cake

And I was quite pleased when she cut it.

battenburg othersidebattenburg slice

It looks like a proper battenburg. I have never been so proud of a cake, though it will be a long time before I make it again!

Method and construction.

Following the recipe make the cakes, the recipe makes four cakes but I lost one in the construction, so probably worth having the extra one to have as a spare or you can make a four tier cake if you prefer.

Once you have made the the cakes you need to cut two circles of cake out of each of them then swap the middle rings of the almond sponges with the middle rings from the rose sponges, and fit the cut pieces back together. It’s worth chilling the cakes for an hour as this makes cutting them alot easier. To cut the pieces I made templates and cut round them. To work out the sizes of circles you need just divide the diameter of your cake tin by three to get the diameter of the first circle and double that to get the diameter of the second. The diameter of my tin was 21cm so the diameter of my two circles were 7cm and 14cm.

cake construction 1

The  mix and match cake pieces should look like targets. Now you need to place the whole cakes on top of each other alternatively (pink edge, plain edge etc) sealing each layer with warmed apricot jam. I warm the jam in the microwave, this makes it easier to spread.

cake construction 2

Finally you need to cover the cake in marzipan. I had absolutely no idea how to do this, so had a quick look at a youtube video, so I had a better idea of what I was meant to be doing. Once you have rolled out the marzipan to a couple of mm thick you want to cover it in the warmed apricot jam using a pastry brush then using the rolling pin to pick it up cover the cake. As long as you have rolled it larger than the cake you should have no trouble. Smooth it on top first then go round the edge patting it to the side of the cake and getting rid of the pleats. When you are happy with the covering use a palette knife to trim off the excess. But really just watch the video and you will feel alot more confident doing it. Now take a rest and bask in your achievement of having made a battenburg cake.

icing with apricot jam


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