Season 2 begins...! And we start with the ever-classic Cake Week. And a recipe that encapsulates why I wanted to do this project. Trying new, sort of different recipes that taste delicious and use techniques and flavors and ingredients I don't normally use in my everyday baking. When I get a cake craving, I would normally turn to a trusty recipe and sale it up or own depending on how much cake I want to eat. I wouldn't make up a pan to cook two different cakes and trim and construct a checkerboard log of deliciousness. Too much work. But for the Bake Off? Anything.
Call me an OCD organizational nerd, but I love a recipe that starts with good pan prep. And this is a fun pan prep. I suppose you could just use two loaf pans to cook this, but then you have to clean two pans, and I like to minimize my dishes. That's why I always prefer to make pie dough by hand and not with a food processor (I also don't own a food processor), and why I make whip cream by hand and usually whip egg whites by hand. It's not that I feel more "legit" by doing it the manual way, it's that I have to do less dishes.
I actually decided to do everything manually in this recipe, including the beating of the batter. I've noticed as you bake more and more you start to see patterns in ingredients and instructions. So, when I started reading the recipe for the Battenberg, I noticed that it's basically a Victoria Sponge, that later gets doctored up. You just dump everything into a bowl and mix it up. This time, I just took a wooden spoon to it, and, as I learned in S01E01, didn't worry about over-mixing.
This is where the recipe gets fun -- mix coffee and walnuts into half of the batter and vanilla into the other half of the batter, and you start to see the two tones of the cake that will eventually show.
Two words of warning. First, if you use the recipe from a *.co.uk site, remember that Mary Berry loves self-raising flour, and if you use all-purpose flour, add more baking powder and salt per the standard conversion. I do not have self-raising flour because I live in San Francisco, my kitchen is small, and I don't need extra flours hanging around. I also have a fleeting attention to detail and forgot to add more baking powder and salt into this recipe, so yours may end up puffing up more than mine and creating a much more precise square shape in the end. Second, try to keep the parchment part in the center of the pan straight when pouring in the batter. I did not, and the walnut/coffee batter created a bit of a squiggly line in the pan, which yielded unequal amounts of the two cakes. Not that it was a big deal--I trimmed the excess anyway and got to eat the scraps--but just a best practice you can follow.
It doesn't seem like a lot of frosting, so I actually ended up adding in another knob of butter, but I think I actually ended up with too much. This cake isn't your standard cake + frosting assembly. The frosting actually acts as a simple glue to keep everything together, not as a big portion of the cake. So don't go overboard.
I love a recipe where you get to use a ruler. There's something about the exactitude in a ruler-based construction that gives me solace. Especially because I'm not the greatest at the "decorating" part of "cake decorating." I excel at the baking part, that much I know. But putting it all together and making it look pretty? I get nervous and perfectionist. But I do love seeing everything lined up, even, exact, prepped.
Putting everything together though is exciting, because it means you're that much closer to eating the full thing. Sure, I snack on scraps and lick the spatulae (who doesn't?), but your first bit of a completed project is what it's all about. Except if you're making brownies. Then it's all about the batter.
At every point in making a cake, there's a moment where I think "I did this all wrong. I should throw this away. This is going to be terrible" and this moment was the one for this recipe. My layers weren't even, I thought I had either too much or not enough frosting, my marzipan was not rolled out evenly, it was too thick, and everything was sticking everywhere. I'm not a fan of wasting ingredients though, and I am stupidly optimistic. Nothing is ever perfect, and while you can strive for perfection, you always need to keep perspective and say, "Let's see what happens."
So, in spite of everything I knew was going wrong with the cake, I said "Eh, we'll see what happens." Did I say I'm not great at decorating? Here's a tip for the rest of you who suffer in that arena: hide your mistakes! I couldn't roll the marzipan out thin enough to cover the cake without it tearing (possibly because I used 7 ounces instead of 8 ounces--since my grocery store only sold marzipan in 7 ounce tubes and I wasn't going to buy two of them).
It right here I realized I had left out the extra baking powder and salt that I should have added for using all-purpose instead of self-raising flour--it became obvious my square was more of a rectangle. But man, it looked pretty. Proportions notwithstanding, the checkerboard was there, the colors were there, the walnut decorations were on point, and my patchwork job was invisible underneath the cake.
The taste was fantastic. Obviously, if you're not a walnut or coffee fan, you're not going to like half of this cake. But as a devoted fan of both (and vanilla), it was great. I'm not even the biggest marzipan fan, but the sweetness of the marzipan was countered by the bitterness of the coffee, and just gave it a nutty almond flavor that played well off the nutty walnut flavor. The frosting added the right amount of moisture to cut through the cake, which is on the dry side, and it was fun to eat--like a black and white cookie where you get to eat the flavors individually or together. Plus, it's pretty gorgeous, and definitely impressive for such a simple batter.
Coffee + Walnut Battenberg
makes one ~4"x8" rectangular cake (serves 5-10)
100 grams (3 1/2 ounces) (7 tablespoons) BUTTER
100 grams (3 1/2 ounces) (1/2 cup) GRANULATED SUGAR
2 large EGGS
100 grams (3 1/2 ounces) FLOUR
1 3/4 teaspoons BAKING POWDER
1/4 teaspoon SALT
50 grams (1 3/4 ounces) GROUND ALMONDS
3 teaspoons MILK
1/4 teaspoon VANILLA EXTRACT
1 1/2 teaspoon INSTANT COFFEE
25 grams (1 ounce) CHOPPED WALNUTS
100 grams (3 1/2 ounces) (1 cup) POWDERED SUGAR
40 grams (1 1/2 ounces) (3 tablespoons) BUTTER
1/2 teaspoon INSTANT COFFEE
1 1/2 teaspoons MILK
225 grams (8 ounces) MARZIPAN
5 WHOLE WALNUT PIECES (optional)
1. Preheat the oven to 325F
2. Prepare an 8" square pan by greasing the pan and cutting a piece of parchment paper about 2x as long as the pan (16"), then fold the parchment to create a divider in the middle of the pan, with overhang on either side to lift the cakes out of the pan when baked
3. Beat BUTTER, SUGAR, EGGS, FLOUR, BAKING POWDER, SALT, and GROUND ALMONDS for 2-3 minutes, until the batter is smooth, light in color, and glossy
4. Divide the mixture into two different bowls
5. Into one mixture, stir in VANILLA and 1 1/2 teaspoons of the MILK
6. In another small bowl or ramekin, dissolve INSTANT COFFEE in the remaining 1 1/2 teaspoons of the MILK
7. Into the other mixture, stir in the now liquid coffee and fold in the CHOPPED WALNUTS
8. Transfer each of the two batters into the two sides of the pan
9. Bake 35-40 minutes, until toothpick in the center comes out clean
frosting and assembly:
1. Sift POWDERED SUGAR
2. Beat together sugar, BUTTER, INSTANT COFFEE, and MILK until smooth and fully combined
3. Take cooled cake out of pan and trim into four equal strips
4. Glue strips together in a checkerboard pattern with a very thin layer of frosting in between each strip of cake
5. Frost the top of the cake and set aside
6. Roll MARZIPAN out on a surface lightly dusted with powdered sugar in an oblong shape, large enough to wrap around the cake (mine had to be 8"x7", as it was 8" long and a little less than 2" on each side)
7. Lay the cake frosting side-down on the marzipan and frost all long sides (no need to frost the ends), make sure to keep a bit of the frosting for final assembly later
8. Fold the marzipan up and join the seam at the top with a little bit of water or frosting.
9. Place the cake seam-side-down on your serving platter, and finish with any or all of the following:
> crimp the edges of the long sides with thumb and forefinger
> score the top of the cake in a diagonal line or diamond pattern
> sift powdered sugar over the top
> place 5 WHOLE WALNUT PIECES on top of the cake, evenly spaced, and secure with leftover frosting
A personal challenge to conquer every technical challenge, and select signature bakes, from The Great British Bake Off
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