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Saturday, 20 July 2013

Battenberg Cake (And The Necessity Of Making Apricot Jam)

Dear readers,

The frivolous and whimsical Battenberg Cake never made it on my mother's shopping list when I was little (Mr Kipling's 'Exceedingly Good Cakes' would never grace a French woman's pantry shelves, I can tell you) and so, I'm afraid, it turned into something of a childhood fantasy.*  Nowadays, each time I catch sight of a picture of a Battenberg Cake I start to smile uncontrollably.  There's something about those pink and yellow squares which conjures up images of tea with Alice at the Madhatter's or a little girl serving cake to her teddy bears on her doll's teaset.  And the marzipan which neatly wraps it up?  Well that transports me back to my mother's Christmas cake, of course, and stealing small slabs of it from beneath her nose to share with my best friend!  Yes, I must confess, I was a gluttonous child. 
 The recipe above from one of my favourite cake books, Fiona Cairns' Bake & Decorate, (it really is an aesthetic joy with some glorious tea time recipes) has been calling out to me for a while now and I do believe the moment has come to make it: what better time than a heatwave for baking a cake, right?  But first I had to satisfy an odd urge.  Can you imagine wearing a knitted version of the retro Battenberg Cake?
 
Well here it is!  A very different version of this shawl made last month: Dani Sunshine's beautiful Vintage Bouquet.

I think this shawl is a lot healthier for me than a thick slice of Battenberg cake but it is, for the knitter and the wearer, much more of a treat.  The pink yarn you see is Artisan Yarns Silk And Baby Camel Fingering (with a luxurious 65% silk content).  I combined it with the creamy-coloured, merino Madelinetosh Sock.  Aside from its tantalizing colourways I noticed how many have lauded the Silk and Baby Camel's softness but its sheen and lightweight texture after blocking is worthy of any fairy tale!  I think it is probably much more addictive than Battenberg Cake too :-)
 
My Ravelry notes, for those who are interested, are here. I'm not one to brag (really not)but I'm delighted to see that in a few short hours this shawl has earned ninety four hearts and some very sweet words too over on Ravelry.  What a wonderful community of generous-hearted people it is!
 
Before I turn to making this childhood fantasy cake of mine I need to fill seven pots with the apricot jam my children helped me make today (it was only 35°C today, after all).  Five kilos of sweetly-scented, blushing French apricots were split and sorted by Angélique.  I believe she also threw the sugar in and a split vanilla pod for good measure.  Dear Tristan performed his usual magical bout of stirring.  In all honesty, as I stood over the copper pot and breathed in the simmering jam, I decided there is NO smell more divine and more French than apricot jam. 
So now I have the required apricot jam to glue the Battenberg cake together.
 
And now I won't let you leave before you share with me which sweet treat transports you back to your childhood! 
 
 A bientôt,
 
Stéphanie
 
* Is the Battenberg Cake a purely British culinary tradition?  Are my readers in America, etc. familiar with it?

50 comments:

  1. Hello there lovely Stéphanie :o)
    Oh My Goodness what a delicious post ..... my mouth is watering!
    Your shawl is soooooo beautiful and has my very fullest attention, i have been wanting to knit a shawl for ages but have not found the right pattern, i think i may have now! the battenburg colours are divine and i too am VERY partial to a slice of that.
    happy summer to you and you lovely family
    love jooles xxx

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    1. Hello Jooles!

      I do believe we were both writing comments to each other simultaneously! What fun :-)

      Stephanie

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  2. O for Heaven's sake. What a full cup I have. Jam making? French Apricots? and the most loveliest shawl imaginable. oh, and cake. the perfect kind, homemade!
    xx
    julie

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  3. Your shawl is SO pretty!!!
    Mmm Apricot jam - I bet your homemade jam is divine. BUT not as good as jam made with Cambridge Gages which are the most delicious fruit in the whole world (in my opinion) and nothing beats a Victoria sponge with greengage jam in it, or even better, a batter pudding (I refuse to call it clafoutis because I hadn't heard of it until a few years ago) with halved greengage baked in it, sprinkled with brown sugar and knobs of butter.
    xx

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    1. Not Greengages, dear Celia, Reines Claudes! But I will bow to your bout of British enthusiasm graciously ;-)

      Seriously, it all sounds fabulous and, funnily enough, I was thinking today, why, oh why, has your blog slipped off my blog list? I'm off right away to put it back in its rightful place!

      Stephanie

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  4. What a delightful surprise to be pulled into your childhood fantasy, to see a sample of this unknown treat, then to see your CREATION inspired by the delicious colors of what I can almost taste! I LOVE YOUR HANDIWORK, STEPHANIE! Then you top it off with French confiture au abricot? You really know what you're doing.....I am not familiar with this cake, but my childhood treat was a homemade batch of Mexican rice pudding, laden with pure vanilla and cinnamon....two indigenous ingredients of the Americas, especially from the region of my ancestors in Mexico. To this day when I smell the combination of those two delights, I cry.

    So good to see you on this lovely July day my friend! Anita

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  5. I love marzipan icing I always had it on my birthday cake!
    Goodness what a wonderful post ! Your shawl is beautiful, I love the colours! French apricots made into jam ~ mmmmm! Let me know when the Battenburg is ready, I'll be over. :)
    V xxx

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  6. now dear stephanie i may not sleep for dreams of a battenburg shawl with pink silk and baby camel, served with apricot jam, my favorite!! oh my goodness this is the prettiest pink i've ever seen, in the prettiest stripe, i want to make one too!

    you will laugh when i tell you my childhood sweet treat was the very same as yours, apricots! jam, icecream, crumble...my granma rose had a tree, not the biggest (to me it was then) but it held the best apricots i've ever had, to this day still. when i was small it was my job to climb this tree and choose the most delicious, my granma would stand below with her apron spread and catch them as i tossed them (one at a time) to her. she would tell me to save some for the birds. i love remembering.

    off to favorite your shawl now xoxoxoxox

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  7. Oh, oh, oh, what a delicious post in absolutely every way! I have never heard of Battenberg Cake until this very moment, but with your lovely words and photos I shall never forget it! And I fully agree with Lori ann, that is the prettiest shawl I think I have ever seen :D

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  8. My father in law many years ago used to eat Batternerg cake as my Mother in Law used to buy it for him believing it was his favourite thing. He eventually confessed that he hated it but only ate it because no one else did and he didn't want to upset her. I love it so i would have ate it for him. The shawl is beautiful.

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  9. your shawl is awesome : I love stripes (everywhere!!!)!
    xxxxx Ale

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  10. You are making my mouth water! Such a pretty pink and yellow post. I love the border on the shawl, it looks so lacy and delicate.

    My mum made more pies than cakes but my absolute favourite was wimberry tart, a Lancashire delicacy.

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  11. Just love the shawl. Lovely colours too! I never went to the trouble of making Battenburg as my son loved it so much it hardly touched his throat he eats it so fast! I would have been glad he liked it but wailed the time it took to be eaten!! Joan

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  12. hello love fiona her baking books the are so lovely and pretty to see and yummy recepies and the combi of ingredients are also very diffrent and suprising
    have a lovely sunday leon10

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  13. Hi Stephanie,

    This Post just oozes Summer and deliciousness - a perfect antidote to the cold weather and pouring rain we are having here right now. A stunning shawl, I can see why you made another. How lovely that you and your daughter now have matching ones :-). I have never heard of Battenburg Cake but goodness those apricots look sensational. I've made a cup of tea and looking forward to catching up one your last couple of Posts.

    Mel x

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  14. I have just returned from France and very much regret not bringing back a box of apricots with me. The search is now on to find some here, then I too shall have apricot jam. I can imagine it now, having just gazed fondly at yours - a dollop in some creme fresh - a summer pick me up in a bowl.
    When Queen Victoria's daughter, Princess Victoria of Hesse-Darmstadt married Prince Louis of Battenberg in 1884 it was decided that a celebration cake was required and the Battenberg cake was the result. The British bakers took inspiration from the German rococo style of architecture which featured gold (marzipan) and the rococo pastel colours (pink and yellow coloured sponge). This may be legend of course, but it is a good tale.
    Love your little shawl inspired by the Battenberg cake or was it visa-versa?

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  15. Oh, I adore apricot jam, and your shawl ... in fact I'm sitting here pondering whether I have the time to make some jam myself and knit a similiar shawl ... if only it were cooler and the days were longer!

    You have more shawl love over on Ravelry now :)

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  16. The jam looks so yummy, I think I will be right over for a taste. I love the shawl, it looks pretty yummy, too.
    Hugs,
    Meredith

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  17. Your shawl Stephanie is just too beautiful, I adore it and the pattern is one i have in my long list of ones to try. I am just about to cast off my second shawl and hopefully block and blog about it this week. I love knitting shawls they are so therapeutic. The colours you have chosen are stunning too.
    We had an apricot and peach tree together wit a litchi and avocado tree when i was growing up in South Africa and my mum always said it was too hot to make jam and ended up preserving lots of peaches and apricots for the winter months. Yummy! We also always had delicious apricot crumble after a lot of Sunday roast dinners. I'm going to love your shawl on ravelry right now. Enjoy the Summer lovely lady xox Penny

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  18. That shawl is just delicious. I bet it feels heavenly against the skin. I wish I could knit something like that but I fear that, even if I could, I couldn't pull off such a delicate shawl sadly.

    I've never made Battenburg cake (I'm not a huge fan of marzipan) but last year, when all of the UK was jubilee crazy, people were making red, white and blue union flag ones like the one below, which did look like a lot of fun.
    http://www.bbc.co.uk/food/recipes/union_jack_battenburg_15063

    Thank you for your very kind and supportive comment on my blog, you are lovely.
    Gillian xx

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  19. What a pretty sjawl you made Stephanie! I like the frilly edge :-). You are right about the Batenberg cake. It is very pretty! Your jam looks good too! I haven't made any yet this year.....so busy all the time.... :-)

    Happy week!

    Madelief x

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  20. Forgot to say thank you for your kind comment on my blog too xox

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  21. So many culinary treats I've missed out on....living on this side (I almost said 'wrong' side...oh, dear!) of the pond. I was quite old before tasting lemon curd...good scones...delightful dark Belgium chocolates....and now i must add to my must-try list...battenberg cake! (and real French apricot jam!) Both look lovely!

    and your shawl!!! beautiful. My 'heart' will be soon added to the ravelry site....and this one will be queued for sure!!!

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  22. Beautiful, beautiful shawl ( not much need for one in this heat in the uk at the moment though). Your gorgeous photos have made me desire cake x

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  23. That shawl is exquisite, and Apricot Jam is my favourite. Happy times cooking with children.

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  24. OH YES I know about Battenberg cake!!!! I love it! You made one?? You are so clever! And that jam, oh my stars. With the vanilla pod.

    Julia and I are planning on making plum jam. We've never made jam before! I have my jars ready. Do you really need one of those tongs to lift the jars out of their boiling water? I heard one can also sterilize the jars in the oven. I think you need to email me and give me some jam making tips.....

    Oh and your shawl is scrumdiddlyumptious!

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    1. Hello sweet Melissa!

      No, you don't need tongs. I can see that they would come in handy but I just use a spoon and a bit of swearing too! You only need to boil them for five to ten minutes and then resist touching them with your hands as much as humanly possible.

      Please let me know how it goes, right?

      Hugs,

      Stephanie

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  25. I have never heard of this cake. Please take lots of pics to show.

    Your shawl is as beautiful as you. It's so feminine, classic, and almost Downtown Abbey or Pride and Prejudice.

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    1. That is one of the most beautiful things anyone has ever said to me, thank you!

      Stephanie

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  26. Oh my goodness, I am a hooker not a knitter, but you have a fabulous blog with beautiful work on here!

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  27. I love that shawl! Now I'm off to snoop your ravelry page :)

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  28. Your shawl is so beautiful. The colours are perfect. I love apricot jam too but I bet it tastes amazing made with French apricots.

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  29. Oh Stephanie that shawl is fabulous and looks so beautiful against the backdrop of the old wall. I wish that we could smell the jam through the computer, apricot is my most favourite! Enjoy your battenburg cake, I must say that you are brave to be baking in this heat - I'm finding it too hot to knit!

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    1. Hello Julie!

      Yes, I have caved in today, crippled by the heat, I have officially given up knitting for the first time EVER due to adverse weather conditions! A storm would work wonders I believe.

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  30. Dear Stephanie,

    You are the only person I know who would think to make a shawl from a cake. Tres magnifique!*

    I have never seen Battenberg cake before, though I think I read the name in an English novel once. The name has a sort of second-hand familiarity to it. Either way, it looks absolutely delicious! As for me, I have childhood memories of key lime pie, the ultimate summer pie, with enormous dollops of whipped cream on top.

    *I looked this up in a bi-language dictionary. Hopefully I've spelled it right. :)

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  31. The shawl is so amazingly beautiful Stephanie!! I love the yarns, they're so delicate and the colours are beautiful. It has a lovely vintage feel to it. I would so love a pot of that apricot jam :) nothing beats fresh, sun ripened apricots!! Hugs xx Vicky xx

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  32. I made Battenberg cake as a teenager as it was my favourite cake as a great lover of marzipan. Sadly I can't eat the purchased sort (along with fondant fancies) any more as some long years ago, the recipes were changed. As strict vegetarians we can no longer find any of any brand to buy. Perhaps I will need to make one too.

    The shawl is wonderful!
    Sara

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  33. Hello Sara,

    I just wanted to say 'thank you' for leaving this comment. I'm also curious as to which ingredients are included in shop bought Battenberg Cakes which are unfit for vegetarians? I really hope you can make the one in the book above: it's fabulous!

    Stephanie

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  34. Dear Stephanie, Thank you so much for your kind words and visit, and for leading me this way. And now I have discovered one of my most favorite shawls in the whole entire world. Oh my goodness, so so beautiful!!!
    I have about 100 hours of homeschool planning to get done, and then one day soon I am going to Love coming back here and exploring more of your beautifulness.
    Renee :)

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  35. Dear Stephanie,
    What a delicious post! Full of joy and memories... The Battenberg cake! It's been so many years since I had one of these, during my teenage's holidays in England. A marvelous time for all sorts of sponge cakes.
    And what a gorgeous shawl, so perfectly matched, a Battenberg shawl! The silk yarn looks great, and is probably a pleasure to knit and wear.
    Your abricot jam seems divine. It reminds me of the abricot tart of my grandmother. What could be better than a Battenberg cake glue with that jam?
    I also answered your comment by a reply mail, but I'm not quite sure this works. Tell me if you did'nt receive it.
    Have a nice summer time.

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  36. hello stephanie! It's been too long since I visited you here and I've missed you. I'm so happy to see this post which made me laugh as it turns out neither would a Scottish mother allow such treats as a Mr Kippling cake (but for entirely different reasons, I am sure!) A beautiful shawl, so light and airy, perfect for a long summer evening after the sun's gone down. I just came back from Scotland where the long days and short nights (and in an amazing stretch of perfect weather, no less) brought me back to home within myself with such happiness I can't even describe it. It is hard to pick a favorite childhood treat, but one I did introduce my kiddos to this time was a Tunnocks Teacake - perfectly Scottish, too sweet and very sticky. Delish.

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  37. The lace edge on your shawl is beautiful! I've never heard of Battenburg cake before, so I think it must be British. (after the royal family) Apricot jam sounds divine. My grandmother always made plum jam from the tree that grew on the border between her neighbors property and her own. They agreed to share the fruit. There was also a swing in that tree, that my sisters and I would play on for hours in the summers.

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  38. Stephanie, what a wonderful post, and the pictures just got better and better. Your shawl is a work of art and the colours are so beautiful together. I would never think of wearing a shawl but you are making me change my mind.The apricot jam looks divine, and how wonderful that you have such good little helpers.
    We never really ate Battenburg cake at home either, but I think it was because we did not like marzipan. My mother had a very sweet tooth and was a good baker. I think pancakes are the thing that sticks in my mind most. She would make a huge amount of batter and then cook little pancakes (drop scones, they are sometimes called),and we would eat them hot, in our hands, dripping with butter and caster sugar. As there were 5 of us, she had a job to keep up with the demand. I love all home-made sweet stuff, a little too much. I should take up making things in icecream colours instead!
    Thank you for your visit and kind comments. Have a wonderful weekend, and enjoy that pretty cake. Love Linda x

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  39. Good evening Stephanie!...I'm catching up after my little break and I've so enjoyed reading your beautiful post and I'm completely in love with your shawl (I may have to knit this myself and have kept a note of it)...In fact, I've just popped over to Ravelry to add to those hearts!
    Apricot jam....one of my all time favourites...your photographs are simply delicious!
    Happy weekend!
    Susan x

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  40. Bonjour Chere Stephanie!
    Your shawl is exquisite....oh those are DELICIOUS colors!!
    I have not heard of the cake, but it's gorgeous, and marzipan is my weakness....oh yes. :)
    Les abricots!! So much joy in this post....apricots remind me of childhood...they were so delicious in Odessa...it's rare to find such apricots in the stores here...yours look spectacular....I will be looking for Bonne Maman apricot preserves on our grocery shelves...they are by far the best I've had...
    Enjoy!! Have a lovely weekend!
    xoxo,
    - Irina

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  41. Hello! I just found your lovely blog and just followed it! I do love apricot jam and my mum makes it almost every year, but I don't think we make this cake in Greece. It looks wonderful!

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  42. My mouth is watering now, that apricot jam looks divine!

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  43. I can almost smell the apricot jam from here, Stephanie. The colour is glorious; I'd quite enjoy a little apricot-shade knitted something . . .

    Battenberg cake is new to me. No doubt it is delicous.

    Your shawl is lovely. I particularly like the beautiful edging on it.

    -Karen

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  44. Thank you for this article which adds + in what we already know. I follow you for a few months, and I thank you for your advice that help young bloggers today to better advance their business.

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