9am Sunday morning. The sun is shining, Nina Simone is on The radio and I AM BAKING ON MY OWN! It’s actually relaxing. Who’d have known? I realise that 90% of my cooking involves behaviour management ‘Don’t hit each other with the wooden spoons!‘; safety management ‘don’t stick your fingers in the sockets!’; and a high level of food hygiene vigilance ‘Stop licking the cake mixture out of the tin!’
Ollie comes in at one point to ‘lend a hand’, but backs out of the kitchen slowly when he sees the green cake batter.
“What’s that, mum?” Nose wrinkled up. “It’s bogey cake, best stay away, darling!” “Eurgh! You’re disgusting!” And off he runs. That was easy, I think.
I follow the shop assistant’s instructions precisely and use a tooth pick to mix dots of the food colouring into each half of the cake mixture. It’s fun watching the marbling effect, I swirl it this way and that. Then I come to my senses: I have places to go and people to see! This technique is taking hours, so I adopt a more ham-fisted approach which involves sticking my little finger in the dye pot and swirling a dollop into the batter. That’s more like it.
The battenburg tin, bought at great expense, is wonderful with its four separate sections and its removable silver dividers. I just hope Tom never goes back through our Amazon transactions and finds out the true cost of this Battenburg.
We leave the cake cooling, and go out for a wonderful spring walk through the Glaven Valley with Tom’s aunt and dog, Poppy. There are snow drops and aconites (I sound knowledgeable but this is the first time I’ve ever actually seen an aconite); and Ollie finds a length of rope and lassos everything in sight.
Suddenly, as if from nowhere, the heavens open. We go into survival-mode: Ollie up on Tom’s shoulders; me helping Daisy who has become invalid-like due to rubbing boots. We hobble along with my expensive pashmina from Dubai over our heads.
We arrive at the Art’s Cafe bedraggled, but I am instantly cheered to see that they are selling slices of home-made Battenburg! I engage the lady in an animated conversation about crimping (marzipan, not hair) and gluing agents (warmed apricot jam apparently). I worry that I am coming across slightly manic but the stress of the cake- assembling is hanging over me, and I need any tips I can get.
On the drive home we are all exhausted; the kids both fall asleep. I use my meek voice to ask Tom if he will trim the cake when we get back to make all sections the same length, (SUBTEXT: please can you trim it, coat it in warm apricot jam, assemble it, roll out the marzipan, wrap it up, and make it look good….)
He can clearly read my mind because this is exactly what he does. I heat the marmalade (no jam in) and witter, while he moves deftly measuring everything with a 30cm ladybird ruler; confidently trimming here and there. I am merely the assistant; he is the David Bailey of the chef-ing world, turning the cake this way and that. I wish I could work like this. In no time at all the cake is put together and ready to be eaten. Amazing!
Daisy (in her pyjamas) dispatches slices off to our female neighbours, “It’s woman’s cake!” She says with a flourish, “And it’s green and purple because those are the colours of International Women’s Day”. I stand at the front door listening to her voice in the dark and I feel very proud. This cake took a bit of effort (not to mention the money), but in that moment it feels very much worth it: it’s got us talking and it has made her aware and interested. So bring on more Battenburg next year…..
- A 3 egg sponge mix (6oz of everything else)
- 8 X 6 Silverwood Battenburg cake pan
- Warmed apricot jam
- 500g natural marzipan
- Sugarflair Party Green food colour
- PME Regal Purple paste colour
Cook at gas 4 / 180C for 30 mins and allow to cool in tin.
Brush with the jam. Assemble on the rolled out marzipan and roll tightly. Trim at either end.