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Downton’s Battenburg Cake

Also known as domino cake or church window cake, this almond flavoured checkboard style confection was named in honor of the 1884 marriage of Queen Victoria’s granddaughter Victoria to Prince Louis of Battenburg.  Because of anti-German sentiment in Britain in World War 1, the Prince gave up his German name and dynastic titles in 1917 and took an English name, Mountbatten (the surname of the current Prince Philip of England, his grandson).

This recipe comes from The Official Downton Abbey Afternoon Tea Cookbook


Downton's Battenburg Cake

Also known as domino cake or church window cake, this recipe comes from The Official Downton Abbey Afternoon Tea Cookbook
Course Afternoon Tea
Cuisine Edwardian, English
Prep Time 40 minutes
Total Time 40 minutes
Servings 8 servings


For the Cake

  • 3/4 cup unsalted butter softened to room temperature, plus more for the pan and foil
  • 1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour plus more for the pan and foil
  • 1/3 cup almond flour
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 3 large eggs at room temperature
  • 3/4 tsp. pure vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tsp. pure almond extract
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 1-3 drops red food colouring

For Assembly

  • 1/3 cup apricot jam,
  • icing sugar for dusting
  • 1 tube marzipan (preferably white) 7 ounces


  • To make the cake, preheat the oven to 375F. Lightly butter the bottom and sides of an 8-inch square cake pan with 2inch sides. Cut an 8 x 12-inch rectangle of tin foil Fold both ends toward the centrefold to make an edge 2 inches high from the centre. Crease the edges of the folds (to and both bottom) firmly and unfold the sides. It will look like an upside-down T. Arrange the foil sheet int he greased pan (the centrefold will divide the pan into two separate sections each 8 by 4 inches). Lightly butter the foil and flour the sides of the pan and the foil.
  • In a bowl, whisk together the all-purpose flour, almond flour, baking powder and salt. In a large bowl using an electric mixer, beat the butter on medium speed until smooth, about 1 minute. Increase the speed to medium-high, add the granulated sugar, and beat until fluffy and lighter in colour, 2-3 minutes. Add the eggs, one a time, beating well after each addition and adding the vanilla and almond extra along with the final egg. On low speed, add about half of the flour mixture and mix just until blended, then add the milk and again mix until blended. Add the remaining flour and mix jut until blended.
  • Divide the batter in half. Scrape half of the batter into one side of the divided pan and spread evenly. Add 1 drop of the food colouring to the remaining batter and fold until evenly coloured, adding more food colouring as needed to achieve the pink intensity desired. Scrape the pink batter into the other side of the pan and spread evenly.
  • Bake the cakes until a toothpick inserted into the center of each side comes clean, 32-34 minutes. Let cool in the pan on a wire rack for about 15 minutes. Run a thin-bladed knife around the inside of the pan to loosen the cake ides. Invert a rack on the top of the pan, and using potholder grip the pan and the rack and invert together. Gently lift off the pan, peel away the foil, and let the cakes cool completely.
  • To assemble the cake, in a small saucepan, warm the jam over low heat until fluid, then pass through a fine-mesh sieve set over a small bowl, pressing on the solids.
  • Place a cake, top side up, on a work surface. Using a serrated knife, but away the domed top to level the cake. Trim the four sides to make them even, then measure the height of the cake (about 1 1/4 inches). Using a ruler, cut the layer lengthwise into 2 strips that are the same width as the height of the cake.
  • You should now have 2 strips of equal height and width. Repeat with the remaining cake, levelling the top and cutting into 2 strips. You should now have 4 strips of equal height and width. Trim all 4 strips to equal length (about 7 inches).
  • Lightly dust a work surface with confectioners' sugar. Place the marzipan on the dusted surface and, using a rolling pin, roll out the marzipan into an 8 x 11.5-inch rectangle. Lightly dust with more icing sugar if the marzipan is sticky. Trim off the edges to make a 7 x 10.5-inch (18 x 26.S-cm) rectangle.
  • Arrange the marzipan with a long side facing you. Using an offset spatula, spread a a thin layer of the jam crosswise down the center 5 inches (13 cm) of the marzipan. Arrange a pink cake strip on the left side on top of the jam, pressing gently. Spread a thin layer of the jam over the inside edge of the cake strip and arrange a plain cake strip next to it. Gently press the strips together. Spread a thin layer of jam over the tops of the strips and repeat with the remaining strips and jam, stacking the cake strips in reverse order like a checkerboard. Spread a thin coating of jam over the top and sides of the stacked strips. Lift one side of the marzipan over the cake, pressing gently to adhere to the side. Using a fingertip, brush a little water over the marzipan edge on the top of the cake. Repeat with the other side of the marzipan, again pressing gently against the side of the cake and then pressing on the overlapping portion of the marzipan to seal the edges. Turn the cake over so the seam is on the bottom and then wrap in storage wrap.
  • Refrigerate for at least 1 hour or up to 3 days. Serve chilled or at room temperature, cut into slices.
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