When my husband decided late last year he wanted to start keeping bees, I’ll admit I was leery. Six months later, the bees are in our back yard in a tidy little hive, buzzing in and out on the constant hunt for pollen. So far, no stings, no neighbors have even noticed, and it’s fascinating to sit in our breakfast room watching through the window as they swarm, zip in and out, fan the hive to cool it off, and “beard” on the hive. I even get a little pang when I see some of them die, though I know and accept they have a pretty short life span! What a valuable contribution they make for such a short life.
So when I got my lovely new Battenberg cake tin from Alan Silverwood Bakeware, I wanted to try a version made with honey in honor of our bees. Making this cake involved several firsts for me – first cake I’ve made with honey, first Battenberg, and first time I’ve tried to make marzipan figures (so hopefully you’ll cut me some slack on my little bees!).
I found a honey cupcake and cream cheese frosting recipe from Astrid on The Sweet Rebellion site, that I found worked well to tweak for my purposes.
I’m a big fan of prepping all my ingredients first, so that the mixing, finishing, decorating just goes quicker, that’s the real fun part, after all!
The batter comes together quickly with all of the ingredients prepped. Nothing unusual about it – creaming butter and sugar, adding in the rest of the wet ingredients and integrating between each. Just used my Kitchenaid hand mixer, which I LOVE, and is great value for the money.
Once I’d added the dry ingredients to the wet, I divided the batter in half and just added a good Dutch processed cocoa powder to make the two colors and different flavors for the Battenberg.
After that came (for me) the trickiest part – trying to get an even amount of each batter into the four compartments of the tin! Maths were never my strong suit. But I managed in the end to get there – a cooking scale that zeros out is invaluable at this moment!
When I pulled out the baked cake, it had risen just over the top. But it was easy enough to get even squares of cake by waiting for the cake to cool and then taking a serrated knife and slicing off the tops of the segments so I’d end up with a square, even Battenberg.
The cream cheese icing works great between the layers. I got some crumbs coming up, which doesn’t matter in between the slices. But once you get to icing the outside, you could do a thin crumb coat and put it in the fridge to firm up. Pull it out 15 minutes later and you can ice it again, a little more generously this time. You’ll end up with a nice light creamy non-crumby coat of icing.
As to the marzipan decoration, I think I mentioned it was the first time I’ve ever tried making figures in this medium! I had found the Odense brand of marzipan on Amazon, and it worked well. I wasn’t used to the stickiness of molding with marzipan, so I did have to wash hands a few times to be able to manage it.
A little embarrassed to show pictures of my fumblings! suffice it to say I split the marzipan in two and used yellow and brown food coloring, simply kneading it into each half until it was completely integrated and there were no remaining streaks of color.
Then I just took bits of each color and started sticking them together to roughly form the body of a honeybee, added a head, almond slices for wings, dotted eyes with a toothpick and the brown food coloring, and voila! My version of a bee.
The little bee trails were marzipan as well, just the brown color rolled into tiny tiny “sausages”, sliced up and strategically placed on the frosted cake.
Honey and Cocoa Battenberg Cake
- 1/2 c. softened butter (115 g.), plus extra butter to grease the tin
- 3/4 c. granulated sugar (150 g.)
- 1/4 c. honey (80 g.)
- 1 tsp. vanilla
- 2 large eggs
- 1 1/2 c. flour (180 g.), plus extra flour to prepare the tin
- 1 tsp. baking powder
- Pinch of salt
- 1/2 c. milk (125 ml.)
- 1 Tbsp. lemon juice
- 1/4 c. cocoa powder
- Marzipan (small amount for 3 bees, several tablespoons), food coloring and sliced almonds for the honeybees
DirectionsPreheat the oven to 350º F. Prepare the Battenberg tin by greasing, then flouring with the extra butter and flour. Set aside.
In a small bowl, mix the milk and lemon juice together and set aside. In another bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder and salt and set aside.
In a large bowl, cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time, integrating after adding each. Then add in the honey, vanilla and milk/lemon juice mixture.
Gradually add in the flour mixture, mixing until just combined.
In order to make the two flavors that make up the checkerboard, split the batter in half between two bowls. Add the cocoa powder to one half of the batter and fold it in until completely combined.
Add the batter into the prepared Battenberg pan, splitting each flavor batter into two even parts of the divided pan. Bake 22-24 minutes, or until an inserted toothpick comes out clean. Let the cake cook for 20 minutes in the tin.
You will want even squares of cake, so if the cake rose above the tin, use a serrated knife to gently cut the extra off the top.
Remove the cake from the tin (use a sharp knife to go around the sides if you have any trouble removing it). Let it cool further on a wire rack until completely cool. Frost using the Honey cream cheese icing in between and around the outside of the cake, leaving both ends of the cake unfrosted. You may want to do a little bit of a “crumb coat” around the outside and put it in the fridge for a bit to harden up before applying a second, clean coat of icing.
To make the marzipan bees, divide the marzipan in half. Knead yellow food coloring into one half until incorporated; use brown (or black) food coloring to knead into the other half. Form the bee head and dab on a dot of brown food coloring for the eyes. Create the body by alternating yellow and brown into the slightly oval, domed shape. Add a couple of sliced almonds for the wings and place on the cake where desired.
To make the small bee trails, roll a small amount of the remaining brown marzipan into a very small sausage shape and cut off small pieces, setting them on the cake behind the bees in the shape of curly trails.
Honey Cream cheese icing
- 1/2 c. + 2 tsp. butter (125 g.)
- 1/2 c. cream cheese (100 g.)
- 1/3 c. honey (60 g.)
- 3 c. powder sugar (350 g.)
DirectionsCream together the butter and cream cheese, then mix in the honey and powder sugar and mix until fully incorporated and light and fluffy.
Allow the cake to cool before icing, assembling the Battenberg in a checkerboard pattern, using the icing to put the cake pieces together, as well as icing around the outside of the cake. Leave the ends of the cake unfrosted so you can see the checkerboard pattern.
Overall, I loved this honey cupcake and cream cheese frosting recipe. I liked the combination of pairing it with cocoa for the offsetting color and flavor of the Battenberg, though chocolate can overpower other, more delicate flavors. And the cream cheese icing was one of my favorites I’ve made so far, nice and light, if a little sweet for me. But then, I’ve always been all about the cake! It was a great consistency to work as a filling in between the Battenberg segments.
To come full circle, I’ll finish off with a picture of our lovely honey bees, with which this whole cake idea started…!