This time a Battenburg which I made in honour of my sisters birthday (I might add she was singularly unimpressed with the effort I put into this pointing out that she still had Christmas and Easter cake and that someone else had already given her birthday cake - I contend that home made Battenburg isn't something that happens to you everyday and that as an adult you have a duty to pretend to be pleased with gifts). I think I'm a fairly competent baker; I'm not scared by unfamiliar recipes, I like a challenge, and I have a few skills in the kitchen, albeit not terribly impressive ones, so whilst I'm not great British bake off standard you wouldn't worry about eating one of my cakes.
However the finishing touches are a different matter - I love a beautifully decorated and presented cake, the fancier the better but lack the patience and ability to pull off anything terribly impressive myself. Whichever way you look at it it's the kind of thing that calls for practice and a woman living on her own can only make so many cakes and biscuits before diabetes beckons. This was my second attempt at a Battenburg (the first one was a slapdash disaster) and I really put a lot of effort into making it look good, which was going well for me until the marzipan stage. It got a bit thin, stuck to the board I was rolling it out on, was inclined to tear, and generally wasn't inclined to wrap itself round the cake in a delicious almondy embrace. Finally I managed to make it look not terrible and all I had to do was tidy up the ends - by the time that was done there wasn't much cake left.
Battenburg is a wasteful sort of thing to make - lots and lots of trimmings both of sponge and marzipan, but after quite a bit of sampling it's clear that it's more than the sum of it's parts - the combination of vanilla sponge, nicely sharp apricot jam, and marzipan is really damn good. Home made is better than any I've ever bought (though who doesn't like the tiny Mr Kipling version that you can try and eat in one bite?) and I've always liked the pink and yellow squares thing. I will make this again when a suitable occasion presents itself. I used the recipe in Fiona Cairns 'Bake and Decorate' and really liked it - I hope my sister does too, though so far she says she hasn't tried it yet (how can she resist, I KNOW how much she likes marzipan...)