A perfectly British gluten free Battenberg Cake with simple homemade marzipan. It’s easier than you’d think and hands-down the BEST Battenberg you’ll taste (gluten free or not). Optional dairy free.
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First published 18th June 2014… Updated 6th May 2023
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Introducing the best Gluten Free Battenberg Cake ever!
If you are British, then you will know Battenberg Cake. It’s part of the British psyche… Instantly recognisable for its iconic chequerboard pink and ‘yellow’ sponge, cloaked in soft almond marzipan, it’s always been a popular treat for the tea-time table. Battenberg can, in a glimpse, transport you back to childhood. But whether you loved or hated it as a child, it is sure to be fixed in the memory as an unforgettable bake.
Actually, as a child, I wasn’t a fan… I found the marzipan of the commercial offerings to be a little ‘bitter’ for my young tastebuds. But THIS cake… my GLUTEN FREE Battenberg Cake is in a different league. It’s incredibly good. Indeed, I can honestly say it’s the BEST Battenberg I have ever tasted… gluten free or not.
It’s moist and tender with a heady almond kick… ‘Divided’ by sweet and lightly tangy apricot jam… And covered with my homemade Easy 4-Ingredient Marzipan, which is a delight all of its own… So much better than any marzipan you’ll buy.
I say it again… The BEST Battenberg Cake ever! AND it’s gluten free.
What is a Battenberg Cake?
The first Battenberg Cake is said to have been made to celebrate the marriage of Queen Victoria’s granddaughter (Princess Victoria) to Prince Louis of Battenberg in 1884.
This uniquely British cake is usually flavoured with almond and covered with marzipan. It has a characteristic design of four squares of coloured sponge (pink and yellow), set out as a chequerboard, which are believed to represent the four princes of Battenberg.
At Gluten Free Alchemist, we also have a ‘Black Forest’ variation on the traditional recipe… A Cherry Chocolate Battenberg Cake.
Is gluten free Battenberg Cake easy to make?
Making a gluten free (or indeed any) Battenberg Cake is easier to make than you might think. The basic elements are much the same as any other cake:
- Creamed almond-flavoured sponge baked in a square or oblong pan.
- Simple mix-in-the-bowl, 4-ingredient marzipan… Although bought marzipan is fine to use too.
- A jar of jam to spread on the sponge.
If you can bake a cake… then you can make Battenberg!
The only tricky bit is cutting and sticking it all together and wrapping the marzipan around the sponge. I say ‘tricky’, but really it isn’t… It just requires a little patience, a knife and a ruler. But it honestly doesn’t matter if it’s not perfect… My ‘squares’ don’t match either, but I bet you didn’t look close enough to notice!! And who cares what it looks like? Taste is everything, I say!
Making a Gluten Free Battenberg Cake that is safe for Coeliacs..
Although the process for making a gluten free Battenberg Cake is exactly the same as making a standard wheat Battenberg, the ingredients (specifically the flours and ratios) are obviously different. So, what will you need?
- A well-balanced gluten free flour blend. I use my Gluten Free Alchemist white cake flour Blend A which can be found at the bottom of my page on Gluten Free Flours and Flour Blends. However, other good commercial gluten free flour blends should work well too
- Ground almonds – These bring moisture and structure to the bake and enhance the all-important almond experience that is Battenberg Cake! UK ground almonds are made from almonds which have been blanched and ground into a coarse meal. So if you are elsewhere in the world, aim to find something as close as possible.
- Xanthan gum – Used to support the binding of the batter when it bakes… You don’t want the sponge crumbling when you cut it! If the flour blend used already contains xanthan gum, then don’t add any more!
- Raising agents – This recipe uses a balanced combination of both baking powder and bicarbonate of soda, for the best rise.
- Pinch of salt – For flavour enhancement
- Milk and lemon juice – Together, when warmed slightly, these make buttermilk, which adds lightness and tenderness to the sponge, extending its shelf-life.
- Caster sugar (superfine sugar) – I use golden caster sugar which has a little more depth of flavour.
- Eggs – UK Large size eggs. If living outside of the UK, check my international Egg Size and Weight Comparison Guide to ensure equality.
- Vanilla and almond extracts – For authentic Battenberg Cake flavour. (Vanilla is optional).
Then you’ll need…
- Apricot jam – Needed to stick the sponges together and the marzipan to the sponge. If Apricot isn’t your thing, use the jam that you prefer, but make sure it’s smooth.
- Marzipan – Either homemade (recipe included on the recipe card) or shop-bought.
Providing all the ingredients are certified as gluten free and labels have been checked for any hidden gluten or cross-contamination, then this Battenberg Cake recipe is absolutely safe for people with Coeliac Disease (Celiac Disease).
Can I make this recipe dairy free?
Absolutely, yes! Simply substitute the dairy milk and butter for dairy free alternatives. Then your Battenberg Cake will be dairy free as well as gluten free.
Do I need any special equipment to make a Battenberg Cake?
No. While you can get pans that are designed specifically for making Battenberg Cake, they are honestly not necessary. I have never used one. As long as you have either an 8 or 9 inch square baking tin, OR two 2-pound loaf tins, you’ll be fine.
Here’s a list of the key equipment:
- Square Cake Tin/Loaf Tins (as noted above) – If using a square tin, you’ll need to make a central divider with some cardboard covered in foil and baking paper.
- Digital Kitchen Scales
- Measuring Spoons
- Mixing Bowls
- Baking Paper
- Electric Whisk
- Mixing Spoon/Spatula
- Oven and Fridge
- Wire Rack
- Rolling Pin
- Pastry Brush
Tips for making the BEST gluten free Battenberg Cake
Like I said above, although you need a little patience, Battenberg Cake is honestly not that difficult to make. But here are my best tips for getting a great result:
- Base-line the baking tin(s) with good-quality baking paper. The last thing you want is a cake that breaks because it gets stuck to the tin.
- Prepare the divider (if using a square tin) BEFORE you start to make the cake batter.
- Cream the sugar and butter well… It will help to give the sponge a good rise and even texture.
- Mix the food colour as evenly as possible for a consistent hue.
- Before turning the cakes out onto a wire rack, run a flat knife around the whole of the outside edge (including BOTH sides of any central divider).
- Once cold, CHILL the sponges. This is really important to ensure they are firm enough to cut, shape, stick together and cover in marzipan. But don’t worry… Once back at room temperature, they will return to being soft and moist.
- Trim the sponges to be as even as possible, so they form an even square when stuck together.
- Use marzipan at room temperature for the best pliability and ease of rolling.
- Check the rolled marzipan is large enough to cover the whole cake BEFORE applying the jam.
- When adding the marzipan layer: Jam and stick the base of the sponge to the middle of the marzipan strip first… Then jam the rest of the sponge and fold up the marzipan (one side at a time using flat hands) to mould it as tightly as possible up and over the top of the cake (otherwise you’ll end up with ‘baggy sides’). Trim the over-fold for neatness and ease the join together.
- Give the cake a final chill in the fridge to ‘set’ before trimming the ends to tidy up.
- Eat the off-cuts and feel smug with your efforts!
Storing your Battenberg Cake
Battenberg cake is best stored at room temperature in an airtight container. It should then stay fresh for 3 to 4 days.
If you live somewhere with a warmer climate, you may choose to store it in the fridge (also in an airtight container). But remember to bring it to room temperature for best softness, before serving.
Ready to make gluten free Battenberg Cake?
Hopefully, that’s all the information you need to make a great Battenberg Cake. If there’s anything I’ve missed out, or you have questions that I haven’t answered, feel free to get in touch. You can leave a comment at the bottom, contact me by email, or message me on social media… (Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest).
The recipe is below (scroll an inch or two further)… If you make it, I challenge you to eat it without reverting to the ‘childhood’ deconstruction of each slice, square by square.
If you’re looking for other delicious gluten free inspiration, we have loads more recipes to choose from… Just head over to the Gluten Free Recipe Index to explore… Or use the ‘Search’ box at the top of the page.
Always shared with my love
Gluten Free Battenberg Cake
- 8 inch (or 9 inch) square tin or two two pound loaf tins
- measuring jug
- sharp knife
- microwave or hob and saucepan
- 250 g gluten free plain flour blend I use GFA Blend A (see NOTES), but an alternative flour blend should work fine.
- 50 g ground almonds
- 1 tsp baking powder (gluten free)
- ½ tsp bicarbonate of soda (baking soda)
- ½ tsp xanthan gum
- pinch fine sea salt
- 180 ml milk (or dairy free alternative)
- ¾ tbsp lemon juice
- 100 g unsalted butter (or dairy free alternative) softened
- 280 g golden caster sugar
- 2 large eggs At room temperature – UK large size (Canadian ‘Extra Large’; Australian ‘Jumbo’; and US ‘Extra or Very Large’
- ½ tsp vanilla extract (optional)
- ¾ tsp natural almond extract
- red food colour PASTE (to colour preference)
Jam to join the sponges
- 200 g apricot jam (approx weight)
- 230 g ground almonds (blanched almond 'meal')
- 230 g icing sugar (powdered/confectioners sugar)
- 60 g egg white preferably pasteurised (or to desired texture)
- 1½ tsp almond extract
- Prepare an 8 or 9 inch (20-23 cm) square non-stick, loose-bottomed cake tin, by base-lining with baking paper.
- Cut a thick piece of card to snuggly fit across the centre of the tin as a divider and cover the card with foil followed by a layer of baking paper. Divide the tin in half with the covered card, so that it is split into 2 oblongs. OR base-line two 2 pound (20 cm x 10 cm/8 inch x 4 inch (approx)) loaf tins.
- Pre-heat the oven to 180 C/350 F/Gas 4.
- Weigh and mix together the flour, almonds, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda, xanthan gum and salt, making sure any lumps are broken down. Set aside. (Tip: Weigh into an airtight container and shake vigorously)
- In a jug, measure the milk and mix with the lemon juice. Warm slightly either in the microwave or by sitting the jug in a bowl of hot water.
- Once warm, remove from the heat, stir and leave to stand for 10 minutes (the mix should become clumpy and make buttermilk).
- Meanwhile, cream the butter with the sugar until pale and fluffy.
- Add the eggs one at a time and beat each until well blended.
- Add the vanilla and almond extracts and beat to combine.
- Fold in the dry ingredients alternately with the buttermilk mixture about a third at a time until JUST combined.
- Spoon half the mixture into one side of the tin (or one loaf tin).
- Add a couple of drops of red food colouring into the remaining half of cake batter to the desired shade and fold until even in colour (be careful not to over-mix).
- Spoon the pink mixture into the second half of the cake tin (or the second loaf tin).
- Smooth the tops and bake in the oven for 35 to 45 minutes until a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean and the top springs back to the touch.
- When cooked, leave in the tin(s) to cool for 10 minutes, before running a knife around the edges and down each side of the central partition.
- Carefully turn the sponges out onto a wire rack to cool completely (remove the central partition from the tin before turning out).
- Once cold, wrap the sponges in baking paper and cling film and chill in the fridge for a couple of hours. This is to firm them up slightly, which will make them easier to cut and shape.
- Weigh the almonds into a large bowl and sift in the icing sugar, stirring to fully combine.
- Add the almond extract and egg white and stir with a flat knife or firm wooden/silicone spoon to bring together until the mixture forms a dough.
- Knead the dough until smooth. Form into a ball and wrap in cling film until ready to use.
Putting the cake together :
- Carefully trim the edges of each sponge and then cut each oblong in half lengthways as evenly as you can. Measure each piece alongside the others and trim slightly to even up as necessary, so that each strip is as uniform as possible.
- Heat the apricot jam in a small saucepan over a low heat, or microwave on medium until warm and liquid.
- Use a pastry brush to coat the inside sides of the sponge lengthways, piece by piece, sticking together in a chequer-board pattern (pink and cream next to each other on the bottom layer, followed by white and pink (opposite sides) on a second layer).
- Roll out the marzipan onto some baking paper (using a dusting of icing sugar to prevent it sticking), to make a large oblong that will wrap around the whole of the cake (measure to check).
- Brush some apricot jam onto middle strip of the marzipan and carefully place the sponge on top of the jam (using a spatula or palette knife to help support the sponge when moving).
- Brush the remaining long sides of the sponge with jam and carefully fold the marzipan up and over the sponge, keeping it as tight as possible to the cake sides.
- Trim the marzipan to make a neat join and trim any excess marzipan at each end.
- Turn the cake over so that the join is hidden on the underside.
- Use any off-cuts of marzipan to make decorative marzipan shapes (as preferred) and use a little egg white to stick them to the cake.
- Chill the cake for about an hour, before cutting a thin slice off each end with a sharp knife to tidy up.
© 2019-2023 Kate Dowse All Rights Reserved – Do not copy or re-publish this recipe or any part of this recipe on any other blog, on social media or in a publication without the express permission of Gluten Free Alchemist