Food history is a very questionable subject, for there is no one definite answer to how most dishes come into existence and why they are what they are today. When I look up a particular dish, I am always yearning for more answers and for me, that’s what makes food history very interesting. Apparently, the Spaghetti alla puttanesca infamously known as the slut’s spaghetti was called so because it had all of 3-4 ingredients and was predominantly made by poorer women (Puttanata in Italian means worthless). Another theory beholds the meaning that it was a temptress of a sauce, with its burning red hue and loud and sensual flavours. For years, Idli has been the symbol of Indian breakfast and we believed that the humble dish was invented in South India, till a gentleman noted that we perhaps adapted idli making from Indonesia’s kedli who’s cuisine was always known for it’s fermentation techniques (read:Tempeh).
And when I think of food, tradition and history, how can cakes not be an area of interest? I mean, look at this kitschy Battenberg; the name screams German, but it is more popularly known as a quintessential English tea cake. A mishmash of cultures, food brims with connotations, always ready to be invented and innovated. Perhaps why there is no right or wrong way of cooking(so long as the food tastes good of course). Perhaps why some of the best cooks in the world are the ones who are instinctive, the ones who respect tradition but also don’t think twice before reinventing.
For the cake
- 175 g all purpose flour
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 1 tsp baking soda
- 175 g caster sugar
- 175 g unsalted butter, softened
- 3-4 large eggs
- 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
- A drop of red food colouring
For the covering
- 500 g ready made marzipan (aka almond paste, you can make your own almond paste)
- 5 tbsp apricot preserve
Note: If you are making almond paste/marzipan at home, I would suggest you make it a day earlier and freeze it).
- Preheat your oven to 190 C. You will need an 8 inch square tin, which you must grease with butter. Line the pan with parchment paper. Now make a 8X4 inch strip using an aluminium foil and deftly place it in between the square tin.
- In a bowl, combine flour,baking powder and baking soda. Mix together and set aside.
- Beat the butter till creamy using a hand mixer. Add the caster sugar and beat further, for 2-3 minutes. Now, add the eggs, one at a time and continue to beat. Finally, add the vanilla essence and beat for a minute.
- Now, add half the flour mixture to the butter mixture and fold till all the ingredients are combined. Add the remaining flour and fold again until well combined.
- Now, weigh the batter using a kitchen scale. Weigh and divide them into two equal halves. Add the red food colouring to one half and mix well till the batter turns into a bright pink.
- Now, pour the plain batter into one half of the divided tin and the pink batter into the other as show below.
- Bake in the preheated oven for 30-40 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
- Meanwhile, dust icing sugar on your work surface. Roll out the marzipan to a rectangle of 16×10 inches. Warm the apricot preserve and put it through a fine sieve. Set aside.
- When the cake is ready, allow it to cool on a wire rack for 10 minutes.
- Now, slice the cake in half, length ways. Slice each half into 2 equal halves, length ways again. You should have 4 long logs of rectangles now.
- Brush the underside and the side of each log with apricot preserve. Now sandwich them together such that, you have an alternating colour beneath each colour, forming a checkerboard. (Pink beneath white, white beneath pink)
- Brush the underside of the entire cake with apricot preserve again. Tilt it upside down in one quick motion and place it on the middle of the rolled, almond paste. Envelope the cake tightly with the almond paste, over the long sides, the surface and the underside, leaving the shorter sides alone exposed. Leave the cake to rest for 10 to 15 minutes before slicing it.
Adapted from Cake Magic by Kate Shirazi