Monday, February 21, 2005

Battenberg Cake

I was feeling a bit peckish round about morning tea time today, so I decided to raid the fridge.

I came across a bar of cake. Yippee! I thought, and turned it over to read the label:

B-a-t-t-e-n-b-e-r-g C-a-k-e. Carefully peeling away the cellophane, I saw that it had a pink and yellow chequerboard cross-section.

English cuisine will never cease to amaze me. Considering I was born in China, where they actually eat dogs (yech!), that's saying something. It isn't that I've anything against Battenberg cakes mind you; in fact after this morning I can truly say without reserve that I find them an utter pleasure to eat. But I, being the cerebral little canine I am, found myself not halfway through the thing before I started wondering who had invented this delicious gateau.

So as soon as I had finished snorting up the last of the almond-scented crumbs, I hopped onto Google to find out all about the history of the Battenberg cake. Not much comes up when you Google "Battenberg cake", unfortunately. Just lots of recipes submitted by middle-England housewives onto really lame cookery websites coded in the kind of HTML that was cutting edge in about 1995.

I also tried Googling "Battenburg cake", which I found out along the way is the alternative, and more popular, spelling. Still mostly dodgy results, although I did discover from the Home Baking Co. that Battenburg was the name of a family of German Counts which died out in 1314, but the name was revived in 1851. Prince Henry of Battenburg was born in 1858 and married Princes Beatrice of England in 1885. There is little information on why the Cake, a network of pink, yellow and chocolate sponge encased in marzipan, received its name Battenburg or how it is linked to the family.

What I like here is the fact they say 'the Cake' like you'd say 'the King'.

After that I got an old kennel mate of mine who now works in the news media to try searching Lexis Nexus. No joy there either. How on earth did this cake, which apparently materialised out of the ether, manage to win the hearts and stomachs of England?

It would seem the beauty and universal appeal of the Battenburg lies is its malleability. Not the cake itself, but its mythology. It can be as mysterious as its exotic German name suggests, but it's also a wonderful and familiar Great British Dessert. That's why it's loved by everyone from elderly toffs to sugar-junkie schoolkids to stuffed toy dogs.

By lunchtime, the sugar rush had faded, and I was ready to sink in front of the TV with a mug of honey and lemon and a loud and bloody yakuza DVD.


Blogger Natsthename said...

Brilliant! Let 'em eat cake!

9:33 PM  

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