Battenberg[1] or Battenburg[2] is a light sponge cake with the pieces covered in jam. The cake is covered in marzipan and, when cut in cross section, displays a distinctive two-by-two check pattern alternately coloured pink and yellow

The large checkered patterns on emergency vehicles in the UK are officially referred to as Battenburg markings because of their resemblance to the cake.[3]


The cake is made by baking a yellow and a pink sponge cake separately, and then cutting and combining the pieces in a chequered pattern. The cake is held together by apricot jam and covered with marzipan.[4]


Lyons Battenberg cake.

While the cake originates in England, its exact origins are unclear,[5][6] with early recipes also using the alternative names "Domino Cake" (recipe by Agnes Bertha Marshall, 1898), "Neapolitan Roll" (recipe by Robert Wells, 1898),[7] or "Church Window Cake". The cake was purportedly named in honour of the marriage of Princess Victoria, a granddaughter of Queen Victoria, to Prince Louis of Battenberg in 1884. The name refers to the town of Battenberg, Hesse in central Germany and is the seat of the aristocratic family which had deceased in the early middle ages and whose title had been transferred to Countess Julia Hauke (no "von", as it had been a Russian title) in 1852, on behalf of her marriage to Prince Alexander of Hesse and by Rhine; then first Countess, afterwards Princess of Battenberg, known in Britain since 1917 as Mountbatten.[8]

According to The Oxford Companion to Food, the name "Battenberg cake" first appeared in print in 1903.[9] However, a "Battenburg cake" appeared in: Frederick Vine, Saleable Shop Goods for Counter-Tray and Window … (London, England: Office of the Baker and Confectioner, 1898).[5][10]

American variation

In the United States, there is a related confection called a checkerboard cake named because, as with a Battenberg cake, when it is sliced open it resembles the board for the game draughts, known in the U.S. as "checkers", which is played on a "checkerboard". A typical checkerboard cake is one that alternates between vanilla and chocolate flavoured sponge cake and has a very rich chocolate buttercream icing. Unlike the British Battenberg, it does not typically use marzipan and utilizes a special springform pan to get the desired effect.[11]

See also


  1. ^ "Battenberg". Oxford Dictionary. Retrieved 30 April 2015. 
  2. ^ "Definition of 'Battenburg'". Collins English Dictionary. Retrieved 30 April 2015. 
  3. ^ "Minor British Institutions: Battenberg cake". The Independent. 2010-11-13. Retrieved 2016-05-03. 
  4. ^ Cook, Sarah (March 2011). "Battenberg Cake". Good Housekeeping. BBC. Retrieved 10 May 2015. 
  5. ^ a b "Battenburg Cake - the Truth". Food History Jottings. 
  6. ^ "Battenberg Cake". Foods of England. Retrieved 26 February 2013. 
  7. ^ "Battenburg Cake History Again!". Food History Jottings. Retrieved 10 May 2015. 
  8. ^ John Ayto, The Diner's Dictionary: Food and Drink from A to Z (Oxford, England: Routledge, 1993), p. 22.
  9. ^ Davidson, Alan, The Oxford Companion to Food, 3rd ed. (Oxford, England: Oxford University Press, 2014), p. 67.
  10. ^ In the 1907 edition, see p. 136.
  11. ^ "Checkerboard Cake". Retrieved 7 November 2016