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How did Battenberg Cake get it's name?

One of Britain's best selling treats is Battenberg Cake. But what exactly is Battenberg Cake and how did it acquire its strangely un-English sounding name? Perhaps it should have been called "Mountbatten Cake". There is a strange and mysterious story behind it.

The interesting tale surrounding this sweet and delicious treat's name is inextricably entwined with the recent history of the Royal Family and with present day British emergency services.

When I use the word "recent", of course, I am using a timescale appropriate to the history of the British monarchy. So, in this context, recent Royal history refers to the year 1884. In that year Queen Victoria's granddaughter married German Prince Louis of Battenberg. It is said that the cake was created to celebrate the wedding. The four quarter sections of the cake represent the four German Princes of the day.

The cake's link with the royals goes deeper than that though. The incumbent British royal dynasty is of German origin. Following the sinking of the civilian cruise ship Lusitania by a German submarine in 1915 the British people became increasingly hostile towards anybody of German ancestry. So in 1917 the House of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha was renamed the House of Windsor by royal decree. The German family name "Battenberg" was translated into English as "Mountbatten" ("berg" being the German word for a mountain).

Battenberg Cake is made of two square sections of pink sponge cake alternated with two square sections of yellow sponge cake held together with apricot jam and the whole is wrapped in marzipan. It has been called "Battenberg" for 123 years and, despite its German sounding name, it is very, very English.

But what is the link to modern day emergency service vehicles in Britain? The cross section view of Battenberg cake reveals a pink square beside a yellow square on top of a yellow square beside a pink square. That distinctive pattern, when translated into brighter colours, creates a high visibility appearance for an emergency service vehicle. In Britain, police vehicles use blue and yellow battenberg markings while other services use battenberg markings in various other colours.

Doesn't that little tale make you want to put the kettle on while you pop down to Blighty's Tuck Store for a little dainty cake? What, you don't live near the store? Well, maybe we can still help you satisfy your craving. Our Battenberg cake can also be ordered by mail. Send us an email at shop@blightys.com and we'll send you information on how to order.

1 comment:

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