New Recipe: Here’s how to make a tastier homemade version of Leo Varadkar’s Battenberg

Tanaiste Leo Varadkar took to Instagram to share his joint birthday celebrations with Matthew Barrett and their “joint age of 78” on Wednesday. 

Showing the shop-bought Battenberg cake the pair were enjoying, Twitter quickly descended into meltdown as people questioned their choice of celebration cake. 

One follower said “If that’s a birthday cake I’m kinda scarlet for him,” while broadcaster Doireann Garrihy quipped: “On a scale of ‘fairly miserable’ to ‘@LeoVaradkar ’s birthday cake’, how’s your January going?”

We don’t think their choice of cake is a bad one at all. Battenberg cake, also known as Chapel Window cake has roots in royalty. 

The cake was created as a wedding gift for Prince Louis of Battenberg and Princess Victoria (granddaughter of Queen Victoria). The architecture of the cake was created to reflect the German rococo style of the time, and the flavours (apricot jam and almond were to reflect those in vogue in Britain).

Though shop-bought cakes are absolutely fine, nothing beats a homemade version. Here is Darina Allen’s classic Battenberg cake. 

Battenberg cake

Mummy made this cake with us when we were little. We loved watching her assemble it. It’s also known as Chapel Window Cake because the different colours in the cake look like stained glass.

Battenberg cake

Preparation Time

30 mins


  • 175g (6oz) butter

  • 175g (6oz) caster sugar

  • 4 eggs, preferably free-range and organic

  • 225g (8oz) plain white flour

  • ½ teaspoon baking powder

  • zest of ½ organic lemon

  • ¼ teaspoon pink colouring and drop of pure almond extract

  • 25g (1oz) drinking chocolate powder

  • a little milk (optional)

  • 225g (8oz) almond paste (marzipan)

  • ¾ pot homemade raspberry jam (see recipe)

  • caster sugar

  • three 19 x 11cm (71⁄2 x 41⁄2 in) tins, lined on the base and sides with greaseproof

  • paper


  1. Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F/ gas mark 4.

  2. Cream the butter well, add the caster sugar and whisk until light and fluffy. Add the eggs one by one, whisking well between each addition. Then stir in the sieved flour and baking powder.

  3. Divide the cake mixture into 3 equal parts. Flavour one part with the lemon zest, the next with almond extract and pink colouring. Stir the drinking chocolate into the last portion and add a few drops of milk if it becomes too thick.

  4. Spoon into the prepared tins and bake for 15–20 minutes. Turn out and leave to cool on a wire rack. Remove the paper. Meanwhile, make the almond paste and wrap it in silicone paper until needed. To assemble, trim the edges of the cakes and cut each one lengthways into three equal strips. Spread a little jam over all of the sides of each strip.

  5. Assemble the strips into a 3 x 3 block so that the colours are mixed up. Press all the pieces firmly together and trim the edges if necessary to ensure a uniform shape. Sprinkle a little caster sugar on the worktop. Roll out the almond paste to a thickness of a scant 5mm (¼ in). Brush the base of the cake with a little more jam. Lay it on top of the almond paste. Brush the sides of the cake with a little more jam. Wrap the paste around the cake. Press the edges together to seal. Smooth the surface with a palette knife if necessary. Score the top into a diamond pattern, pinch the edges and dredge with caster sugar.
    Note: if you follow the instructions above, the two ends of the cake are left un-iced, so you can see the ‘chapel window’. However, if you want to seal the cake entirely so it will keep for longer, roll out thinly an extra 110g (4oz) of almond paste and seal the ends. If you can resist, it keeps perfectly for 4–5 weeks.

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