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Damien Hirst Battenberg

It’s well known that I can take cake themes literally. Back in November when the theme was ‘Trick or Treat’ my Beetle Forest Gateaux certainly did the job. Next week I’ve been invited to an event where I’m taking a cake with the theme Arty Farty. As soon as I heard the theme this mad idea came into my head. Could I use various techniques I knew to suspend a cow shape in a cake? A bit like a twisted Battenberg inspired by Damien Hirst’s animals in formaldehyde.

Of course to get the cow shape in the middle I wasn’t going to be able make a Battenberg in the traditional sense. I couldn’t cook the colours separately then stick them together due to the shape, I would have to bake one colour inside another. Last year I saw a blog on how you can bake a heart shape inside a cupcake by placing a cooked cake shape inside an uncooked cake. I decided to see if this would work on a bigger scale with a more detailed shape.

I used a traditional sponge for this cake rather than the dense almond sponge often used in Battenberg as I wanted to make sure the cake would cook through using this technique. This cake is no place to be shy with food colouring. To get this depth of colour you need to use food colouring gels as these will not fade when baked. I like to use Sugarflair gels or the Home2Bake gels they now sell in Morrisons. The cow shape will bleed slightly in to the blue surround, this is unavoidable so some detail of the cow is lost but I’m pleased the people I showed the cake to, who didn’t know the theme, knew instantly the inspiration behind the cake.

Usually I don’t road test cakes as I like to live life on the edge. In reality it’s because I often don’t have time, but this I knew I had to test before next week and I’m glad I did. The cake didn’t work exactly how I wanted and the perfectionist in me wants to try and see if I can get the cake neater. It took longer to make than anticipated so now I won’t be remaking it for the event as I won’t have time to do it justice. It’s not the kind of cake I can rush so back to the Arty Farty drawing board but don’t worry there is still lots out there to inspire me. Maybe the odd Pollockesque splatter of paint, a melting clock or a brush with gold for a nod to Klimt. As for the next cake, you’ll have to wait and see.


Damien Hirst Battenberg

red sponge

130g Stork

130g caster sugar

2 large eggs

1 tsp almond extract

130g self raising flour

1/4 red colouring paste


blue sponge

200g Stork

200g caster sugar

3 large eggs

2 tsp almond extract

1/4 blue colouring paste

200g self raising flour

splash of milk


200g lemon curd or apricot jam

500g white marzipan

black food dye

gin or vodka


1) Line a 8in x 8in tin with baking parchment.

2) First make the red sponge. Beat together the Stork and sugar until light and fluffy.

3) Stir in the eggs, then the almond extract.

4) Fold in the flour then mix in the red colouring paste.

5) Pour mixture into the lined square tin and bake at 170°c for 25 min until cooked. Allow to cool in the tin for 10 min then turn out on to a wire rack and allow to cool completely.

6) Using a small 2in cutter, cut cow shapes out of the red sponge. Set aside while you make the blue cake mix.

7) Beat together the Stork and sugar until light and fluffy.

8) Stir in the eggs, then the almond extract. If the mixture begins to curdle add a spoonful of flour.

9) Fold in the flour then mix in the blue colouring paste.

10) Line a 2lb loaf tin. Put a few spoonfuls of the blue mixture on the bottom of the tin. Stand the red cows up in this mixture. Pour the remaining blue batter in to the tin making sure you don’t dislodge any of the cows. Fill no more than 3/4 full.

11) Bake at 170°c for 50 min until cooked. Allow to cool in the tin for 1 hour then turn out on to a wire rack and allow to cool completely.

12) Once cooled trim the top and sides to make it straight. Brush all the sides that will be in contact with the marzipan with lemon curd.

13) Roll out the marzipan until it is just bigger than the cake. Wrap around the cake and make sure the seal is on bottom, unless you want the cow to be floating upside down.

14) Trim off the excess marzipan then place on plate seal side down. Allow the marzipan to dry, ideally overnight.

15) Mix black food dye with a small amount of vodka or gin. Paint cow print on to the marzipan. Allow to dry before serving.

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Freelance food geek who's passionate about food education.

Permanent link to this article: http://www.butcherbakerblog.com/2012/06/07/damien-hirst-battenberg/


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  1. George@CulinaryTravels

    One word. WOW!!

  2. Clare Tetley

    OMG – love it!!!

    Jules you are inspired – a cow in the middle of the cake – Rupert would love it!!


    1. Jules

      Clare, you’ll have to make it for Rupert’s next birthday!

  3. Verity

    Absolutely genius! Love it.

  4. Sally - My Custard Pie

    Genius! How about an un-made bed cake for the next one? Or an existentialist cake….how do you know it’s really there? A furry cake (Da-daism) – sorry just getting completely carried away.

    1. Jules

      Sally, funnily enough my retired art teacher mum suggested Tracey Emin. Loving your other suggestions!

  5. Kavey

    That is VERY cool!

    And your thought to do a Pollock inspired cake would work well for a battenberg made in the more traditional fashion!

  6. Hannah

    This is brilliant!

  7. thelittleloaf

    Love love love this! Totally inspired, if a little bonkers. You make the best cakes :-)

  8. Choclette

    Now that is very arty farty and absolutely fantastic – well done.

  9. Roswensian

    Absolutely bonkers – but I loves it.

  10. Claire

    Wow, what an eye catching and unique cake. Love it.

  11. Beth

    You have a far better imagine than I do. It is amazing!

  12. Beth

    I meant imagination!

  13. hannah

    Hiya, lovely to see my blog being used with such creativity! It is tricky working detailed shaped into cakes, as you say, you can lose the edges. Still, the effect looks great and i’m sure it would work perfectly if the outer bit was a lighter colour sponge to the cow. Awesome blog you have here, i’ll definitely be keeping an eye on it.

    http://www.madewithloveby.me <3 <3

    1. Jules

      Hannah, thanks for the inspiration. I’m certainly going to try the technique again with a lighter outer sponge. I’ve also thought about trying the technique in a Bundt cake.

  14. movita

    Brilliant. Seriously brilliant.

    Also, I love that you found a cow cookie cutter. Because there aren’t enough cow shaped anythings on the planet.

    1. Jules

      The cutter comes from a set I got on the TK Maxx reduced counter. Set also includes pigs, ducks, deer and a random turkey.

  15. Nic

    Oh…. hahaha, I LOVE your cake! I remember seeing a heart inside a cupcake on a blog but this is brilliant.

  16. Laura loves cakes

    What an amazing cake…Damien Hurst would be proud! I’ve made the heart in a cupcake but would never have thought of putting a cow in a battenburg…I wonder what Mary Berry would make of this! Love the cow hide covering too! :-)

  17. Lauren aroundtheworldin80bakes

    wow! I’m very impressed! fantastic idea. just spotted.your blog on.foodie 100 looking forward to reading more

  18. Hannah

    This is brilliant battenburg! Love your cow cutter too!

  19. cakeboule

    Love this cake so bright and unusual. The cow inspired icing – just genius!

  20. bakearama

    Wow, just found this through twitter, utterly amazing! Inspires me to try cakes with all different shapes in the middle…

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