Minor British Institutions: Battenberg cake

Battenberg cake is exemplarily British: interesting origins, often mocked, implausibly symbolic. Discerning palates dry before its combination of sponge and marzipan, while others love the windows on our childhood, even if the colours are not so unnaturally vigorous now.

The first cake was baked in 1884 to celebrate Prince Louis of Battenberg marrying Princess Victoria, Queen Victoria's granddaughter and Prince Philip's grandmother.

Prince Louis was forced from office as First Lord of the Admiralty in 1914 by the anti-German feeling that led to the kicking of dachshunds and the Royal Family changing its name to Windsor.

Prince Louis literally translated himself into Mountbatten: his cake stood firm. Fittingly, the traditionalists among us are now said to eat Battenberg cake on the feast of another foreigner, St George. And the high-visibility chequers on emergency vehicles are called, officially, Battenberg Markings.

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