Easter Simnel Cake

The Christmas cake was finished a long time ago so along comes Easter with the opportunity to create this lovely, richly-flavoured, moist fruit cake with its two layers of marzipan: one in the middle – which really adds to the cake’s moistness – and one on the top which is toasted. The marzipan top is decorated with 11 marzipan balls, representing the 11 true disciples of Jesus (minus Judas), with the larger 12th ball in the middle representing Jesus himself. The cake is definitely a celebration and should take pride of place for Easter tea! Really easy to make if you have an electric stand mixer!

Makes a 23cm cake

What you need…

Ideally, an electric stand mixer (I have a Kenwood K-Mix) otherwise a robust wooden spoon and a lot of strength to mix by hand!)

1 x 23cm round spring form cake tin, lightly buttered and lined with Bake O Glide or parchment paper

for the marzipan

500g ground almonds

250g caster sugar

250g icing sugar, plus extra for dusting

2 eggs

½ teaspoon almond essence

½ teaspoon vanilla extract

1 teaspoon lemon juice

for the cake

1kg raisins

175g glacé cherries

50g ground almonds

125g currants

300g plain flour

1 teaspoon grated nutmeg

½ teaspoon mixed spice

¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon

300g soft margarine (I used Stork)

300g caster sugar

6 eggs

1-2 tablespoons brandy, your choice!

Apricot jam, melted, for glazing

What to do…

First, make the marzipan and I’m going to assume a mixer is to hand – this would be hard work otherwise! Fit the mixer with its dough hook. Tip all the marzipan ingredients into the bowl and mix it together on a slow speed until it comes together into smooth dough. Set aside.

Preheat the oven to 140°c / 275° f / gas 1.

Wash and dry the mixer bowl and return it to the machine. Fit the ‘K paddle’ (beater attachment).

Into the bowl, tip the raisins, cherries, almonds and currants into the bowl and mix on a slow speed until all are evenly blended. Add the flour, nutmeg, mixed spice, cinnamon, margarine and sugar and again, mix on a slow speed until all evenly blended. Then drop in one egg at a time, whilst the mixer is still going and mix thoroughly before adding the next one. Finally, add the brandy and mix in.

Cut a little less than half of the marzipan and roll it out to about 1 cm thick on a work surface that has been lightly dusted with icing sugar. Use the base of your cake tin as a template to cut a circle out of the marzipan. Put the scraps with the rest of the marzipan, wrap tightly in cling film and pop in the fridge, ready for use after the cake is cooked and cooled.

Spoon half of the cake mix into your cake tin. Then, lay in the circle of marzipan. Then, top with the rest of the cake mixture. Pop in the oven and bake for 3 hours. Indulge in the fabulous smell that pervades the house!

Leave the cake to cool in the tin and then turn out onto a wire rack to cool completely.

When it’s cold, roll out the rest of the marzipan as above and again cut out a circle the same size as the cake. Glaze the top of the cake with the warmed apricot jam and then lay the circle of marzipan on the top. Use the left over marzipan to create 11 balls of the same size and one bigger one. Brush the bottom of each ball with apricot jam and arrange the 11 balls around the edge of the top of the cake; placing the larger one in the middle. Then, to toast your Easter Simnel cake, either put it under a moderate grill – watch it like a hawk – it will brown quickly, or used a cook’s blowtorch for the job (much more fun!)

Your cake is now ready to take centre stage in your Easter tea celebrations (and, unless there’s a big crowd of you, for several days afterwards!) Moist, rich and a really, really lovely very proper cake! Enjoy!

Inspired by…

Lisa Faulkner

How easy…

It’s not difficult at all if you have an electric mixer – I wouldn’t want to make by hand!

The history of Simnel cake according to my Google search…

The Simnel cake is associated with Easter today, but was originally made for Mothering Sunday, the fourth Sunday in Lent. Originally Mothering Sunday was the day when the congregations of the daughter churches of a parish went to the mother church, usually an abbey, to give their offerings.

In the 17th century, Mothering Sunday became the day when girls and boys in service were allowed a day off to go and visit their mothers. This was their one and only holiday. The girls would bake their mothers a Simnel cake as a gift.

Simnel cakes have been baked since the middle ages and it is believed that the word Simnel comes from the Latin ‘Simila,’ which meant very fine flour made from wheat. Made properly, the cake would keep for a few weeks, thus the baking of a Simnel cake for Mothering Sunday was not only a gift from a girl to her mother, but also a test of the girl’s cooking skills. The cake would not be eaten until Easter Sunday, and the whole family would be anxious to see if the cake was still moist.

With the demise of service after the First World War, the Simnel cake began to be treated as an Easter cake in its own right. The cake is decorated with eleven marzipan balls, representing Jesus’ disciples minus Judas the traitor.

 

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