Yesterday’s total naughtiness! This most chocolatey of chocolate cakes is based on the same recipe used in the 365 Celebration Cake except I doubled the amount of chocolate butter cream to accommodate the fact that I sliced each sponge in half to create 4 layers of sponge and 3 layers of chocolate butter cream. And inside……a hollow was cut out of the cooked sponges to make room for a jumble of easter eggs and chocolate bunnies to tumble out when the first slices were cut…. The nest was the result of 3 Cadbury’s Flakes being chopped and arranged, stuck together with melted milk chocolate and a pile of mini eggs: Happy Easter!!!!
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
½ teaspoon almond essence
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon lemon juice
for the cake
175g glacé cherries
50g ground almonds
300g plain flour
1 teaspoon grated nutmeg
½ teaspoon mixed spice
¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
300g soft margarine (I used Stork)
300g caster sugar
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!
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.
These are Mary’s hot cross buns and they ARE gorgeous – really fruity and beautifully spiced with cinnamon and mixed spice. They look fab as well with the golden syrup glaze. I would recommend them but only if you’re having a relaxing day at home, enabling you the luxury of lots to time to revisit the kitchen several times. They’re not difficult, just take some time but very lovely and worth the time.
Makes 12 large buns or 18 medium-sized
What you need…
1 x electric mixer fitted with a dough hook!!!!
2 x baking sheets, lined with Bake O Glide/ baking paper
1 x piping bag fitted with a fine 3mm nozzle (for the crosses)
500g strong white flour, plus extra for dusting
75g caster sugar
2 teaspoons mixed spice
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Grated zest of 1 lemon
10g fast-action dried yeast
1 egg, beaten
50g chopped candied peel
Olive oil for greasing
for the topping
75g plain flour
2 tablespoons golden syrup
What to do…
In separate saucepans, gently melt the butter and also warm the milk, just to tepid.
Meanwhile, into your mixer, chuck the flour, sugar, spices, lemon zest, salt and yeast. Put the mixer onto a slow speed and blend the ingredients together.
Add the melted butter, half the warm milk and the egg and mix until all the ingredients are blended. Add a little milk at a time now and keep checking the blend – the dough needs to come together and be on the wet side, rather than dry. You might not need all the milk. I reckon I had about 50mls that was not required.
Once you’re happy with the dough, add in the sultanas and candied peel and let the mixer do its thing on a low speed for 10 minutes, at which point the dough will be silky and elastic. Turn it out onto a lightly floured work surface and give it a couple of kneads, just to get it into a ball shape.
Smear olive oil all around the inside of a nice roomy bowl, pop in your dough, cover with cling film and then leave it somewhere warm for 1½ hours or until doubled in size. (I put mine underneath the kitchen radiator).
Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead for 5 minutes. Return to the bowl, re-cover with cling film and leave in your chosen warm place for a further hour.
Turn the dough out again onto your floured surface and divide into 12 or 18 equal parts, depending on whether you want large or medium-sized buns. Shape each 1 into a ball and pop them onto the baking sheets, flattening them slightly.
Slip the baking sheets into a large polythene bag (I used large shopping bags) making sure that the bag doesn’t touch the buns – they’ll stick! Leave for a further hour until the buns have doubled in size.
Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 220°c / 425°f / gas 7.
To make the crosses, mix together the water and plain flour to make a paste; then spoon into the piping bag.
When the buns have risen, remove from the bags and pipe a cross on top of each one. Pop the buns in the oven bake for 15 – 20 minutes until pale golden brown (I overdid mine a bit!)
Finally, melt the golden syrup in a pan and, whilst the buns are still warm, brush the top of each one to give them a lovely – sticky – shine. Cool on a wire rack and then dig in to your Easter hot cross buns – they are lovely and worth the return trips to the kitchen!
They are not difficult at all, particularly if you have an electric mixer. But they do tie you to the house for quite a while so your schedule needs to be such that you can pop back into the kitchen to complete the 3 stages. Absolutely worth it if you have the time.