Simnel cake

Simnel Cake Recipe


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Simnel cake is firmly rooted in British culinary history; it can be traced all the way back to Medieval times and although it is most commonly associated with Easter, it has also been linked to Mothering Sunday, when Victorian children would bring the cake as a gift. A Simnel cake is essentially a fruit cake – lighter in colour than the very dark Christmas cake, but still packed to the rafters with assorted dried fruits. The cake is baked with a layer of marzipan in the middle, which adds an extra gooey moistness when cooked. Traditionally the cake is decorated with eleven balls of marzipan to represent the twelve disciples (minus Judas), and then grilled to give the golden marzipan a burnished effect. Whether following in these age-old rituals, or just looking for an alternative to chocolate over Easter, this deliciously fruity cake is perfect served with a cup of afternoon tea.

Preheat the oven to 150°C/gas mark 2 and line a deep 20cm round cake tin with baking paper
In a large bowl, beat together the sugar and butter, then add the eggs one by one, beating after each addition. Fold in the flour and mixed spice until the mixture is fully combined
Mix in the nut, dried fruit and zest, so that the fruits and nuts are evenly distributed through the batter, and set the bowl to one side
Lightly dust your work surface with icing sugar and roll out a third of the marzipan to create a circle – slightly smaller than the cake tin
Spoon half of the cake mixture into the cake tin then place the marzipan circle on top. Cover with the remaining mixture and transfer to the oven to bake for approximately 1 hour and 45 minutes. To check the cake is cooked insert a metal skewer into the cake, it should come out clean
After this time, allow the cake to cool in the tin for 10 minutes before turning out and leaving to cool on a wire rack
Roll out half of the remaining marzipan on a dusted surface into a circle, trimming around the cake tin to give you a neat edge. Brush the top of the cake with the apricot jam and stick the marzipan on top. Roll the remaining marzipan into 11 small balls and arrange around the edge of the cake
Use a blowtorch to gently scorch the top of each ball and the middle of the cake to create the finished burnished effect. Alternatively, if you do not have a blowtorch, preheat the grill to high and place the cake under the grill for a few seconds until the top of the marzipan is lightly golden – be careful as it can burn very quickly
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