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Simnel Cake

by . Featured in FEAST
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Introduction

Originally, this cake was made for Mothering Sunday, but it has for a long, long time been an essential Easter confection, the marzipan balls on top representing the apostles: eleven in total as, for understandable reasons, Judas is persona non grata.

I make this a very light fruit cake, totally different in taste and texture from the damp, dark offerings of Christmas.

Originally, this cake was made for Mothering Sunday, but it has for a long, long time been an essential Easter confection, the marzipan balls on top representing the apostles: eleven in total as, for understandable reasons, Judas is persona non grata.

I make this a very light fruit cake, totally different in taste and texture from the damp, dark offerings of Christmas.

Simnel Cake
Photo by James Merrell

Ingredients

Makes: at least 11 slices

Metric Cups
  • 100 grams glace cherries
  • 500 grams mixed dried fruit
  • 175 grams soft unsalted butter
  • 175 grams caster sugar
  • zest of 1 lemon
  • 225 grams plain flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ¼ teaspoon ground ginger
  • 25 grams ground almonds
  • 3 large eggs
  • 2 tablespoons milk
  • 1 kilogram yellow marzipan to decorate
  • icing sugar for rolling
  • 1 tablespoon apricot jam (melted)
  • 1 egg white (optional)
  • ½ cup candied cherries
  • 3½ cups mixed dried fruit
  • 12 tablespoons soft unsalted butter
  • 1 cup superfine sugar
  • zest of 1 lemon
  • 1½ cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ¼ teaspoon ground ginger
  • ¼ cup almond meal
  • 3 large eggs
  • 2 tablespoons milk
  • 2½ pounds yellow marzipan to decorate
  • confectioners' sugar for rolling
  • 1 tablespoon apricot jam (melted)
  • 1 egg white (optional)

Method

  1. Take everything you need out of the fridge so it can get to room temperature. Preheat the oven to gas mark 3/170°C/325°F. Butter and line the bottom and sides of a 20cm / 8 inch springform cake tin with a double layer of brown baking paper. Chop the cherries very finely and add them to the rest of the fruit.
  2. Cream the butter and sugar until very soft and light, and add the lemon zest. You could do this by hand, just with bowl and wooden spoon, but I own up to using my freestanding mixer here. But it’s not crucial, not least because the intention with fruit cakes is not to whip air into them. Measure the flour, baking powder, cinnamon, ginger and ground almonds into a bowl and stir to combine.
  3. Add 1 of the eggs to the creamed butter and sugar with 2 tablespoons of the dry flour-and-spice ingredients, then beat in the remaining eggs in the same way. Beat in the rest of the dry ingredients, and then the milk. Finally fold in the fruit.
  4. Dust a surface with a little icing sugar and then roll out about 400g / 14oz of the marzipan. Cut it into a 20cm / 8 inch circle which will fit in the middle of the cake later. Spoon half of the fruit cake mixture into the cake tin, smoothing it down with a rubber spatula, and then lay the marzipan circle on top of it. Spoon the rest of the mixture into the tin on top of the marzipan circle and smooth the top again. Bake for half an hour and then turn the oven down to gas mark 2/150°C/300°F for another 1½ hours or until the cake has risen and is firm on top. Let it cool completely on a rack before you spring it open.
  5. Unspring the cooled fruit cake, and unwrap the lining from the cake. Roll out another 400g / 14oz circle of marzipan, paint the top of the cake with the melted apricot jam,and then stick it on.
  6. Make 11 apostle balls out of the remaining marzipan, roughly 2.5cm / 1 inch in size. Beat the egg white – just till it’s a bit frothy and loosened up a little, no more – and use that as glue to stick the apostles around the edge of the cake.
  7. Now for the bit I love, but you can ignore altogether. Paint the whole of the cake with egg white, and then blow-torch the marzipan so that it scorches slightly, giving a beauteously burnished look.
  1. Take everything you need out of the fridge so it can get to room temperature. Preheat the oven to gas mark 3/170°C/325°F. Butter and line the bottom and sides of a 20cm / 8 inch springform cake tin with a double layer of brown baking paper. Chop the cherries very finely and add them to the rest of the fruit.
  2. Cream the butter and sugar until very soft and light, and add the lemon zest. You could do this by hand, just with bowl and wooden spoon, but I own up to using my freestanding mixer here. But it’s not crucial, not least because the intention with fruit cakes is not to whip air into them. Measure the flour, baking powder, cinnamon, ginger and almond meal into a bowl and stir to combine.
  3. Add 1 of the eggs to the creamed butter and sugar with 2 tablespoons of the dry flour-and-spice ingredients, then beat in the remaining eggs in the same way. Beat in the rest of the dry ingredients, and then the milk. Finally fold in the fruit.
  4. Dust a surface with a little confectioners' sugar and then roll out about 400g / 14oz of the marzipan. Cut it into a 20cm / 8 inch circle which will fit in the middle of the cake later. Spoon half of the fruit cake mixture into the cake tin, smoothing it down with a rubber spatula, and then lay the marzipan circle on top of it. Spoon the rest of the mixture into the tin on top of the marzipan circle and smooth the top again. Bake for half an hour and then turn the oven down to gas mark 2/150°C/300°F for another 1½ hours or until the cake has risen and is firm on top. Let it cool completely on a rack before you spring it open.
  5. Unspring the cooled fruit cake, and unwrap the lining from the cake. Roll out another 400g / 14oz circle of marzipan, paint the top of the cake with the melted apricot jam,and then stick it on.
  6. Make 11 apostle balls out of the remaining marzipan, roughly 2.5cm / 1 inch in size. Beat the egg white – just till it’s a bit frothy and loosened up a little, no more – and use that as glue to stick the apostles around the edge of the cake.
  7. Now for the bit I love, but you can ignore altogether. Paint the whole of the cake with egg white, and then blow-torch the marzipan so that it scorches slightly, giving a beauteously burnished look.

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