Make a Simnel Cake and decorate it with fresh flowers for a beautiful and delicious addition to your tea table at Easter or at any other time!
Girls in service were often allowed to use leftover dried fruits from Christmas to make gifts to give their mothers on Mothering Sunday. Often they would make a Simnel Cake and decorate it with fresh wild flowers if they could find them. Nowadays Simnel Cake is more often associated with Easter, with the 11 marzipan balls on the top meant to represent the 11 apostles.
Time 1 – 2 hrs
Skill Level Advanced
|For the almond paste or marzipan: (if you want to make your own)|
|250g/9oz caster sugar|
|250g/9oz ground almonds|
|2 free-range eggs, beaten|
|1 tsp almond extract|
|Alternatively, use 500g of ready-made marzipan|
|For the cake:|
|175g/6oz dark muscovado sugar|
|3 free-range eggs, beaten|
|175g/6oz plain flour|
|pinch of salt|
|½ tsp ground mixed spice (optional)|
|350g/12oz mixed raisins, currants and sultanas|
|55g/2oz chopped mixed peel|
|½ lemon, grated zest only|
|1 to 2 Tbsp apricot jam|
|1 free-range egg, beaten for glazing|
For the Marzipan
- Place the sugar and ground almonds in a bowl.
- Add the beaten egg gradually and mix to a fairly soft consistency (you may not need all the egg)
- Add the almond essence and knead for one minute until the paste is smooth and pliable.
- Roll out a third of the almond paste to make a circle 18cm/7in in diameter and reserve the remainder for the cake topping.
For the cake:
- Preheat oven to 140C/275F/Gas 1. Grease and line a 18cm/7in cake tin.
- Cream the butter and sugar together until pale and fluffy.
- Gradually beat in the eggs until well incorporated and then sift in the flour, salt and mixed spice (if using) a little at a time.
- Finally, add the mixed dried fruit, peel and grated lemon zest and stir into the mixture.
- Put half the mixture into a greased and lined 18cm/7in cake tin.
- Smooth the top and cover with the circle of almond paste.
- Add the rest of the cake mixture and smooth the top leaving a slight dip in the centre to allow for the cake to rise.
- Bake in the preheated oven for 1¾ hours. Test by inserting a skewer in the middle – if it comes out clean, it is ready.
- Once baked, remove from the oven and set aside to cool on a wire rack.
- Brush the top of the cooled cake with the jam. warmed or diluted in 1 Tbsp hot water.
- Divide the remainder of the almond paste in half; roll out a circle to cover the top of the cake with one half and form 11 small balls with the other half.
- Place the circle of paste on the jam glaze and set the balls round the edge. Brush the cake topping with a little beaten egg.
- Preheat the grill to high. Place the cake onto a baking tray and grill for 1-2 minutes, or until the top of the marzipan begins to brown.
- Alternatively, lightly heat the cake topping using a cook’s blow torch, until the marzipan is golden-brown.
- Decorate with fresh flowers if you wish