Simnel cake is a traditional Easter treat in the UK. Apparently this marzipan-and-fruit cake recipe originated as a cake made for Mothering Sunday, but I've only ever associated it with the Easter holidays. The eleven marzipan balls are to represent Christ's apostles, minus Judas, for obvious reasons.
This may just be the perfect balance for a fruit cake: it's light and fluffy, but every mouthful is packed with lovely, juicy fruit. And I love marzipan, so having a marzipan layer through the middle probably improves any cake...
Most traditional recipes have some lemon or orange zest thrown in, but I didn't have any fruit in the house. This recipe makes a large cake suitable for feeding the whole family, but you can easily scale it to make a smaller quantity.
Simnel Cake Recipe
225g/8oz soft brown sugar
225g/8oz plain flour
2tsp mixed spice (or 1tsp cinnamon and 1tsp ginger)
140g/5oz candied peel
110g/4oz glace cherries (quartered)
- Grease and line an 8in/20cm round cake tin - or cheat like I do, and use a non-stick tin.
- Preheat the oven to 140°C.
- Take one third of the marzipan, knead until soft enough to work, and roll out into an 8in/20cm circle.
- Cream the butter and sugar together, then add the eggs and beat until thoroughly combined.
- Fold in the flour and mixed spice.
- Stir in the dried fruits and mix thoroughly.
- Spoon half of the cake mix into the bottom of the tin. Lay the marzipan circle in the tin on top of the cake mixture, and add the remaining mixture on top.
- Bake for an hour and a half (or until risen and firm) at 140°C, then transfer to a cooling tray to cool.
- Use half of the remaining marzipan to make a circle for the top. Form eleven balls from the remainder, rolling them between your palms to get a nice round shape (I find that I get the best results when I really tense the muscles in my hands). Arrange the balls around the outside of the cake, using a little water to stick them in place.
- Grill the top of the cake at a medium heat until the marzipan begins to brown (it will bubble, and then start to go brown very fast).