From hot cross buns to simnel cake, baking is traditional at Easter. Although I’m away on a holiday having the time of my life but I have to do what I have to do- which is sharing my own learnings, experiences and stories with you all, through this blog. So, here I’ve baked a Easter special Simnel cake for you all to be inspired and get to baking this Easter.
What is a Simnel cake?
As you have already sensed from the ingredients, Simnel cake is an Easter time fruit cake, made with lemon, dried fruits and peel, treacle and marzipan. It turns out that an interesting mythology has formed around this ancient fruity fare. According to many food historians, it is an Easter Cake, baked during the Easter period. Traditionally it has eleven little balls of toasted marzipan on the top that Christians believe alludes to the true deciples of Jesus (Judas doesn’t figure in this equation). You can even put a ball in the centre, just for Jesus, if it pleases you. Others say the Simnel Cake is a post-Lent delicacy, containing all the goodies that you are not allowed to enjoy during the fasting period. One source says, Simnel cake was traditionally given by servant girls to their mothers when they returned home on Mothering Sunday. Hmm…so many stories and so little time to ponder on which could be the true meaning behind the unusually named Simnel Cake. I don’t particularly care where it comes from or what it means, but I do care deeply what it tastes like. I had my first slice of Simnel Cake a few years ago when I was shopping at the Selfridge’s London and went to the cafe in the basement for an afternoon cuppa. I’m not usually a fan of fruit cakes; I can think of so many more tantalising ingredients outside of the dried fruit ouvre. But I have seen the error of my ways people. I have repented. The smell of the Simnel cake hit me first, fresh citrus, a heady mixture of butter, sugar, syrup, dried fruits and marzipan and it tasted even better. So, I thought to give it a try at home especially when it’s the high time! One word of caution- because it is loaded with dry fruits and a marzipan coat, take care with this sweet treat; it packes a sugary punch that could render you entirely useless for hours. And those calories!!! Don’t complain later that I didn’t warn you;)
Let’s bake now
Serves: Everyone in your family gets a bite!
Preparation Time: 1.30 minutes
Ingredients I Used:
100g/4oz glacé cherries
225g/8oz butter, softened
225g/8oz light muscovado sugar (You can use caster sugar alternatively)
4 large eggs
225g/8oz self-raising flour
50g/2oz chopped candied peel
2 lemons, grated zest only
2 tsp ground mixed spice (Cardamom, Cinnamon)
For the filling and topping:
450g/1lb marzipan (I bought readymade this time from my local supermarket, you can make at home too, in another post, I will share how to make marzipan at home)
1-2 tbsp apricot jam, warmed
How I Prepared?
Step One: Preheat the oven to 150C/280F/Gas 2. Grease and line a 20cm/ 8in cake tin.
Step Two: Cut the cherries into quarters, put in a sieve and rinse under running water. Drain well then dry thoroughly on kitchen paper.
Step Three: Place the cherries in a bowl with the butter, sugar, eggs, self-raising flour, sultanas, currants, candied peel, lemon zest and mixed spice and beat well until thoroughly mixed. Pour half the mixture into the prepared tin.
Step Four: Take one-third of the marzipan and roll it out to a circle the size of the tin and then place on top of the cake mixture. Spoon the remaining cake mixture on top and level the surface.
Step Five: Bake in the pre-heated oven for about 2½ hours, or until well risen, evenly brown and firm to the touch. Cover with aluminium foil after one hour if the top is browning too quickly. Leave to cool in the tin for 10 minutes then turn out, peel off the parchment and finish cooling on a wire rack.
Step Six: When the cake is cool, brush the top with a little warmed apricot jam and roll out half the remaining marzipan to fit the top. Press firmly on the top and crimp the edges to decorate. Mark a criss-cross pattern on the marzipan with a sharp knife(only if you want to, I liked mine to be plain surfaced). Form the remaining marzipan into small balls, as many as you like.
Step Seven: Brush the marzipan with beaten egg and arrange the marzipan balls in the centre and around the edge of the cake. Brush the tops of the balls with beaten egg and then carefully place the cake under a hot grill until the top is lightly toasted. This is optional. You can just eat it at this stage without toasting it in the grill.
Top tip: Leftover marzipan can be kept, wrapped in cling film in the fridge, for up to a week for nibbling on when you crave something sweet.
Happy Easter holidays!