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Easter Simnel Cake

You can not Celebrate Easter without the good old Simnel Cake! Happy memories of making this with my late Grandmother and learning the story behind the cake and it's meaning. Simnel cake has been eaten since medieval times as both a rich, sweet treat and a symbolic ritual. The fruit cake is topped with eleven marzipan balls to represent the eleven apostles of Christ, minus of course Judas, who portrayed Christ. Here is my take on this ancient Cake, hope you enjoy with a good cup of Cornish Tea.


180g sultanas

2 tsp mixed peel

180g soft unsalted butter

180g caster sugar

zest of 1 lemon

180g plain flour

1 tsp baking powder

½ tsp ground cinnamon

½ tsp kosher salt

1 tsp mixed spice

25g ground almonds

3 large organic free range eggs

2 tbsp whole milk

1 kg yellow marzipan to decorate

icing sugar for rolling

1 tablespoon apricot jam (warmed in a saucepan)


1. Firstly take everything you need out of the fridge so it can get to room temperature, then pre-heat the oven to 170°C.

2. Now butter and line the bottom and sides of a 20cm / 8 inch spring form cake tin with a double layer of brown baking parchment.

3. In a separate bowl, weigh out the fruit and combine the mixed peel. Cream the butter and sugar in a separate mixing bowl until very soft and light, then add the lemon zest. You can do this by hand, just with bowl and spatula, however, I find it much easier using my Kitchen Aid stand mixer.

4. Measure the flour, baking powder, cinnamon, mixed spice, salt and ground almonds into a bowl and stir to combine. Add 1 of the eggs to the creamed butter and sugar with 2 tablespoons of the dry ingredients, then beat in the remaining eggs in the same way. Mix in the rest of the dry ingredients, and then the milk. Finally fold in the fruit with mixed peel.

5. Dust a surface with a little icing sugar and then roll out about 400g of the yellow marzipan. Cut this into a 20cm / 8 inch circle which will fit in the middle of the cake later. This gives your Simnel cake that gorgeous almond taste and soft moist texture in the middle of the cake.

6. Spoon half of the fruit cake mixture into the cake tin, smoothing it down with a non-stick spatula, and then carefully 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.

7. Bake for half an hour and then turn the oven down to 150°C for another 1½ hours or until the cake has risen. The cake at this point should come away from the edge of the tin slightly and be springy on the top to touch. Let it cool completely in the tin before you spring it open.

8. Un-spring the cooled fruit cake, and unwrap the parchment lining from the cake. Roll out another 400g circle of marzipan, in a saucepan slightly warm the Apricot jam and then brush the top of the cake with the jam, then stick it on the very top of the cake.

9. Make 11 apostle balls out of the remaining marzipan, roughly 2.5cm 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. Another alternative is to use cooks edible glue. 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, This gives the whole cake that classic, beauteously burnished look. Also I like to decorate the middle with edible flowers to make it that extra special Spring / Easter finnish. Ansome!

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