Simnel cake has its origins in March on Mothering Sunday (now known as Mothers’ Day). However, nowadays we think of it as a cake for Easter with the marzipan decoration of 11 balls representing the true disciples excluding Judas.
The marzipan interior makes it really moist. The top marzipan decoration is grilled to preserve it. Don’t be tempted to use bought marzipan, it does not work as well as the home made one in this recipe.
The cake keeps well in an airtight container for at least two weeks and the undecorated cake is best kept for 2 -3 days before decorating.
You will need a deep round 20cm /8in cake tin.
- 175g (6oz} butter
- 175g (6oz) soft light brown sugar
- 3 eggs
- 175g (6oz) plain flour
- 350g (12oz) currants
- 110g (4oz) sultanas
- 75g (3oz) mixed peel
- 1 rounded teaspoon cinnamon
- ½ teaspoon grated nutmeg
- a little milk
- 350g (12oz) caster sugar
- 225g (8oz) ground almonds
- 2 eggs
- Few drops almond extract
- 1 tablespoon apricot jam or glaze
- Decorations of your choice
Line the tin with double thickness of greaseproof paper and grease it. Heat the oven to Gas 3 /170C.
Make the marzipan by combining the sugar and ground almonds with just enough egg to make a firm paste, adding almond extract to taste.
Cake mixture: cream together the butter and sugar. Beat the eggs and beat them in, fold in the flour with the spices. Add the fruits and enough milk to give a dropping consistency. Divide the marzipan into three. Roll out one portion to a circle exactly the size of the tin.
Wrap the remainder to store for decoration.
Put half the cake mixture in the tin, place the marzipan circle on top, then the remaining cake mixture. Moisten the back of your hand with milk and smooth the top.
Place the tin on a baking sheet and bake for 2 to 2 ½ hours or until moderately brown.
Allow the cake to cool in the tin then remove it then store in an airtight container where it can be kept until you want to decorate it.
Decoration: take another portion of marzipan and roll it out to a circle to fit the top of the cake accurately. Brush the top of the cake with heated apricot jam and place the marzipan on it. Divide the remaining almond paste in two, roll out one piece into a long ‘sausage’ to fit exactly round the top of the cake. Fix in position with egg and mark with the back of a table knife. Form the remainder of the marzipan into 11 balls and place them inside the ring.
Brush all the top with beaten egg and grill slowly until evenly golden brown. Watch carefully because it can burn if the grill is too hot.
Decorate as you like. I have used mini eggs, but it could be chicks or flowers.