Easter Simnel Cake

This Easter Classic is from Mary Berry’s Baking Bible.

Making a Simnel cake every Easter has become obligatory. I don’t like marzipan so I don’t even eat it but both Pete and my Dad absolutely love this cake so I have to make it every year. Luckily, as I love to bake at Easter, I’m more than happy with this arrangement. This cake is such a classic and traditional cake for this time of year so and makes me feel festive when baking it.

The marzipan makes it a bit different to make and decorate. The cake is full of fruit and spice, which gives a lovely moist but sturdy cake, packed full of flavour. A layer of marzipan through the centre and the decoration on top, gives the Simnel cake its traditional taste. The balls on the top represent the eleven apostles (not including Judas) so the number of balls is significant to this cake.

Although it may look like it requires a bit more effort, it is actually a really straight forward cake. It’s only the marzipan that takes a bit of styling, but you can choose to do as little or as much as you like in that department.

You can use almond paste instead of marzipan but I’ve never tried it, mainly because Pete loves marzipan so much. I always use golden marzipan instead of white, as the colour is more aesthetically pleasing. The original recipe includes red or natural glace cherries which I always leave out, however that’s obviously your call.

The cake takes two and a half hours to bake so make sure you allow plenty of time to make and bake it. It keeps really well so you can bake it a few days in advance, without worrying that it won’t still be at its prime when you come to eat it.

Ingredients

225g softened butter

225g light muscovado sugar

4 large eggs

225g self-raising flour

225g sultanas

50g chopped candied peel

100g currants

2 tsps ground mixed spice

grated rind of 2 lemons

100g red or natural glace cherries (if you wish to include them)

For the filling and topping

450g almond paste or golden marzipan

2 tbsp apricot jam

1 large egg, beaten, to glaze

  1. Preheat the oven to 150C/130C Fan/Gas 2. Grease a 20 cm deep round tin and line the base and sides with baking parchment.
  2. If you are using cherries, cut them into quarters, put them in a sieve and rinse under running water. Dry them thoroughly on kitchen towel.
  3. Measure all of the other ingredients into a large bowl, including the cherries. Beat well with an electric mixer, until everything is well combined.
  4. Place half of the mixture into the prepared tin and level the surface. Take one-third of the marzipan or almond paste and roll it out into a circle, making it the size of the tin. Place the circle onto the top of the mixture. Spoon the remaining mixture on top and level the surface.
  5. Bake for two and a half hours. After an hour of baking, cover the cake with foil to stop the top browning too quickly. Bake until well risen, evenly brown and firm to touch and a knife, inserted into the cake, comes out clean. The knife may have a slight grease on it from the marzipan but as long as there no cake batter on the knife, it should be baked. Leave to cool in the tin for ten minutes, before turning out onto a cooling rack.
  6. Roll out half of the remaining marzipan or almond paste, to fit the top of the cake. Once the cake is cool, brush the top with a small amount of warmed apricot jam. Firmly press the marzipan on to the top of the cake, and crimp the edges with your fingers to decorate. Using a sharp knife, gently mark a criss-cross pattern on the surface of the marzipan.
  7. Use the rest of the marzipan to form the 11 balls. Brush the almond paste with a beaten egg and arrange the balls around the edge of the cake, brushing the balls with the beaten egg too. Place the cake under a hot grill until the marzipan turns golden.

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