This delicious simnel cake is the perfect bake with which to celebrate Easter. Rich, fruity and spiced with a layer of gooey marzipan in its centre, and eleven balls of marzipan on top represent the disciples of Jesus, minus Judas. This version also has a marzipan ‘nest’ with tiny chocolate eggs snuggled at the centre.
This is the very first simnel cake I have made, and I chose Mary Berry’s classic recipe to follow, adapted very slightly by using a smaller cake tin, to give a taller bake. I also made a batch of her hot cross buns, also intending to write a post on those, but they were all devoured the very morning they were made! There is little that can beat the aroma of hot cross buns toasting in the oven. Smothered in butter with a cup of hot coffee, they are a gorgeous treat at Easter.
Traditionally made on Good Friday, as mine were, they also gave me a chance to reflect on this special time of year. I was particularly drawn to Mary Berry’s recipes as shown on her televised series this year, Mary Berry’s Easter Feast, as it explored the Christian meaning of Easter. In addition to traditional English recipes, Greek Orthodox, Filipino and Italian Easter recipes were also shared, bringing together many communities at this important time of year for Christians.
For me, Easter is a time of hope. It is a time of light shining through and overcoming the darkness, of change and transformation. It is a time of new beginnings and new creation, made possible through the unending, unchanging and embracing love of God for all people.
I also love spending precious time with family and friends at Easter. This year, we joined Tim’s family for lunch, followed by an Easter egg hunt, and of course – huge wedges of simnel cake enjoyed with tea!
I must give credit to Tim’s sister, Sarah, for the stunning photo of the bluebell. Sarah’s camera is the same as mine, but with a macro lens. It makes such a beautiful difference to up close shots and is definitely an investment I’ll be making soon!
Whatever you did this Easter, I hope it was blessed and full of joy. And even though Easter has passed, there is nothing stopping you making this amazing simnel cake – I’ve already had a request for one for a birthday in a few weeks time!
- 100g natural glacé cherries
- 225g softened buuter
- 225g light muscovado sugar
- 4 large free-range eggs
- 225g self raising flour
- 225g sultanas
- 100g currants
- 50g chopped candied peel
- zest of 2 lemons
- 2 tsp of ground mixed spice
- 500g golden marzipan
- icing sugar, for rolling out the marzipan
- 2 tbsp apricot jam
- 1 large free-range egg, beaten
- small handful of chocolate eggs (I used Mini Eggs)
- length of ribbon (optional)
- Preheat the oven to 130 deg. C (fan) Grease a 7 inch deep round cake tin (Mary used 8 inch, but a smaller tin will give you a taller cake) and then line the base and sides with baking parchment.
- Cut the cherries into quarters and rinse well in sieve. Drain and then dry thoroughly on kitchen paper.
- Beat the butter and sugar together in a large bowl until light. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, to stop the mixture from curdling. Sift in the flour and mix a little at a time. Stir in the fruit, peel, zest and mixed spice until well combined. Spoon half the mixture into the tin and level the surface.
- Cut one third of the marzipan and roll it out on a surface lightly dusted with icing sugar to a circle a bit larger than the tin. Place the tin on top of the marzipan and cut around it with a sharp knife. Place this circle of marzipan on top of the cake mixture. Spoon the remaining cake mixture on top and smooth the surface.
- Bake in the preheated oven for 2 ½ hours until well-risen, brown and firm to touch. If the cake looks too brown after one hour, cover the top with foil. Leave the cake to cool in its tin for 10 minutes then turn out, peel off the parchment and leave to cool on a wire rack (or leave to cool completely in its tin, as I did.)
- When cool, warm the apricot jam in a small saucepan. Brush the top of the cake with some of the jam and roll out half of the remaining marzipan into a circle to fit on top of the cake, in the same way as before. Crimp the edges with your fingers to decorate. Form the remaining marzipan into 12 balls (the 12th ball will be used to create the 'nest.')
- Brush the top of the marzipan with the beaten egg. Arrange 11 balls around the edge of the cake. Brush the tops of the balls with the beaten egg. Using a cook's blowtorch, toast the top of the marzipan and balls (or place under a hot grill.)
- Cut the 12th ball in half and roll into two long ropes. Twist the ropes together and bend into a small circle. Place this in the centre of the cake and top with the chocolate eggs. You may also like to tie a ribbon around the centre of the cake.