Simnel cake is traditionally served at Easter and has been a firm favourite since the 17th Century when it was popular as a Mothering Sunday gift.
A Simnel cake was often used to celebrate the end of the 40 days of Lent.
Simnel comes from the Latin word Similia, which means wheaten flour, which is of course what the cake was traditionally made from.
Simnel cakes are usually round, covered in marzipan and decorated with 11 marzipan balls or figures; these represent the 11 disciples - excluding Judas Iscariot for fairly obvious reasons! Often the cake will also have a layer of marzipan in the middle.
OK, so how do you make a Simnel cake?
- 110g of butter or margarine
- 3 beaten eggs
- 1 beaten egg for the glaze
- 110g brown sugar
- 150g of plain flour
- pinch of salt
- 350g of mixed raisins, currants and sultanas
- 55g of chopped, mixed peel
- grate the rind from half a lemon
- 1 to 2 tablespoons of apricot jam
- half a teaspoon of ground spice
- 250g marzipan
- Roll out a third of the marzipan to make a circle of about 18cm in diameter.
- Set aside the remaining marzipan for the Simnel cake top
- Cream the butter and sugar until becomes pale and fluffy.
- Beat the eggs and mix in the flour, salt and spice.
- Add the dried fruit, peel and grated lemon; stir into the mixture
- Grease and line an 18" cake tin
- Spoon in half of the cake mixture and smooth the top
- Add a layer of marzipan
- Add the remaining cake mixture and smooth the top
- Leave a small depression in the top of the cake; this will ensure that it rises evenly
- Place in a pre-heated oven (1800C or gas mark 3) for 1.5 hours
- Remove from the oven ad place on a cake rack to cool
Decorating the Simnel cake
- Brush the yop of the cake with apricot jam
- Roll the marzipan into a circle and place on top of the cake
- Position 11 marzipan balls on the cake (if you feel adventurous you could make some figures)
- Brush the marzipan with beaten egg and place the cake in an oven for 10 minutes or until the marzipan turns a light brown colour
... and that's it ... you've made your first Simnel cake!