This being Easter weekend, and us celebrating everything with a good cake, this time of year we get Simnel cake. Although, saying that, my researches indicate that we’re a few weeks late. Apparently Simnel cakes were originally eaten on Mothering Sunday, the fourth Sunday of Lent. Oops! But, better late than never, right?
Anyway. No one knows how or why or even when – we have some mediaeval references – about the beginning of Simnel cake traditions, but really? Who needs a reason? Cake is surely reason enough!
Now, traditionally, Simnel cake is made with lots of marzipan, and not just layered on top, but baked throughout as well. But, if, like me, you know people who weirdly don’t like marzipan, just stick it on top and tell them to peel it off and give it to you. So much easier than having to dig it out of the cake! Or, of course, have more cake yourself.
In these days of hoarding, you might need to get a little creative with the ingredients. I did myself.
225g marzipan (I skipped this altogether; see above re: people not liking it)
225g plain flour
1 tsp baking powder (I used 3, following instructions on the packet)
1 tsp mixed spice
175g butter, softened (solid coconut milk)
175g golden caster sugar
3 large eggs (3 large tbsp apple sauce)
3 tbsps milk (liquid coconut milk)
500g preferred dried fruit (I used lots of candied peel and freeze-dried strawberries. And chocolate chips)
50g chopped almonds
zest of 1 orange and 1 lemon (I just splashed in some juice)
More marzipan (about 300g)
Mini eggs/Easter chicks/sugared flowers
How to Bake:
Preheat your oven to 150C/Gas Mark 2 and line a baking tin. Ideally it should be a 20cm one, but I’ve used a 23cm one, so something about that size.
If you’re using marzipan, you get a choice. You can either cut it into chunks, or you can roll it into a baking-tin-sized layer.
Sieve the flour, baking powder and mixed spice into a large mixing bowl. Beat in the butter, sugar and eggs, then whisk in the milk.
Carefully fold in the dried fruits and almonds and add in the lemon and orange zest. It’s at this point that you add in marzipan chunks. Hold your horses if you want the layer-option.
Tip into tin. If you want the layer-option for the marzipan, tip half of the mixture into the tin, spread it out, place the marzipan on top, and then pour the other half on top.
Bake for about two and a half hours, until firm and springy and a knife comes out clean, etc.
Decorating’s probably quite straightforward, given the items at hand. Roll the marzipan into a circle; place carefully on top. It shouldn’t cover the sides. Decorate as desired.