Traditional Simnel Cake Recipe

In our house a traditional Simnel cake is more ubiquitous at Easter than a fruit cake is at Christmas, we love its marzipan sweetness, such a treat after Lent.  Whether you prefer a layer of marzipan in the middle or pieces of marzipan in the cake mix, like in this recipe, is a question of personal taste, but the traditional marzipan balls on top representing Jesus' disciples are ubiquitous (one is omitted because of Judas' betrayal).  Do have a go at making your own this Easter, it's simpler than it looks!

Simnel Cake


For the marzipan:

250g caster sugar
250g ground almonds
2 eggs, beaten
1 teaspoon of almond extract

For the cake:

110g unsalted butter
3 eggs, beaten
110g soft brown sugar
150g plain flour
Pinch of salt
350g mixed raisins, currants and sultanas (or use prunes, cranberries, apricots or dates for a fruity twist)
55g candied mixed peel
1 teaspoon orange extract
2 tablespoons apricot jam
1 teaspoon ground mixed spice
½ teaspoon ground clove
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

For the glaze:

1 egg, beaten


For the marzipan:

1. Pre heat the oven to 140C.  Grease and line an 18cm cake tin.

2. Place the sugar and ground almonds in a bowl with 2 beaten eggs and mix.

3. Add the almond essence and knead for a minute. The paste should become smooth and soft.

4. Divide the marzipan into 3 equal portions.

For the cake:

1. Cream the butter and sugar until it becomes pale and fluffy.

2. Slowly beat in the eggs, a little at a time.

3. Sift in the flour, salt and the spices; mix well.

TIP: Dust the dried fruit, peel and grated lemon rind in plain flour. Shake off the excess flour in a sieve. This will ensure the fruit doesn’t sink to the bottom of the cake mix during cooking.

4. Stir the dried fruit, peel and rind and essence into the mixture.

5. Cut or break up one third of the marzipan into small chunks and fold into the cake mix.

6. Spoon out the Simnel cake mixture and smooth over the top.

7. Leave a small dip in the centre of the cake mixture to allow the cake to rise evenly.

8. Place in the pre-heated oven for one hour and thirty minutes.

9. Remove from the oven and place on a cake rack to cool.

10. Brush the top of the cooled cake with apricot jam.

11. Roll out the second third of the marzipan to 18cm and cover the top of the cake.

12. Split the final third of marzipan into 11 equal pieces and roll into balls.

13. Place the 11 marzipan balls around the edge of the cake and glaze with beaten egg.

14. Put the cake under a hot grill to brown the top of the cake slightly.

15. Leave to cool then serve with a dollop of crème fraiche or cream.

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Recipe courtesy of Steenbergs

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