Decorate this Easter simnel cake with the traditional marzipan balls, plus some mini eggs to make it even more festive.
Simnel cake is an Easter staple - though it was originally associated with Simnel Sunday (the last Sunday of Lent). The eleven marzipan balls represent Jesus' apostles, minus Judas Iscariot who betrayed him. Chocolate eggs don't usually feature, but we do find kids like the cake even more when they do. This dense and fruit sponge needs to bake for a long time - at least 1 hour 40 minutes. However, the prep is quite simple. Because you bake a layer of marzipan into the middle of the cake, there's no call for slicing it in half for a filling, like many sponges.
For this Easter recipe (opens in new tab) you will need:
- 230g plain flour
- 1½ tsp baking powder
- A good pinch of salt
- 175g unsalted butter, softened
- 175g soft light brown muscovado sugar
- 4 large free-range eggs, beaten to mix
- 50g ground almonds
- 350g mixed dried fruit
- 100g glacé cherries, rinsed, dried and halved
- 100g bar dark chocolate, roughly chopped
- 2 tbsp milk
- 450g white marzipan
- A little apricot jam or sherry for brushing
- Mini Easter eggs
- Heat the oven to 180°C/350°F/Gas mark 4. Grease and line a 20.5cm (8") round, deep cake tin or springform. Sift the flour, baking powder and salt on to a sheet of greaseproof paper and set aside until needed.
- Beat the butter and sugar until light and fluffy; you can use a wooden spoon or an electric whisk or mixer. Gradually beat in the eggs, beating well after each addition and adding the ground almonds with the last egg. Using a large metal spoon, fold in the flour followed by the dried fruit, cherries, chocolate and milk. When thoroughly combined, spoon half of the mixture into the prepared tin and spread evenly.
- Roll-out one third of the marzipan to a circle slightly smaller than the tin. Set in on top of the cake the cover with the rest of the cake mixture. Spread it evenly then make a slight hollow in the centre so the cake rises evenly.
- Bake in the centre of the oven for 30 mins then reduce the oven temperature to 170°C (gas mark 3) and bake for a further 1 hr-1h 10 mins or until a skewer inserted in to the centre of the cake, just down to the marzipan layer, comes out clean. Leave to cool on a wire rack then remove from the tin and discard the lining paper.
- Roll out two-thirds of the remaining marzipan to a circle to fit the top of the cake. Brush the top of the cake with a little warm apricot jam or sherry and set the marzipan disc on top. Shape the rest of the marzipan into 11 balls and arrange around the edge. Fill the centre with miniature Easter eggs and finish with a ribbon around the cake.
Top tip for making this Easter simnel cake
If your cake sinks a little in the middle when you bake it, you can flip it over before you decorate the top, so you have a a nice flat surface for the marzipan.
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