Meal Type: Dessert
Cook time: 4 Hours
Servings: 1 Large Cake
Find a video version of this recipe at the bottom of the page!
A light traditional fruit cake recipe, associated with Lent, Mothering Sunday and Easter. It combines marzipan, a light dusting of spice and generous helpings of dried fruit. Decorated with 11 balls of marzipan and as many yellow feather chicks as you like! Prep in advance and let it rest before dressing!
The Simnel Cake has a history crossed with different influences and tales of its origins. Some say that the boiled then baked recipes are so because of a couple called Simon and Nelly fought about how to make it. Only coming to the compromise of the dual method after giving each other a whack with various utensils!
It was however strongly linked to the time between mothering Sunday and Easter. It was often carefully prepared and carried home by young men & women in service, to their families for when food was scarce or for whom fasting was over.
Photo credits go to @stevecooksbakesmakes, who is a regular contributor to our Baking guide. Although he does admit to losing one of the marzipan spheres! The balls on the top are meant to represent the 11 faithful disciples of Jesus.
This recipe is the perfect fit for our Round Cake Tin with even heat distribution, a large surface area, and excellent conductivity.
NOTE: You can prep your fruit ahead of time, soaking it in a little booze or orange juice. We would advise using cake strips with this recipe, as it is a long bake and may burn on the outside, combine this with a cold shelf to shield the top for the last 40 mins of baking.
- 225g softened butter
- 225g light brown sugar
- 3 Free range eggs - beaten
- 190g Finest plain flour
- 35g Of ground almonds
- 2 Tsp of ground mixed spice
- A pinch of salt
- The zest of 2 oranges & lemons
- >250g Of small mixed fruit (raisins, sultanas, currants..)
- 100g Of dried Cherries & nuts coarsely chopped (lightly toast nuts first)
- Apricot jam for gluing marzipan
2. Make your marzipan by combining all ingredients in a food processor or kneading into a dough, wrap and chill for two hours minimum. Or pop to the shops and buy 500g worth!
3. Lightly toast your nuts until golden, roughly chop with the cherries once cooled
4. In one bowl sieve in your flour, and then combine all your dry ingredients - set this aside
5. This stage will make sure that your cake is 'lighter' - Your butter must be soft. Whip up your butter and sugar so that they are light and creamy. Most satisfying when whipped to peaks in a food processor - this is why I love my kitchen aid, shameless cheat! Add your zest towards the end to release some scented citrus oils
6. Gradually combine this butter mix with your beaten eggs, by adding them bit by bit and beating well
7. Now combine all your dry ingredients with your butter mix, cherries and nuts. Add a little milk if you need to loosen the batter, just a dash. Or the booze from your fruit if you soaked it. Do not over beat, the gluten in the flour will be unforgiving and your bake will be denser than you deserve!
8. Cut your chilled marzipan into 3, take one third and roll into a circle the same diameter as your cake tin. Use a light dusting of icing sugar when rolling. Spoon half the cake mix into your prepped tin, lay the marzipan down on top of this, and cover with the remaining batter.
9. When your cake is fully cooled and rested, on a rack, you can dress it. Or wrap in parchment and keep in an airtight container until you are ready.
10. Set aside some apricot jam to melt on the back of your hob. Roll out one third of your marzipan into a disk for the top of the cake (Use a light dusting of icing sugar when rolling). Take the other third and roll it in your palms to make your 'disciples' x 11.
10. Lay your disc and balls down, gluing them with the apricot jam. Grill for a short time (and yes you can grill in an Aga range cooker, here is how!) until the top is golden brown and caramelised.
This is a long bake, the cake is cooked through when a skewer leaves the centre clean & the top a pleasing nutty brown. Use a cold shelf to shield the top from burning. It should take 4-5 hours in the simmering oven.
Steve's tip! - "You must double line the tin as the cooking time is so long, it can burn. I also baked it on the grid on the floor of the baking oven so it was slowly done. A tip I’ve used occasionally from an old cooking teacher is to place ‘long baked’ cakes in a shallow tin of silver or fine sand whilst they’re baking, it really does stop burning – the cooks used to use this technique on the old ranges. But obviously it’s a bit of a speciality tip and even I don’t always have sand to hand (haha)!"
Denise (Blake & Bull community member) bakes hers for 5-6 hours, you can see her pre-dressed bakes in our Gallery of Bakes!