Why not make this delicious fruit cake for Easter? As you probably know, simnel cake was originally baked for Mothering Sunday in the middle of Lent; girls in service would make one to take home to their mothers. I love it because it’s a fruit cake and lends itself to being baked slowly in the Aga, which makes for a very moist cake. Then there’s the marzipan which I adore almost as much as chocolate, and that’s saying something.
Last year my son’s lovely girlfriend made us a simnel cake, so we had two. No-one was complaining. The only problem for me was that she raised the bar and made her own marzipan, and now my youngest son says he doesn’t like shop-bought marzipan at all and suggested I make mine too. It really isn’t difficult and actually doesn’t take very long if you have a food processor.
This will make more than you need for the cake but I adore marzipan and was happy to have some left over. Disclosure: marzipan quantities given here are approximate. The balls on top can be as big or small as you like. The top circle can be as thick as you like. If you don’t want to make your own, I suggest you buy a 450g packet of marzipan.
- 450g icing sugar
- 450g ground almonds
- 2 eggs
- 1 1/2 tsps brandy
- Juice of a lemon
- 1/2 tsp almond extract
- Simply blitz all the ingredients in a food processor until it’s come together nicely
- Tip this out onto a dusting of icing sugar on your worktop and knead it for a bit
- Flatten it slightly, wrap it in clingfilm and put it in the fridge until you’re ready to use it
I used a Mary Berry recipe except that instead of placing a circle of marzipan in the middle of the cake, I folded small pieces of it into the mixture, à la Delia’s recipe.
- 100g natural glacé cherries
- 225g softened butter
- 225g light muscovado sugar
- 4 large eggs
- 225g self-raising flour
- 225g sultanas
- 100g currants
- 50g chopped candied peel
- Zest of a lemon (MB says 2 lemons, but I didn’t want it too lemony)
- 2 level tsps mixed spice
- 200g marzipan, cut into small squares or rolled into balls and tossed in a little flour
- 225g marzipan
- 2 tablespoons of apricot jam
- 1 large egg, beaten, to glaze
- Pre-heat a conventional oven to150ºC/Fan 130ºC/Gas 2
- Grease a 20cm deep round cake tin, then line the base and sides with baking parchment or bake-o-glide
- Put the cherries in a sieve, rinse under running water, drain and dry on kitchen paper. Cut into quarters
- Measure all the cake ingredients into a large mixing bowl, except for the fruit and marzipan, and beat well until thoroughly blended. (I used my KitchenAid.) Fold the fruit into this mixture and then finally the pieces of marzipan.
- Spoon the mixture into your prepared tin and level the surface.
- Bake in a conventional oven for about 2.5 hours or the Aga simmering oven for 4-5 hours. This really depends on your Aga. The important thing is the cake is coming away from the sides a little, is well risen, evenly brown and firm to the touch.
- Leave to cool in the tin for 15-30 minutes. When the cake is completely cool, brush the top with a little warmed apricot jam and roll out marzipan to make a circle to fit the top. Press firmly on the top and crimp the edges to decorate. (You will see from my photos I made a bad job of this. You will do better.) Mark a criss-cross pattern on the marzipan with a sharp knife. Form the remaining marzipan into 11 balls (representing the apostles minus Judas).
- Brush the almond paste with beaten egg and arrange the balls around the edge of the cake. Brush the tops of the balls with beaten egg and then place the cake in the roasting oven (or under the grill) for 3 or 4 minutes, near the top, to turn the marzipan golden.