The Simnel cake is a traditional Easter fruit cake but have you ever made one? Not only is Simnel cake delicious, and the best fruity option for those who are a little, well, bored of chocolate, it's also great with a cuppa. Topped with homemade almond paste, a traditional Simnel cake is meant to include 11 balls of marzipan to represent the number of faithful disciples. So, make sure you count those correctly. Also, the cake needs 1-2 days of soaking, so be prepared and get baking in time for the Easter bank holiday weekend.
Ready in 2 hours 30 minues (plus 2 days soaking)
For the cake
1kg mixed dried fruit
200g glacé cherries, halved
100ml dark rum or brandy
150g Tate & Lyle Light Soft Brown Sugar
4 large eggs, beaten
200g plain flour
2tsp ground mixed spice
75g ground almonds
Finely grated zest and juice of 1 lemon
Finely grated zest and juice of 1 small orange
250g ground almonds
250g Tate & Lyle Icing Sugar
1 large egg white, lightly beaten
1tsp lemon juice
2tbsp sieved apricot jam
1. Put the dried fruit and glacé cherries into a large mixing bowl. Pour over boiling water to cover, then soak for 5 minutes. Drain thoroughly through a colander. Tip the fruit back into the bowl and stir in the dark rum or brandy. Cover and leave in a cool place for up to 2 days, though at least overnight.
2. Position an oven shelf in the centre of the oven, with space for the cake. Preheat the oven to 150°C (fan oven 130°C, Gas Mark 2). Grease and line a 20cm round cake tin with baking paper.
3. In a very large mixing bowl, beat together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, using a hand-held electric mixer or wooden spoon. Gradually add the beaten eggs, beating well between each addition.
4. Sift the flour, salt and ground mixed spice into the mixing bowl. Use a large metal spoon to fold the ingredients together – ditch the wooden spoon and avoid beating the mixture at this stage. You need to treat it gently.
5. Add the ground almonds with the grated zest and juice from the lemon and orange. Remember to take care when you grate the zest from citrus fruit – you just want the coloured part. If you grate into the white pith you will be adding bitterness, rather than flavour.
6. Give the soaked dried fruit a stir, then tip it into the cake mixture, along with any residual liquid. Stir it in thoroughly.
7. Tip the mixture into the cake tin and level the top. Bake for 2 hours. Test that the cake is cooked by inserting a fine skewer into the centre – it should come out clean. Stand the cake on a wire rack and leave it to cool in the tin. When cold, remove from the tin and wrap in baking paper. Store in an airtight tin, or decorate immediately.
8. For the almond paste, mix the almonds and icing sugar together. Add the egg white and lemon juice, mix to a stiff paste, and knead until smooth. Roll out half this almond paste on a surface dusted with icing sugar and trim to a 20cm circle. Brush the surface of the cake with warm apricot jam and position the almond paste on top. Score a criss-cross pattern over the surface with a skewer.
9. Roll the remaining paste into 11 equal-sized balls and position them around the cake. Grill lightly, or use a cook’s blowtorch to lightly brown the surface. Tie a ribbon around the cake, to decorate, then serve.
Recipe and photo credit: Tate and Lyle Sugars
Do you bake a Simnel cake at Easter? Share your tips for baking one in the comments box below.