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Simnel Cake

Introduction & method

Variations of this cake have been around for centuries, but it is a bit scarce these days. A simnel cake is similar to a Christmas fruit cake, but much  less dense and heavy. It has a secret stash of marzipan inside and on the top. The top is also decorated with marzipan balls - eleven of them to represent the Apostles (Judas doesn't get one). The version in this recipe is basically the Lancashire one from Bury. There's also a Shropshire one that includes saffron.

Simnel Cake Recipe

Before You Start

Soak the dried fruit in the brandy and cider (you can sub orange juice if you wish) for a few hours. Line the bottom and sides of a 20cm (8-inch) springform cake tin with greaseproof paper and liberally sprinkle it with flour.

Make the Batter

In a stand mixer (or using an electric or manual one), cream together the softened butter and sugar until it is smooth and a bit paler. Add the eggs, one at a time. Mix the flour and spice together and add half of it to the batter, a spoonful at a time. Then mix in the drained fruit, cherries, lemon juice and zest., followed by the remaining flour and spice.

Preheat your oven to 150°C (302°F) for a fan oven, 170°F (338°F) for a conventional one, gas 3. Pour half of your cake mix into the tin. Cut your marzipan into 3 equal pieces. Sprinkle some icing sugar onto your worktop and roll out one-third of the marzipan into a disc the same diameter as the cake tin - use the tin as a template to get the size right. Lay the marzipan on the cke mix in the tin, and pour the remaining cake mix over it. Place in the oven and bake for 1 hour and 20 minutes. After this time, check it for doneness by inserting a skewer into the centre - if it comes out dry, the cake is done. If not, give it a bit more time.

Decorate the Cake

When the cake is out of the oven, remove from the tin and let it cool. Using a bread knife, cut the top flat. Turn the cake over, so the perfectly flat bottom is now the top. Roll out another third of the marzipan into a disc as before. Spread the top of the cake with apricot jam and lay the marzipan on. Using a steel ruler or palette knife, score a criss-cross pattern in the marzipan. Or, if you like, make radial lines like on a clock. Divide the remaining marzipan into 11 or 12 pieces (some folks, if not doing Judas, will say the twelfth one is Jesus). Roll each piece into a ball and arrange them round the edge of the cake. A little dab of jam on the bottom will help them stick. Finally, place the cake under your grill / broiler for a few minutes to lightly toast the marzipan - keep your eyes on it because it's very easy to burn.

The video above is from the Keef Cooks YouTube channel. Click here to see the video recipe of Simnel Cake on YouTube.


Ingredients & Info

 225 grams self-raising flour
 2 tsp mixed spice
 450 grams dried mixed fruit
 100 grams glacé cherries
 3 eggs
 175 grams softened butter
 2 tbsp brandy
 half a cup cider
 175 grams light muscovado or demerara sugar
 450 grams marzipan
 2 tbsp apricot jam

US Customary/Imperial

Makes  1 20cm (8-inch) cake
Prep time: 10 minutes.
Cooling time: 30 minutes.
Cooking time: 1 hour 20 minutes.
Total time: 2 hours.