Simnel Cake with Homemade Marzipan
It’s Easter and I haven’t made a simnel cake for a couple of years, so it just seemed the right thing to do. Last year I made these Amaretto cupcakes decorated with crystalised primroses which were delicious, but just not quite the same as a proper Easter simnel cake. I do like my traditions.
For me Eastertide food conjures up nostalgic memories of boiled eggs for breakfast, hot cross buns, Easter biscuits, Easter eggs of course but most of all Simnel cake. I love simnel cake, the fruit cake is nice enough, but it’s the way that middle layer of marzipan oozes into the fruit that makes it so special. And then, there is all that lovely marzipan on top complete with eleven luscious balls.
Although simnel cakes were traditionally made for Mother’s Day or by serving girls who were allowed this mid-lenten feast day off, they have become more recently associated with Easter. The eleven marzipan balls on the top of the cake are meant to represent eleven of the twelve apostles, the twelfth being Judas Iscariot who, being a traitor is not deemed worthy of remembering!
I wanted to make something rather different to the Chocolate Simnel Cake I made last time, which although good, was not quite good enough. I managed to burn the marzipan under the grill and I used shop bought marzipan rather than making my own. This time I based my recipe on the one from the Great British Bake Off: How to Bake by Linda Collister. I decided to substitute some milk chocolate chips and my homemade candied citrus peel for the glace cherries in the recipe – mostly because I didn’t have any cherries, but I did also want to use these two ingredients. I also soaked the fruit in some amaretto and lemon juice for a few hours before adding to the cake which I’m hoping will make for a moister and more delicious offering. For the marzipan I thought I’d try Pam Corbin’s recipe from Cake. The last marzipan I made for the battenberg, using a recipe from Bake & Decorate by Fiona Cairns was a bit difficult to work with.
This is how I did it:
- Placed 350g mixed fruit in a bowl and added half a squeezed lemon and a good slug of Amaretto.
- Covered the bowl with a plate and left on top of our storage heater for three hours so the fruit could soak up the liquid – which it did.
- Creamed 175g unsalted butter with 175g light muscovado sugar until very light and fluffy.
- Grated in the zest of a lemon and creamed some more.
- Broke in a large goose egg (probably equivalent to 4 large eggs, which is what the recipe stated) and beat until combined.
- Stirred in 50g ground almonds.
- Sifted in 225g flour (half wholemeal spelt and half white) with 1.5 tsp of baking powder and a pinch of Himalayan pink salt.
- Folded the dry ingredients into the egg mixture and added a couple of tbsp of sour milk (just because I had it, ordinary milk would have been fine).
- Folded in the dried fruit.
- Stirred in 50g chopped milk chocolate (Green&Blacks 34%) and 50g chopped crystallised orange and lemon peel.
- Placed half of the mixture in a 23 cm cake mould.
- Patted out 150g shop bought marzipan (as I had some that needed using up) into a large round and placed it on top of the cake mixture.
- Spooned the remaining mixture on top of the marzipan and leveled the top.
- Baked at 180C for 20 minutes and then turned down the oven to 170C and baked for a further 40 minutes or so.
- Left to cool for a few minutes then turned out onto a wire rack to cool completely.
- Wrapped in greaseproof paper and stored in an airtight tin for a few days.
- Whisked the smallest duck egg I could find with 2 tbsp of orange liqueur in a large bowl.
- Added 125g caster sugar and 250g ground almonds and mixed.
- Sifted in 125g icing sugar and mixed again.
- Turned out onto a work surface and kneaded until soft.
- Divided the mixture into rough halves.
- Rolled the bigger half out into a 23cm circle.
- Brushed the top of the cake with Amaretto and pressed onto the top of the cake.
- Cut of the edges with a knife & scored a diamond pattern on the top.
- Placed under a hot grill for 2 minutes to brown – I was very careful at this point!
- Divided the remaining mixture into 11 equal sized pieces and rolled into balls.
- Placed balls around the edge of the cake.