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Simnel Cake with Homemade Marzipan

Simnel Cake

Easter, Large Cakes | 5th April 2012 | By

This luscious simnel cake is a light fruit cake laden with homemade marzipan. As tradition dictates, it has a surprise squidgy layer of marzipan in the middle and a layer on top. It’s then decorated with eleven large balls of the stuff. Less traditionally, the cake contains pieces of chocolate. Scrumptious.

I love marzipan, so I get very excited when I start to see Simnel cake posts appearing on the blogosphere around Mother’s Day. It’s Easter now and I haven’t made a simnel cake for a couple of years, so it just seems 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.

Simnel Cake 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 cake as it cooks 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 is Judas Iscariot who, being a traitor, is not deemed worthy of remembering!

Simnel Cake with Homemade Marzipan

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.

Homemade Candied Orange Peel

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. The chocolate bits seem to enhance the flavour and combine particularly well with the marzipan.

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.

Soaking the Fruit

It’s not strictly necessary to soak the dried fruit before mixing up the cake. But it does give it a more delicious dimension and it makes the cake moister too. I soaked the fruit for this cake in Amaretto and lemon juice. But you could use the alcohol or fruit juice of your choice. Orange juice works well. It’s best to soak it overnight if possible. You can, however, leave it in a warm place, such as the airing cupboard and the fruit will soak up the liquid in a much shorter time.

Homemade Marzipan

Homemade marzipan is so much nicer than any marzipan I’ve bought. It’s not as sweet and has more almonds in it. It’s made with raw egg, but because there’s so much sugar in it, it will keep for a few weeks without going off. You’ll need to make the marzipan for this simnel cake when you make the cake as you need to bake a layer into the middle. But that’s fine as the rest will keep happily in the fridge until you’re ready to decorate the cake. Once decorated, it will keep at room temperature for a week or so.

You can, of course, substitute shop bought marzipan for homemade. You will need 500g.

Browning the Marzipan

The cake looks best (in theory) if it’s bronzed a little. But take care when grilling. Like King Alfred, I have, unfortunately been known to burn my cake. In fact, I’m inclined to just leave the grill well alone next time as the marzipan top looked better before it went in than after. Alternatively, you could use a cook’s blow torch if you have one.

Simnel Cake - prior to being topped with marzipan.

Appearance aside, I have to say that marzipan is absolutely delicious. Indeed, I had a very hard time stopping myself eating too much of it. But despite the urge to munch I did have 100g left over from the amount I made, so I will resist temptation and keep it for something else.

Easter Update 14 April

Easter this year proved to be a rather hectic affair, but also rather an enjoyable one. Not really having been able to do much down at our plot in recent months, we had plenty of catching up to do. Plus we had old friends visiting over the four days who we were also looking forward to catching up with. So, we spent the mornings down at our plot, digging, tidying, mowing, having a bonfire and planting the potatoes and the afternoons with our friends, walking, talking and visiting lovely places – oh, and did I say eating?
For Easter tea on Sunday, we went to my mother’s. She had made her usual simnel cake and decorated it most beautifully, so I really wanted to show her efforts here. My mother always uses Mrs Beaton’s recipe, so it’s almost the very cake I grew up with, which is just as it should be.
My Mother's Beautifully Decorated Simnel Cake

The Simnel Cake I made went with us to friends for tea on Easter Monday. I wish I’d taken pictures of their lovely spread which included some delicious chocolate brownies topped with clotted cream and raspberries. After eating egg on home made bread, home made scones with home made jam and clotted cream and a brownie, we were all too full to really appreciate my cake. Having said that, the cake was deliciously moist and made a good impression on all that partook of it. Still quite a bit of it came back home with us and is, in fact, still keeping us going.

Other Easter Recipes You Might Like

If none of these recipes do it for you, I have a few more ideas in my Easter Recipes category.

Keep in Touch

Thanks for visiting Tin and Thyme. If you make this simnel cake with or without the homemade marzipan, I’d love to hear about it in the comments below. Do share photos on social media too and use the hashtag #tinandthyme, so I can spot them.

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Simnel Cake. PIN IT.

Simnel Cake with homemade marzipan.

Simnel Cake with Home Made Marzipan – The Recipe

Simnel Cake
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5 from 1 vote

Simnel Cake with Homemade Marzipan

A light fruit cake laden with homemade marzipan. As tradition dictates, it has a surprise squidgy layer of marzipan in the middle and a layer on top. It's then decorated with eleven large balls of the stuff. Less traditionally, the cake contains pieces of chocolate. Scrumptious.
Prep Time1 hr
Cook Time1 hr
Soaking Time8 hrs
Total Time10 hrs
Course: Afternoon Tea
Cuisine: British
Keyword: cake, chocolate, Easter, fruit cake, marzipan, Mother's Day
Servings: 12 people

Ingredients

Cake

  • 350 g mixed dried fruit
  • 1 organic lemon - zest and juice
  • slug of Amaretto
  • 175 g unsalted butter - softened
  • 175 g light muscavado sugar
  • 4 large eggs (I used a goose egg)
  • 50 g ground almonds
  • 225 g wholemeal spelt flour - or use half plain and half wholemeal
  • 1 ½ tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp mixed spice
  • pinch of Himalayan pink salt
  • 2 tbsp milk (I used sour milk)
  • 50 g chocolate - chopped (I've used a dark milk chocolate, but have also found dark chocolate works well too)
  • 50 g crystallised orange and lemon peel - chopped (I used homemade)

Marzipan

  • 1 medium egg (I used a small duck egg)
  • 2 tbsp orange liqueur or juice
  • 125 g caster sugar
  • 250 g ground almonds
  • 125 g icing sugar

Instructions

Cake

  • Place the fruit in a bowl and squeeze in the juice from half a lemon. Add a good slug of Amaretto.
  • Cover the bowl with a plate and leave to soak overnight.
  • Cream the butter and sugar until very light and fluffy.
  • Grate in the lemon zest and cream some more.
  • Beat in the eggs, one by one until combined. If the mixture starts to curdle, add the ground almonds.
  • Stir in the ground almonds.
  • Sift in the flour, baking powder, spice and salt then fold into the egg mixture and stir in the milk.
  • Fold in the dried fruit, chocolate and crystallised citrus peel.
  • Spoon half of the mixture into a 23 cm round silicone cake mould or lined tin.
  • Pat out ⅓ of the marzipan (about 175g if using shop bought) into a large round slightly smaller than the cake tin. Place it on top of the cake mixture.
  • Spoon the remaining mixture on top of the marzipan and level the top.
  • Bake at 180℃ (350℉, Gas 4) for 20 minutes and then turn the oven down to 170℃ (338℉, Gas 3) and bake for a further 40 minutes or so. If the top of the cake looks like it’s beginning to burn, cover with some brown paper or tin foil.
  • Leave to cool for a few minutes then turn out onto a wire rack to cool completely.
  • Wrap in greaseproof paper and store in an airtight tin for up to a week.

Marzipan

  • In a large bowl whisk the the egg with the orange liqueur or juice.
  • Add the sugar and ground almonds and mix.
  • Sift in the icing sugar and mix again.
  • Turn out onto a work surface and knead until soft.
  • Remove a third of the mixture for the middle of the cake as mentioned above. Wrap the rest well and store in the fridge until you’re ready to decorate the cake.
  • Divide the remaining mixture into two more or less equal portions.
  • Roll the bigger half out into a 23cm circle.
  • Brush the top of the cake with Amaretto and press on the circle of marzipan. Plum or apricot jam work well too.
  • Neaten the edges with a knife then score a diamond pattern on the top.
  • Place under a hot grill for 2 minutes to brown.
  • Divide the remaining mixture into 11 equal sized pieces and roll into balls.
  • Place marzipan balls around the edge of the cake.

45 Comments

  1. Jill Colonna

    5th April 2012 at 2:33 pm

    Love this! I totally understand you wanting to eat the leftover marzipan- I would have done exactly the same, adore the stuff! Haven’t had simnel cake in years – it looks perfect. Hm. Slug of Amaretto too? Beauty. Have a lovely Easter!

    Reply
    • Choclette

      5th April 2012 at 5:02 pm

      Thank you Jill. Yes, this is a cake made in heaven for marzipan lovers and I think this might just be the best marzipan I’ve ever made. Happy Easter to you too.

      Reply
  2. manu

    5th April 2012 at 2:37 pm

    This cake looks so yummy!! I love Amaretto!
    Happy Easter

    Reply
    • Choclette

      5th April 2012 at 5:01 pm

      Thank you Manu – you’d probably like this cake too then 😉

      Reply
  3. Hannah

    5th April 2012 at 2:42 pm

    Looks beautiful! I dont think I have ever made a Simnel Cake – might have a crack at one in time for Sunday! That leftover marzipan wouldn’t have stood a chance against me though…

    Reply
    • Choclette

      5th April 2012 at 5:00 pm

      Hannah, this is a great cake for marzipan lovers – the layer in the middle that gets cooked with the cake is just divine.

      Reply
  4. Dom at Belleau Kitchen

    5th April 2012 at 2:47 pm

    the cake looks beautiful just plain and simple with nothing on top… i’d love to see what it looked like inside… I’ve never made a simnel cake before so I may give it a go this weekend… lovely sunny photo’s to cheer us all up! x

    Reply
    • Choclette

      5th April 2012 at 4:59 pm

      Thanks Dom. I’m quite looking forward to seeing what it’s like inside too! If you like marzipan, this is one of the best cakes you will ever eat – especially if you make your layers nice and thick.

      Reply
  5. Charlotte Pike

    5th April 2012 at 4:48 pm

    Gorgeous! Enjoy your beautiful cake and have a very happy Easter!

    Reply
    • Choclette

      5th April 2012 at 5:03 pm

      Thank you Charlotte – Happy Easter to you too.

      Reply
  6. Fabulicious Food

    5th April 2012 at 4:59 pm

    Looks pretty perfect to me! Have a lovely choc and cake filled Easter 🙂

    Reply
    • Choclette

      5th April 2012 at 5:05 pm

      Thanks Ren – I’m always hopeful on the chocolate front 😉 Hope you have a good Easter too.

      Reply
  7. Katie

    5th April 2012 at 6:09 pm

    Looks gorgeous! I can’t resist marzipan. Love the idea of the little chunks of chocolate throughout and the amaretto! YUM

    Reply
    • Choclette

      7th April 2012 at 7:12 am

      Katie, this was the best marzipan I’ve every made and will be my go to recipe from now on. I’m hoping the cake will be as good!

      Reply
  8. Gloria

    5th April 2012 at 7:56 pm

    This Sinnel Cake look beautiful and I think in made too, but finally I made the carrots cake, but love yours!

    Reply
    • Choclette

      7th April 2012 at 7:13 am

      It’s so hard to make a choice Gloria when there are so many lovely things we could make.

      Reply
  9. Scott at Real Epicurean

    5th April 2012 at 8:37 pm

    I’ve never made one of these but yours looks so delicious…Lots of effort there!

    Reply
    • Choclette

      7th April 2012 at 7:14 am

      Thank you Scott, I’m really hoping it will be delicious – at least I know the marzipan is 😉

      Reply
  10. tea with hazel

    5th April 2012 at 9:04 pm

    every easter i look at simnel cakes and i think it would be a great thing to make since it is a traditional easter cake but i never seem to get around to it..i am a marzipan fan so i love the idea of having it cooked in the middle of the cake as well as on top..i hope you have a happy easter..

    Reply
    • Choclette

      7th April 2012 at 7:16 am

      If you love marzipan Hazel, this is the cake for you. Bookmark it for next year, it’s one of the best. Happy Easter to you too.

      Reply
  11. Caroline

    5th April 2012 at 9:38 pm

    Not only have I never made a simnel cake, I’ve never eaten one either! Maybe I should rectify that 🙂 I’ve awarded you a Happy Blogger award, check it out here: http://www.carolinemakes.blogspot.co.uk/2012/04/im-happy.html

    Reply
    • Choclette

      7th April 2012 at 7:17 am

      Thank you Caroline, that’s very kind of you. But you really must try a simnel cake – unless you hate marzipan!

      Reply
  12. Baking Addict

    6th April 2012 at 12:42 am

    Beautiful simnel cake and definitely a treat for marzipan lovers (not me I’m afraid!) Have a brilliant Easter 🙂

    Reply
    • Choclette

      7th April 2012 at 7:18 am

      Ros, thank you. I know marzipan is a love / hate sort of a thing. Happy Easter to you too.

      Reply
  13. Green Dragonette

    6th April 2012 at 10:07 am

    I never realised there was a meaning behind the marzipan balls on the top-just thought they were simple decoration-so I’ve learnt something new!

    Reply
    • Choclette

      7th April 2012 at 7:19 am

      GD, I’m really pleased I put that bit in about the apostles now.

      Reply
  14. Janice

    6th April 2012 at 7:02 pm

    I’m not making one this year, but have in the past. Enjoy, it looks great.

    Reply
    • Choclette

      7th April 2012 at 7:22 am

      Thanks Janice – I’d be happy to have one every year, I just don’t get around to making it that often.

      Reply
  15. Kit @ i-lostinausten

    7th April 2012 at 8:56 am

    Looks fantastic! I love marzipan & simnel cake! Have not eaten since 2 years!! Wish you & your family a Happy Easter! 🙂

    Reply
    • Choclette

      11th April 2012 at 5:37 pm

      Thank you Kit – I’m thinking we have a lot in common 😉 Hope you had a lovely Easter too.

      Reply
  16. laura@howtocookgoodfood

    7th April 2012 at 9:29 am

    What a gorgeous looking cake and making your own marzipan is most impressive!! Happy to see you back in action Choclette. Happy Easter xx

    Reply
    • Choclette

      11th April 2012 at 5:39 pm

      Thanks very much Laura. This marzipan recipe is now going to be my go too one, it was delicious – cake wasn’t too bad either 😉 Hope you had a fun filled Easter.

      Reply
  17. Jenny Eatwell

    7th April 2012 at 10:26 am

    I had been pondering on making a Simnel Cake myself, never having done so. Now, having seen yours, I’m wishing I had! lol Happy Easter to you 🙂

    Reply
    • Choclette

      11th April 2012 at 5:40 pm

      There’s always next year Jenny 🙂 Hope you had a great Easter.

      Reply
  18. thelittleloaf

    7th April 2012 at 11:11 am

    Happy Easter! This cake looks absolutely delicious and love the addition of Amaretto. I’ve never made Simnel cake but have promised myself to try at least one of your recipes (am thinking the chocolate one may win!) next year 🙂

    Reply
    • Choclette

      11th April 2012 at 5:43 pm

      If you like marzipan, a Simnel cake is a must try. The milk chocolate I used in this one didn’t really come through, but just knowing it was there added a note of additional luxury to it.

      Reply
  19. celia

    8th April 2012 at 12:12 am

    Very beautiful special-occasion cake, Choc! Happy Easter!

    Reply
    • Choclette

      11th April 2012 at 5:45 pm

      Thank you Celia. It was an occasion with old friends, so very special indeed. Hope you had a lovely Easter.

      Reply
  20. Johanna GGG

    9th April 2012 at 2:12 am

    your cake looks spectacular – I am a fan of a vegan marzipan – I tried one for your marzipan challenge last year – rather than one with egg but I do love marzipan! I have toyed with the idea of a simnel cake – and after my chocolate chunk fruit cake at christmas I think one with chocolate would work for me. I quite like that it is a cake that is rich with history as well as rich in dried fruit and marzipan!

    Reply
    • Choclette

      11th April 2012 at 5:49 pm

      Johanna, I do so agree. Festival food is usually really tasty as well as really interesting. I made marzipan with no egg for the cheesecake I made last month, but it did have butter in, so not vegan. Thank you for all your lovely comments.

      Reply
  21. cityhippyfarmgirl

    10th April 2012 at 10:30 pm

    Marzipan and I are one… well we should be anyway. I still haven’t tried making my own, so do you think I could have a fair fat slice of this cake? pretty please 🙂

    Reply
  22. Choclette

    11th April 2012 at 5:50 pm

    Oh Brydie, do have a go at making your own, you’re missing a real treat. But in the meantime, a big fat slice of mine coming your way 😉

    Reply
  23. cakeboule

    12th April 2012 at 10:23 pm

    Oh my I so missed the simmnel cake boat this year but then I saw this one and truly it looks so good! I never knew that about hte balls of marzipan on the top (the 11) so a new fact learned today!

    Reply
    • Choclette

      15th April 2012 at 7:03 pm

      There’s always next year – worth making at least once for Easter.

      Reply
  24. Lucy Taylor

    21st February 2013 at 6:08 am

    MMM! a marzipan cake with amaretto soaked fruit sounds heaven! Roll on Easter 🙂

    Reply

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