Saturday, 4 April 2015

Simnel Cake - An Easter Tradition

Simnel Cake is a very traditional bake for  Easter.  Made with dried fruits and almond paste(marzipan) it has one layer of the paste in the middle of the cake and another on the top, and is then decorated with 11 marzipan balls.  The balls are to denote the remaining 11 disciples.

For my cake I decided on a little change, introducing some frippery, in the form of mini MaltEaster bunnies instead of the marzipan balls.  Although the cake wont be eaten until tomorrow I decided to make it today, as I had lots of free time.  Of course that means that I cannot tell you how it tastes, but it certainly gives off a lovely aroma, and baked very well. I should have waited slightly longer after torching the marzipan before I added the Bunnies.  A couple started to melt a little.  But popping the cake in the fridge for a few minutes sorted that out.

The method involved in making the cake is not too convoluted, even though it has a number of ingredients.  I tried not to over work the mixture, as I have found in the past that can cause problems.
For the recipe, which I give below, I have included the marzipan balls, with a separate mention of my decorations, so that anyone who wishes to try the recipe can do so in the traditional way.
Simnel Cake
Ingredients:
  • 175 g soft butter 
  • 175 g light muscovado sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 175 g plain flour
  • 2 tsps baking powder
  • 1 tsp ground mixed spice
  • 1/4 tsp ground ginger
  • 175 g sultanas
  • 90 g currants
  • 90 g glacé cherries, quartered, rinsed, and dried
  • 45 g candied peel, roughly chopped
  • Grated zest of 1 lemon
  • Grated zest of 1 orange
  • 500 g almond paste
  • 2 tbsp apricot jam
  • 1 egg white, to brush over the top of the cake.
Method:
Preheat the oven to 150c/Gas Mark 2.  Grease and line an 18cm deep cake tin with baking parchment.

Roll out one-third of the almond paste. Using the base of the cake tin as a guide, cut out an 18 cm round.
Cream the butter with the muscovado sugar until light and fluffly.
Add the eggs, one at a time and beat into the butter mixture, adding a teaspoon of flour with each egg, to prevent splitting.
Add all the remaining ingredients, except the marzipan(almond paste) and apricot jam, and mix well until all is combined. 
Spoon half of the cake mixture into the prepared tin and smooth the surface. 
Place the rolled out almond paste on top of that half of the mixture
Spoon the remaining cake mixture on top and level the surface.
Bake in the preheated oven for two and a quarter hours or until golden brown and firm to the touch.
If it looks like the top is browning too quickly you can cover with some baking paper.
Remove the cake from the oven and leave to cool for 10 minutes, then remove from the tin, and leave to cool completely.
Warm the jam and use to brush the top of the cake. For a completely flat surface you can turn the cake upside down and use the bottom as the top.
Roll out half of the remaining almond paste and use the tin to cut out an 18 centimetre round. Put on top of the jam and crimp the edges. 
Roll the remaining almond paste into 11 even-sized balls. Place around the edge of the cake, attaching them with egg white.
Brush the tops of the balls and the almond paste with egg white. Place under a hot grill for one to two minutes, until the balls are golden. You can use a kitchen blowtorch instead of the grill to colour the tops, but be careful not to burn the paste.
Note: I didn't use the balls for decoration, instead I used some mini chocolate bunnies, and some mini eggs. 

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