If you are getting a little bored with all the same old chocolate eggs every year, why not try something different this year and bake a cake that is synonymous with Easter? Simnel Cake is a delicious fruity cake, covered and filled with marzipan, and adorned with 11 marzipan balls to represent the true Disciples of Christ. It is the traditional treat to celebrate the end of the forty days of Lent. Make sure you have the right kitchen essentials and pick up a Salter scale to help prepare this lovely traditional alternative treat to store bought chocolate.
EASTER SIMNEL CAKE
For the marzipan
450g icing sugar
450g ground almonds
2 free-range eggs
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon almond extract
For the cake
225g plain flour
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon allspice
175g unsalted butter
175g Demerara sugar
2 tablespoons dark treacle or molasses
3 free-range eggs
120g good-quality candied peel
zest and juice of 1 lemon
50g ground almonds
150ml whole milk
a little apricot jam
1 free-range egg, slightly beaten (for an egg wash)
1. First make the marzipan. Sift the icing sugar into a bowl, then add the ground almonds, eggs, lemon juice and almond extract to taste. Add the extract slowly, and keep tasting as some brands are stronger than others. Form into a ball and knead lightly. Divide into 3 pieces and wrap each one tightly in clingfilm until ready to use.
2. Heat the oven to 150°C/300°F/gas mark 2. Butter and line a deep 20cm cake tin with baking paper.
3. Sift the flour, salt and spices together and set aside.
4. In another bowl cream the butter, sugar and black treacle or molasses until very light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time, sprinkling in a little of the sifted flour and beating well after each addition. Stir in the remaining flour, then the fruit, peel, zest, juice and ground almonds. Add the milk and mix until all the ingredients are well combined.
5. Roll out one of the pieces of marzipan into a 20cm disc. Turn half the cake mixture into the tin, level it out and cover it with this circle of marzipan. Then cover with the rest of the cake mixture and smooth the top.
6. Bake in the oven for about 3½ hours, or until a skewer inserted comes out clean. The top of the cake should be dull, not shiny.
7. When the cake is completely cooled, brush the top with a little warmed jam, sieved if necessary. Roll out another ball of marzipan and place it on top of the cake, pressing it down well. Score the top in a cross-hatch pattern. Brush with egg wash.
8. Turn the grill or oven to high. Divide the remaining ball of marzipan into 11 balls (representing the 12 apostles less Judas) and arrange them round the edge of the cake. Brush each ball with the egg wash and put the cake into the oven or under the grill for a few minutes to give it that attractive, toasted appearance.