Easter Or Mothers Day (or Easter) Simnel Cake is a beautiful decorated cake with a history I find quite interesting.
The cake is made from these ingredients: white flour, sugar, butter, eggs, fragrant spices, dried fruits, zest and candied peel The ingredients are much the same as the Christmas fruitcake.
Perhaps you have heard of this uniquely decorated cake…but if not, I will give you the history I have found on this cake that originated in the United Kingdom, Ireland and some other countries. And as is with all things….some may be folk lore and some may be truth….either way the cake is very pretty and would make a wonderful cake for Mothers Day or Easter.
According to Foodepedia…Lara Cory,
“Simnel Cake is an Easter time fruit cake, made with lemon, dried fruits and peel, treacle and marzipan. It turns out that an interesting mythology has formed around this ancient fruity fare. The Simnel Cake according to many, is an Easter Cake, baked during the Easter period. You see it has eleven little balls of toasted marzipan on the top that Christians believe alludes to the true deciples of Jesus (Judas doesn’t figure in this equation). You can even put a ball in the centre, just for Jesus, if it pleases you. Others say the Simnel Cake is a post-Lent delicacy, containing all the goodies that you are not allowed to enjoy during the fasting period.
Another popular legend attributes the invention of the Simnel cake to Lambert Simnel, but this has been debunked since the Simnel cake appears in English literature prior to Lambert’s bid for the throne. I’ve also read that it is traditionally baked on Mothering Sunday, made by many a young girl to bring home to their long-suffering mother. Wikipedia would have us think that the name most likely derives from the Latin word ‘simila’ meaning fine, of course refering to the white flour used in the mix and possibly to the rich ingredients found in the recipe. suggests that the name came from a sister (Nell) and brother (Simon) who wanted to make a cake for their mother. One wanted to bake the cake, the other to boil it. They decided to do both and bring them together in one which became The Simnel Cake”.
As you can see, there are several variations to this story. I am not sure if we know the true meaning of this cake with an unusual name. However, I do know that the cake does taste good and it is a moist cake.
I understand there is a website that sold Harrod’s Easter Cakes and this cake was among the small samples.
Christmas Fruitcakes can be rather dry and have a strong taste and that is not the case with this cake, although the marzipan does make it a rich tasting cake.
When I was decorating my Simnel Cake, I checked out other decorated Simnel Cakes and I have added a few of those pictures to show you.
As you will note, some of the Simnel Cakes are really beautiful and some are quite plain.
If you make this cake, you can make it anyway you choose. 😉
I also changed a few things with my Simnel Cake.
I used fresh Lily flowers in the center and the ribbon really should have been a silk type ribbon…but it was the only ribbon I had on hand. 🙁
This is a cake that you can really get creative with on the marzipan decor on top.
I also decided not to brown the marzipan balls and topper under the broiler as I thought it detracted from the look. This was my first attempt at making this cake and I must say the flavors are exceptional. Not dry at all.
Should I make it again, I will roll the marzipan a little thinner (it is very rich) and perhaps I might use a Crème brûlée torch for more control.
The printable recipe for Simnel Cake is below.
Imagine…a cake from Medievel times! How cool is that?
- 1 cup butter, softened
- 1 cup light brown sugar
- 4 eggs
- 1 3/4 cups self-rising flour
- 1 1/3 cups golden raisins
- 1 cup raisins
- 2/3 cup dried apricots, chopped
- 1/4 cup candied orange peel, chopped
- 2 tablespoons grated lemon zest
- 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1 teaspoon dried ginger
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon nutmeg
- pinch salt
- 1 pound almond paste/marzipan
- 2 tablespoons apricot jam
- 1 egg, beaten to brush topper and marzipan balls for toasting.
- Heat oven to 350 degrees
- Line the base and sides of a round deep dish cake pan with baking parchment, cutting it so that it stands about 1 inch above the top of the pan.
- Roll out one-third of the marzipan to about a 1/4 inch thickness and cut a circle that will just fit inside the cake pan. Set aside.
- Beat the butter, sugar, eggs, flour, cinnamon, orange peel and lemon zest together in a large bowl until thoroughly blended.
- Stir in the raisins, golden raisins and dried apricots and spices until thoroughly combined.
- Put half of the mixture into the prepared pan and level the surface.
- Lay the prepared marzipan circle over the mixture, then spoon the rest of the cake mixture on top and smooth the surface.
- Bake for about two and a half hours until the cake is well risen and firm to the touch.
- Leave to cool in the pan for 10 minutes before turning out onto a wire rack.
- When the cake is cooled, warm the apricot jam gently with a splash of water in a small pan over a low heat, then brush over the top of the cake to glaze.
- Roll out half of the remaining marzipan and cut to fit the top of the cake.
- Press firmly on the top and crimp if desired.
- Form the remaining marzipan into 11 balls.
- Brush the marzipan on the cake with beaten egg, then place the marzipan balls evenly around the edge and also brush with the beaten egg.
- Either place cake under a broiler for a quick toasting (watching carefully as Marzipan burns easily) or use a cook’s blowtorch to brown the balls.
- Decorate the topper of marzipan with flowers or chocolate candy if desired.
- This cake is easier to make than it appears...I found it a little difficult working with the Marzipan but once you get started with rolling it out and forming small balls it goes rather quickly..
- The cake is much better than most Christmas Fruitcakes.