Recipe 57 – Easter Simnel Cake

5th April 2012

The second of the three Easter recipes!  Looking through Mary’s Bible there are quite a few recipes that are seasonal – look out for the Wimbledon Cake when Wimbledon’s on!!
I’ve never actually made a Simnel Cake and in all honesty the big marzipan balls on the top of the cake never appeal to me.  But it’s a recipe in the book that has to be baked.
As usual, the oven was put on to preheat and a 20cm tin was greased and the sides and base lined with greaseproof paper.
It was time for the dreaded cherries.  Luckily only 100g were needed in this recipe, so it was a case of quartering them.  I thought I’d go against the rule here and leave them with the syrup still on them when I put them in the cake, as I’m not convinced that washing and drying them makes any difference.  I think as long as they are coated in flour they are normally OK.  The proof will be in the cutting of the cake – have they sunk or not!!
This was another all in one cake so into a bowl went 225g butter, 225g light muscovado sugar,  four eggs, 225g self raising flour, 225g sultanas (whoops I’d obviously eaten a few too many the other day and was 25g short so had to make up the weight with some raisins), 100g currants, 50g candied peel the grated rind of two lemons and 2 tsp mixed spice.  It was at this point that I realised the bowl was filled to the brim and there was no way I was going to be able to mix this all together, so it was out with the larger bowl and the ingredients all tipped into it.  More washing up!
I thought I’d mix the mixture all together with the hand mixer, but after turning it on I soon realised that the motor would quite quickly burn itself out, so I resorted to mixing it by hand at first and then gave it a quick blast with the hand mixer.
One half of the mixture was spooned into the cake tin and levelled.  The next thing to do was to take a third of the marzipan (450g, so I used 150g) and roll it out to a circle the size of the tin.  Out came the icing sugar to put onto the board and the marzipan was briefly kneaded and then rolled out.  I was surprised how thick this marzipan seemed.  It was carefully placed onto the mixture in the tin and lightly pressed down.  The rest of the cake mixture was spooned on top of the marzipan and again levelled.
The tin was put in the oven for 2 1/2 hours.  It was after approximately 10 minutes, after I had washed everything up that I realised I had set the timer but hadn’t actually started it, so I quickly reset it to 2 hours 20 minutes and hoped this was correct.  I’d have to keep an eye on the cake towards the end.
Mary states that if the cake is browning too quickly after an hour to cover the top with foil.  So after an hour I looked at the cake and was slightly worried as mine was a lovely light brown and looking at it I couldn’t see it going dark brown.  I hastily checked the ingredients thinking I had put light muscovado in when I should have put dark.  Luckily all ingredients added were correct (apart from the few raisins!).
After 2 1/2 hours the cake still seemed a little underdone to me so in all it stayed in the oven for another 10 minutes.  It was quite difficult testing the cake, as it obviously has a layer of marzipan in the middle so when you put the skewer in it will always come out slightly sticky. It wasn’t a dark brown on top but a lovely golden brown.
The cake was left to cool in the tin for 10 minutes and it was then turned out onto a cooling rack.
I had hoped to finish the cake off the next morning, but instead it ended up being finished off late in the afternoon.  Instead it was a major clean of the house in the morning after the dog’s vet’s appointment was cancelled due to an emergency at the clinic, so instead it was off to the vets with him in the afternoon and then a long walk after that.
So it was after 4pm when I finally got round to finishing the cake.  First of all I had to use one half of the marzipan left and again had to roll this out to a circle to fit the cake.  I melted a tablespoon of apricot jam and brushed this over the top of the cake and placed the marzipan on.   This was pressed firmly onto the top of the cake and the edge was crimped. Next I had to make a criss-cross pattern over the top of the cake with a sharp knife.
It was then time for the balls.  The balls in fact represent the eleven apostles.  Eleven balls were made and I was about to put them on the top of the cake with a bit of apricot jam under them when I read the rest of the recipe.  Instead I had to beat an egg and brush this over the top of the cake.  The balls were then put onto the cake and I had to reposition them time and time again.  I’m glad I had made the balls slightly smaller than the ones on Mary’s cake as I’m sure mine would have made a complete circle all joined together.
With the balls positioned they too had to be brushed with egg.  I was wondering whether this would be edible as it was raw egg I was putting on top of the cake, until I read that it now had to be put under a hot grill to turn the almond paste golden.  This explained a lot, I must admit I  was quite surprised that the marzipan in Mary’s photo of her cake was so yellow, I thought Mary would use the natural marzipan and not the horrible yellow stuff!
So under the grill it went.  My grill is obviously hotter at the back as the ‘apostles’ soon started to take on colour, so it was a quick spin round of the cake and back under the grill it went for a few minutes.  The ‘apostles’ had all begun to brown but the middle of the cake was still the same.  However, after another minute the middle of the cake was browning too and a few of the ‘apostles’ had started to move, I don’t blame them it must have been hot under there.
After it’s grilling it is now a lovely golden yellow and looks very tempting – I’ve told my daughter we can’t have it until Sunday, although I’m not sure we’ll be able to hold out that long!

4 thoughts on “Recipe 57 – Easter Simnel Cake

  1. I know what you mean about the dreaded cherries in a cake, I always worry what will happen every time I put them in a mixture. Your Simnel Cake looks delicious though, and I bet there's none left in your house now! x

  2. Did you like it in the end? It certainly looks good. I love marzipan, so Simnel cake is one of my favourites. I made the marzipan for mine this year and it was delicious. I didn't have any cherries (not that I used this recipe) so I substituted chocolate instead – worked very well!

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