The origin of Simnel cake dates back to medieval times. The word Simnel is thought to be derived from the Latin ‘smila’ meaning fine, wheaten flour from which the cakes were made. Each area seems to have its own shape, size and ingredients for the cake. They are similar to rich fruit Christmas cakes.
Simnel cakes are also believed to have been made to mark Mothers day. This was traditionally a day that servants and apprentices were given the day off to visit their families.
Simnel cakes are now eaten at Easter. They are decorated with a layer of almond paste (marzipan) and 11 marzipan balls to represent the eleven true disciples. The top is sometimes toasted to a gentle golden colour.
Recipe for Simnel Cake:
For the cake:
225g (8oz) unsalted Butter
225g (8oz) soft Brown sugar
4 large free range eggs
500g (1lb 2oz) mixed dried fruit
½ teaspoon grated nutmeg
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon mixed spice
225g (8oz) Self raising flour
For the topping:
450g (1lb) Marzipan
30ml (2 tbsp) Apricot Jam
1. Pre heat the oven to 150°C / Gas Mark 2. Line a 20cm diameter, deep cake tin
2. Cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy
3. Break the eggs into a jug and beat gently
4. Add the egg mixture to the butter and sugar mix
5. Slowly fold in the sieved flour and spices
6. Add the fruit and mix well
7. Spoon the mixture into the prepared baking tin
8. Place in the oven and bake for 2 ½ hours until well risen and golden.
9. Leave to cool
10. When the cake is cool roll out ¾ of the marzipan for the top of the cake.
11. Spread the top of the cake with the jam and place on the marzipan
12. Crimp the edges or add a pattern if required
13. From the remaining marzipan make 11 balls and place around the edge of the cake. Wet the base of the balls slightly to make them stick
14. If required, place the cake under a warm grill to brown the top.