Originally this was a cake made and presented for Mother’s Day and eaten in the days leading up to Easter. Nowadays it forms part of the Easter celebration itself. It is a light fruit cake made with a secret layer of almond paste enclosed and baked in the middle. If you are like me and absolutely love marzipan, then this cake will certainly be firmly on your culinary calendar. The liqueur is optional, traditionally it is brandy, but I use Cointreau for the more spring like flavour. The contemporary Easter version is topped with another layer of marzipan and decorated with eleven scorched marzipan balls to represent the apostles (12 minus Judas), small chocolate eggs and even little chicks too, thus earning it centre stage of any Easter banquet. This year we have a family birthday on Easter Monday so my Simnel cake will double up for that too!
500g dried mixed fruit
125g dried cherries (or glacé cherries, quartered)
Zest of 1 Lemon
30ml (2 Tbsp Cointreau or Grand Marnier
175g soft unsalted butter
175g golden caster sugar
225g self-raising flour
5ml (1 tsp) mixed spice
25g ground almonds
30ml (2 Tbsp) milk
Filling & Decorations
900g yellow marzipan
Icing sugar for dusting
15ml (1 Tbsp) apricot jam
1 egg white
Easter Decorations, mini chocolate eggs & ribbon
- Place the dried mixed fruit, cherries and lemon zest in a bowl and stir in the Cointreau or Grand Marnier. Cover and leave to macerate for at least 5 hours or overnight.
- Grease & line an 8”/20cm round cake tin.
- Preheat oven to 170°C fan.
- In a large mixing bowl, cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.
- Mix the flour with the spice and ground almonds.
- Beat the eggs one at a time and beat each into the creamed mixture with a large spoon of the flour mix.
- Fold in the remaining flour mix and macerated fruit, adding the milk as well.
- Dust the work surface with icing sugar and roll out 300g of marzipan to a circle to fit the cake tin.
- Spoon half of the cake mixture into the tin, place the marzipan circle on top and cover with the remaining cake mixture, smooth the top.
- Bake in the centre of the oven for 30 minutes, then turn the temperature down to 150°C fan for a further hour or until the cake has risen and firm to tap yet springy to touch. Leave to cool.
- Remove the lining from the cake
- Roll out another 300g marzipan into another circle to fit the top of the cake.
- Gently heat the apricot jam and then brush it over the top surface of the cake. Place the marzipan circle on top.
- Make 11 apostle balls out of the remaining marzipan (roughly 2cm in size approximately 15g each).
- Beat the egg white until slightly frothy and use to stick the apostle balls in place.
- Brush the top of the apostle balls with the egg white too and use a kitchen blow torch to lightly score each. Alternatively place under a heated grill to lightly brown the apostle balls.
- Decorate the centre of the cake with the remaining marzipan, mini chocolate eggs, Easter flowers or chicks and tie a ribbon around the edge.