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Simnel Cake Sensations!

In the run up to Easter you’ve probably seen those pretty yellow cakes popping up in all the shops.  These bursts of citrus sunshine are known as Simnel cakes, a tradition that started in Medieval times but was made increasingly popular by the Victorians.

The cakes were originally made for the middle Sunday of Lent, when the forty day fast was briefly relaxed.  It was known as Simnel Sunday, Traditionally, eleven or twelve marzipan balls were placed on top to decorate the cake. They represent the apostles (twelve), or if you didn’t want to include Judas (eleven).

Nowadays, Simnel cakes are eaten to celebrate Mothering Sunday and Easter.  So, if you fancy your hand at making one of these delicious fruit cakes for your lovely mum, get your apron on.  She’s going to be very impressed with your attempts at making this lovely almond-y, citrus-y deliciousness.

 

Ingredients

* 225g sultanas

* 100g currants

* 50g mixed peel

* juice of 1 lemon (optional

* 50 ml brandy (optional)

* 50 ml orange juice (optional)

* 225g soft butter

* 225g light muscovado sugar

* 4 eggs

* 225g self-raising flour

* 100g glace cherries,quartered

* grated rind of 2 lemons

* 2 tsp mixed spice

For the topping:

* 450g best quality marzipan

* 2tbsp apricot jam

* 1 egg beaten, to glaze

Method

  1. A couple of days before you make the cake place the sultanas, currants and mixed peel in a bowl with the lemon juice, brandy and orange juice, mixing it well and leaving to one side for the fruit to soak up the liquid.
  2. When you’re ready to prepare the cake, pre-heat the oven to 150C.
  3. Line the base and sides of a 20cm deep round tin with silicone or greaseproof paper.
  4. Mix the rest of the cake ingredients in with the pre-soaked fruit.
  5. Put half of this mixture in the bottom of the cake tin and level it off so that it is as flat as possible.
  6. Divide the marzipan into three equal parts and roll out one piece into a circle 20cm diameter, and put it on the top of the cake mixture.
  7. Spoon on the rest of the mixture, levelling the surface again.
  8. Bake for approximately 2 ½ hours until brown, well risen and firm to touch. Allow to cool for 15 mins and then turn out to cool on a wire rack.

Decorating

  1. When the cake is cool, warm up the apricot jam in a small saucepan and brush the top of the cake with it.
  2. Roll out half of the remaining marzipan to the size of the top of the cake.
  3. Press it down firmly and push the edges down with your thumb to crimp it round the sides.
  4. Roll the rest of the marzipan into eleven balls to represent the Apostles, without Judas.
  5. Brush the top of the marzipan with the beaten egg and place the balls evenly around the outside, brushing the tops of the balls as well.
  6. Place the whole cake under a hot grill until the marzipan turns a light golden colour.

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