I have always baked a Simnel cake for Easter Sunday teatime to cut into and I have played around with my recipe for a few years now having eventually settled for this one I am sharing with you. Of course the spices can be altered to each individual taste by omitting mixed spice and adding cinnamon instead etc.
I always have bags of dried luxury fruit that also contain dried mixed peel in my store cupboard from Sainsbury’s which I find work for me, but there is no reason why you can’t just add the dried fruit of your choice as long as the weight remains the same. If you haven’t got a kitchen blowtorch a preheated grill will brown the top of the marzipan on the cake just as good. Like my dad would have said to me, “where there’s a will there’s a way”, and he was so right! The decorations are optional and you could even place fresh primroses in the centre of the cake before serving to give it that spring feeling.
225g (8 oz) softened butter
225g (8 oz) soft dark brown sugar
350g (12 oz) Self-raising flour
½ tsp freshly grated nutmeg
½ tsp mixed spice
400g (14 oz) luxury mixed dried fruit, see above
50g (2 oz) glace cherries, washed, dried and chopped into quarters
Zest of 1 lemon
100g (4 oz) chopped hazelnuts
4 eggs, beaten
3 tbsp milk
3 x 225g (8 oz) blocks of golden marzipan
Icing sugar, for dusting
1 tbsp apricot jam warmed with 1 tbsp water
A yellow ribbon to fit around the cake
A few sugar flowers (optional)
A little furry yellow Easter chick (optional)
23cm (9 in) cake board
You will need a 20cm (8 in) round springform tin double lined base and sides with greaseproof paper.
Preheat the oven to 160°C/fan 140°C/325°F/Gas mark 3.
In a large mixing bowl add the flour, nutmeg, mixed spice, dried fruits, lemon zest and nuts coating them through with your hands.
In another large mixing bowl add the butter and sugar and beat together until pale and fluffy. Add the egg mixture a little at a time beating well in; making sure all is combined into the mixture between each addition. Next add the flour mixture from the other bowl and carefully fold through with a large metal spoon adding the milk lastly, working this through until you have a well combined mixture.
Spoon half the mixture into the prepared springform tin, levelling off with a spatula. Roll out one of the blocks of golden marzipan making a circle slightly smaller than the cake tin size, on a lightly dusted surface of icing sugar. Place the marzipan circle on top of the cake mixture in the cake tin, spreading the remaining cake mixture over the top of the marzipan and smoothing down with a spatula.
Place the cake into the bottom of the preheated oven and bake for 2 hours or until fully baked. You can check by inserting a skewer into the centre and if it comes out clean the cake is ready. Leave to fully cool in the tin.
Take the cake out of tin removing all the greaseproof paper and place onto the cake board. On a slightly dusted surface of icing sugar roll out another block of marzipan the size to fit the top of the cake, crimping all the way around the side. With the warmed apricot jam and water spread this over the top of the cake to ‘glue’ the marzipan down. Place the marzipan on top and smooth it down with your hands. Make 11 balls of marzipan out of the remaining marzipan, (you may not require the entire block), sticking these around the edge of the cake. With a kitchen blowtorch slightly brown the top of the marzipan and the marzipan balls or brown under a preheated grill for a few seconds.
To finish off, tie the yellow ribbon around the cake securing the ribbon at the back with a pin but remember to remove before serving. Place the sugar flowers and chick in the centre of the cake to finish off.