I meant to make Simnel cake yesterday but I sort of lost track of time. I’m going to blame the clocks going forward and our rather long Sunday lunch. We picked up a lovely noisette of lamb from the Ginger Pig butcher and roasted it until it was pink and tender and scrumptious. It was quite a lean cut so the juices also made a very tasty gravy to drown our roasties in!
I think Simnel cake was originally made on Mothering Sunday but has now become a traditional Easter cake too. My Mum has made this every Easter since I can remember but last year we didn’t spend Easter as a family so I thought I had better have a go myself. I had just moved in with my boyfriend at the time and it was the first cake I ever made for him – he’s still here so I guess he liked it! I remember my Dad asking whether we could just make it all year (obviously not) – it’s his birthday today which makes for rather perfect timing really…Happy birthday Dad!
Basically, if you’re a marzipan fan, this is your lucky day. Not only is there a layer of marzipan icing the top of this gingery fruit cake, there is also a secret layer in the middle which melts into the mixture during baking – genius! If marzipan isn’t really your thing, perhaps consider baking an alternative cake…
Sometimes I also represent the 11 disciples (Judas is not allowed on the cake) with marzipan balls because it’s traditional and, frankly, the more marzipan the better, but this year I’ve followed my Mum and used mini chocolate eggs. The sugary pastel shades look suitably spring-like against the pale yellow marzipan and give the cake a pleasingly playful edge.
This delightfully moist cake is heaving with amaretto-soaked fruit and chunks of ginger, and cut with marzipan – there’s nothing else quite like it!
All-in-one ginger Simnel cake
For the cake:
– 5 tablespoons amaretto
– 100g raisins
– 100g dried apricots, diced
– 150g soft light brown sugar
– 175g butter, softened and cubed (plus extra for greasing)
– 200g self-raising flour, sifted
– pinch salt
– 1 teaspoon mixed spice
– 2 teaspoons ground ginger
– 3 large eggs (free-range please), lightly beaten
– 60g stem ginger conserve
– 60g stem ginger, diced
– 2 tablespoons stem ginger syrup
For the filling and topping:
– 300g marzipan
– 1 tablespoon stem ginger conserve
– 11 mini chocolate eggs (or 150g extra marzipan), for the disciples
Preheat the oven to 160°C.
Place the raisins and apricots in a bowl and pour over the amaretto. Set aside to soak.
Line a round 20cm baking tin with baking paper and grease the sides with butter. Tip: I use a non-stick silicone mould but just in case I still line the bottom with baking paper – better to be safe than sorry!
Beat the rest of the cake ingredients in a bowl until everything is well incorporated (scrape down the sides of the bowl with a spatula if using a food mixer to make sure nothing escapes).
Roll out 150g of marzipan into a circle the same size as the cake tin. Tip: I found the easiest way to do this was to use the baking paper lining the base of my tin as a template and to roll directly onto this. That way, the marzipan doesn’t stick to your work surface and you end up with exactly the right sized circle – just peel the marzipan off and don’t forget to replace the lining when you’re done!
Spoon half the mixture into the cake tin and level the surface. Place the marzipan disc on top, spoon in the remaining mixture and level again.
Bake for about 2hrs until golden brown and firm in the middle. Tip: Cover with silver foil after 1hr 30 mins to stop the top getting too dark. Allow to cool in the tin and then transfer to a wire rack.
When the cake is completely cool, warm the ginger preserve in a pan on a low heat and brush over the top of the cake (this will keep the marzipan icing in place and also gives an extra gingery kick). Roll out another 150g of marzipan to the size of the cake. Pop the disc onto the cake, smooth down, and trim the edges to neaten. Represent the disciples on top using chocolate eggs (or, if using, the remaining marzipan rolled into balls).
If desired, place under a hot grill for a few minutes to brown the marzipan, turning occasionally. Tip: Keep an eye on the cake whilst grilling – it can burn suddenly and you don’t want to burn your disciples!
Enjoy with tea and your new friends.
Source: Recipe and photos by pip & little blue.