Friday 16 March 2007

Mothering Sunday Simnel Cake

Simnel cake is a light fruit cake that has a layer of marzipan baked into the centre and an additional layer added on top after baking. This cake is now often thought of as an Easter cake and yet it was traditionally made by girls in service to give to their mothers on Mothering Sunday as they were allowed this day off as a holiday.
I have always known a simnel cake to have 11 marzipan balls arranged around the edge which are meant to represent the 12 disciples, minus Judas who was a traitor. However, thinking about it now I suspect that this is an Easter addition and that the original Mothering Sunday simnel cake would not have had these. Nevertheless I have added them to my cake.

I decided to make this cake for Chris’s mother as she has invited me over for lunch with her family on Mothers Day. I usually also bake one for my own mother but as I am at university and away from home I am not sure how well it would survive the post, but I did send her something else instead. (Post to follow shortly)

I love this cake and often make it (minus the extra marzipan topping) throughout the year. The middle layer of marzipan adds a wonderfully moist layer to the centre of the cake and provides a great almond flavour. You can add a wide assortment of dried fruit to the cake and I see no reason why you shouldn’t experiment with adding more exotic fruits such as dried blueberries, pineapple, mango or cranberries to get a different flavour. However, the recipe below uses the more traditional fruits.

The cake is meant to be placed under a hot grill or gently blowtorched to allow the marzipan decorations to become a pretty mottled golden brown. However, my house at uni only has a very small external grill which the cake wouldn’t fit under and as I have no blowtorch the cake has had to be left natural. I am sure it will be just as tasty though.

Simnel Cake
(Recipe adapted from Mary Berry's Ultimate Cake Book)
175g light soft brown sugar
175g butter
175g self raising flour
3 eggs
25g ground almonds
2 tbsp milk
100g sultanas
100g glace cherries
100g dried apricots
100g extra dried fruit of your choice e.g pears, peaches, prunes, cranberries or raisins
2 tsp mixed spice
½ tsp cinnamon
250g marzipan
2 tbsp apricot jam
1 extra egg

Preheat oven to 160C. Grease and line the base and sides of a deep round 20cm cake tin.
Measure out the sugar, butter, flour, ground almonds, spices, milk and eggs into a large mixing bowl.
Beat everything together using an electric whisk until you have a smooth batter.
Weigh out all of the dried fruit and chop it into small pieces using a pair of scissors.
Add to the cake batter and beat everything together again for a few seconds. Roll out about 1/3 of the marzipan until around 4-5mm thick. Using the base of the cake tin as a measure, cut out a circle using a sharp knife.
Place half of the cake mix into the cake tin and top with the disc of marzipan.
Cover with the remaining cake mix and smooth the surface, adding a little dip in the middle to compensate for the cake rising.
Bake in the oven for 1 hour before covering quickly with a layer of foil to prevent it from going too brown. Then allow to bake for a further 30-45 minutes until firm and springy when gently pressed.
Remove from the oven and allow to cool in the tin.
Once cool, remove from the tin, discard the lining and place onto a serving plate.
Roll out half of the leftover marzipan (1/3 of the original weight) and cut out another disc as before.
Heat the apricot jam in the microwave with 2tsp water until syrupy.
Brush the top of the cake with a little of the jam and top with the marzipan disc.
With the remaining marzipan, form 11 marble sized balls and place around the top of the cake in a ring at regular intervals. Attach them to the cake using a little jam.
If desired the cake can now be brushed with a beaten egg and place under a hot grill for 4 minutes until tinged golden brown on top.


Anonymous said...

What a beautiful looking cake. I am sure Chris' mum will be delighted with it. You always make things look so attractive Katie.
I bet it tastes delicious too.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

cool. i love marzipan. looks very nice with the ribbon