Sunday 14 March 2010

Simnel Cake for Mothering Sunday

Today is Mothers Day here in the UK. Along with cups of tea in bed, a card and some flowers, it is traditional for daughters to bake and present their mothers with a special cake on Mothers Day, known as a Simnel Cake.

A simnel cake is a light fruitcake containing sultanas, apricots and cherries that is topped off with a layer of marzipan and decorated with 11 marzipan balls around the edge. This fruitcake is also extra special as it also contains a middle layer of marzipan that is baked into the cake itself, producing a delicious moist and gooey almond centre layer. It’s quite unique and I know of no other cake which does this. The marzipan on top of the cake is often also toasted gently under a grill to give it a lovely golden appearance and a little more depth of flavour. Alternatively you can go at it with a blowtorch (I did!) and find this helps to give a more even browning.

Simnel cake is now often associated with Easter, but it is traditionally a Mothers Day cake and one that has been going on for decades. Young girls who lived and worked away from home in service were given half a day off on Mothering Sunday, during which they would bake this cake and take it home to their mothers.

The eleven marzipan balls around the edge are meant to represent the eleven disciples, minus the traitor Judas. However, I’m unsure if this was present on the traditional Mothers Day simnel cake as this seems to symbolise an event more associated with Easter, so this may have been added later. Either way if you are a lover of marzipan getting a slice of cake with one of the marzipan balls is an extra treat.

My mother and I both love this cake and I try to bake her one every year in secret. Its light and studded with a colourful array of fruits. The sweet gooey marzipan adding a wonderful flavour. I find it a very enjoyable experience as mixing the batter always gets me reflecting back on happy memories, mixing a little love and care into the cake itself. I’m sure this is one of the reasons it tastes so good, as a cake made with love, for someone you love is truly a special thing.

Happy Mothers Day Mum

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 dried apricots
100g glace cherries
50g extra dried fruit of choice – raisins, pear, cranberries etc
2 tsp mixed spice
½ tsp cinnamon
250g marzipan
2 tbsp apricot jam

Preheat the oven to 160C. Grease and line the base and sides of a deep 8inch/20cm round cake tin with greaseproof paper.
Weigh the sugar, butter, flour, ground almonds, eggs and spices into a bowl. Beat together using an electric mixer until smooth. Beat in the milk.
Weigh out the dried fruit and chop the apricots and cherries into large pieces using a pair of scissors.
Fold all the dried fruit into the cake batter.
Pour half the cake mix into the tin and spread into an even layer.
Take 100g of the marzipan and roll out into a circle. Use the base of the cake tin to cut out a circle. Place this circle of marzipan on top of the cake batter in the pan. Top with the remaining cake mix and spread out evenly.
Bake in the oven for 1 hour before quickly removing the cake from the oven, covering the top of the tin with foil to prevent it from browning any further and return the tin to the oven for a further 30-40 minutes.
It should be firm yet springy to the touch when cooked.
Remove from the oven and leave to cool completely in the tin. Once cool, release from the tin and carefully peel off the greaseproof paper.
Thinly roll out the remaining marzipan and cut out another circle, using the cake tin as a guide like before.
Heat the apricot jam until soft. Brush over the top of the cake and place the marzipan disc on top. Use your fingers to crimp the edges slightly.
Gather up the leftover scraps of marzipan and roll into 11 balls. Use a little jam or water to attach them around the rim of the cake.
Heat your grill and place the cake under the grill and allow the marzipan to toast and go golden brown. Rotate the cake as needed and keep a careful eye on it as it will start to brown very suddenly. Alternatively use a blowtorch (I find this works best) or leave natural.
Tie a ribbon around the cake and present to your Mum.
Makes one 8inch/20cm cake


Chele said...

I've never tasted a Simnel Cake but it does sound very tasty. May need to give it a try this Easter! Looks great ;0)

Jane said...

My goodness, what a gorgeous cake and what a wonderful tribute to Mother's Day! You did really beautiful work on this cake. I'd never heard of it before. Very interesting and lovely post!


Brownieville Girl said...

Katie, your cake looks beautiful, what a lovely thought for your Mum.

Snooky doodle said...

wow this looks awesome! I ve been meaning to make this cake for ages :) have to try it now that you reminded me :)

Beth (jamandcream) said...

I've never made a Simnel Cake before. Will try and make one in time for Easter. I love marzipan so this is a must

Choclette said...

I was going to say, that's funny, I made the very same cake today. Except, given the time of year it's not that funny and I adapted it in a rather different way to you. Lovely idea to do the traditional thing and give it to your mum on Mother's Day. I've made mine for Easter.

Unknown said...

A gorgeous cake to celebrate Mothering Sunday!

The Caked Crusader said...

beautiful looking cake - I love your crimping around the edge!

Johanna GGG said...

I never knew these cakes were for mothering sunday - I have only heard they were for easter in the last few years - but I do like the sound of the marzipan on top - and it must be lovely for you with all the memories of having them with your mum

Maria♥ said...

What a beautiful Simnel Cake! I'm hoping to make one for Easter.


Hilary said...

This is lovely - I had no idea Simnel cake was traditional for Mother's Day. I have to say I don't know very much about the UK holiday since the North American day is in May.

Monica H said...

What a sweet post and a pretty cake. I even love the pretty yellow ribbon around it. Happy Mother's Day to your Mum too!

Nic said...

Beautiful cake Katie! Hope you had a great day with your mum.

Nic said...

Beautiful cake Katie! Hope you had a great day with your mum.

Elle said...

What a beautiful cake and great tradition! I love recipes that bring back fond memories like this one. That middle layer of the marzipan sounds like an unusual but yummy treat.Happy Mother's Day to your mum.

Unknown said...

I love a cake with history! Thank you for introducing this one!

symphonious sweets said...

What a beautiful cake. I have never heard of a cake for mothers day and may start a new tradition over here!

Emily said...

thank you for sharing this. lovely. My cake is just cooling now. I am looking forward to sharing with mother tomorrow. xx

Catherine Sutthoff Slaton said...
This comment has been removed by the author.