Flavour of the moment: It is Easter soon, there are too many flavours, the mixed spice of hot cross buns or as is the case here the rich almond flavour of marzipan. Nothing says marzipan like Easter and nothing says Easter like simnel cake.
Simnel cake dates back from ye olde days, and we’re talking Medieval old. It is traditionally eaten on the middle Sunday of Lent which goes by many names, Mothering Sunday, Refreshment Sunday and of course Simnel Sunday. It essentially two layers of fruit cake with two layers of marzipan, one in the middle and one on top. It is often topped with 11 or 12 balls of marizpan to symbolize the 12 apostles minus Judas or the 12 apostles minus Judas plus Jesus or because people like me can’t cope with topping a circle with 11 balls, it is just too unsymmetrical and will just never do.
I’ve been wanting to make my own marzipan for a while and having acquired ground almonds at a bargain price and Easter being around the corner, Simnel cake was the perfect excuse. Due to my rebellious nature I decided to make simnel cupcakes instead of a whole cake. This makes much more sense because one can fit a cupcake into their lunch box, whereas one cannot, sadly, fit an entire cake into their lunch box.
I found both recipes (cupcakes and marzipan) using BBC Food.
I made half their marzipan recipe as only half was required for these cupcakes and I will therefore give the ‘half’ recipe here. Heaven forbid you had excess marzipan that you just HAD to eat before it went off. Of course you could just go and buy recipe, but where is the fun in that?! I will forgive you though, on this occasion.
Ingredients: (To make about 500g)
- 90g of golden caster sugar
- 140g of icing sugar, sifted, plus extra for dusting
- 225g of ground almonds
- 1 tsp of vanilla bean paste or the seeds from one vanilla pod
- 1 egg, beaten
- 0.25 tsp of lemon juice
- In a large bowl, mix the caster sugar, icing sugar and almonds (rub in the vanilla seeds into the sugar mix if using, if using paste beat this into the egg).
- Make a dent in the middle of the sugar mix and pour the egg mixture and lemon juice.
- Using a knife or metal spoon, cut the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients to form a dough.
- Dust the surface with icing sugar and briefly knead the dough. Add more icing sugar if needed. Don’t over knead the dough as it will get greasy.
- Voila, your marzipan is made!
Ingredients: (This recipe makes 12 (ish, I got 15 out of it))
- 500g of marzipan
- 275g of caster sugar
- 150ml of sunflower oil
- 50g of honey
- 1 tsp of vanilla extract
- 75g of full fat cream cheese
- 4 medium free range eggs
- 150g of currants
- 75g of raisins
- 200g of plain flour
- 2 tsp of baking powder
- 2 tsp of mixed spice
- Preheat the oven to 180°C.
- Line a muffin tin with cases (12).
- Dust the work top with icing sugar and roll out the marzipan until about 3mm thick. Cut out two sets of 12 circles, one set with a diameter of about 5cm and one set with a diameter of about 6cm (I used jam lids for this). Put these to the side. Make 12 balls of marzipan with the left over marzipan.
- In a large bowl whisk the sugar, oil, honey, vanilla and cream cheese. Mix until smooth and then add the eggs one by one, whisk until well combined.
- Add the currants and raisins, stir.
- Sift in the flour, baking powder and mixed spice. Stir until well combined.
- Into each case spoon 1-2cm of the cake mix and then place one of the smaller marzipan circles on top, make sure it is pressed down firmly but don’t press too hard!
- Spoon cake mix onto each marzipan circle until the case is about three quarters full.
- Place in the oven to bake for 25-30 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean.
- Once out the oven, place one of the larger marzipan circles onto each cupcake and gently press down. Very gently.
- Remove the cakes from the tin and place on a cooling rack.
- Stick a ball to the centre of each cake using a mix of icing sugar and a drop of water if they won’t stick by themselves.
- Once completely cooled, make a nice cup of tea and put your favourite record on.
- Sit down with tea and cake and enjoy.