Easter is almost here! Chocolate season is upon us and as a chocoholic, this excites me. However, as a lover of cinnamon, and all things mixed spice I get very excited about hot cross buns and simnel cake. Last year I made simnel cupcakes and hot cross cinnamon rolls (do yourself a favour and make those!!). This year I wanted to make a traditional simnel cake, complete with 11 balls of marzipan on top (to represent the 12 disciples, minus Judas). Unfortunately I didn’t have the time to egg wash and grill the top to make it turn that beautiful golden brown colour (I suggest you do it if you have the chance) but it was delicious none-the-less. Next year I’d like to attempt a vegetable based version (as I do with every fruit cake I make at the moment!). I confess to not making my own marzipan this year, but last year I did and it was delicious; if you have the time to then make sure you do, it is pretty easy.
This recipe is a Paul Hollywood recipe, who else would you turn to for a traditional recipe?! Despite no response to my tweet, I still think of him as somewhat of a baking oracle. Maybe one day he’ll reply…
This takes 2.5 hours to bake, so time accordingly!
- 500 g marzipan (preferably home made, if not I choose naturally coloured but the choice is yours)
- 225 g unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 225 g caster sugar
- 4 medium eggs
- 225 g plain flour
- 2 tsp of ground cinnamon
- Finely grated zest of 2 lemons (get your microplane out!)
- Finely grated zest of 2 oranges
- 225 g of sultanas
- 110 g of currants
- 110 g of glace cherries, chopped
- 2 tbsp of apricot jam
- 1 egg, beaten
- Preheat your oven to 150°C and double line a 20 cm round cake tin. You can use a couple of sheets of news paper for the outer layer and then line with baking paper, this stops the outside cooking too much before the middle, during long bakes like this one.
- Roll a generous third of marzipan to a few mm thick and cut out a circle of marzipan the size of the tin and set aside.
- Place the butter, sugar, eggs, flour, cinnamon, zests, sultanas, currants and cherries in a large mixing bowl and whisk until well combined with an electric whisk.
- Place half the mixture into the prepared cake tin and smooth over until flat.
- Place the cut out marzipan over the mixture and then pour the remaining half of the mixture into the cake tin and smooth over until flat.
- Bake for 2.5 hours. I recommend having an oven thermometer for this, mine was slightly overcooked around the edges but I didn’t double line the tin. My oven was at exactly 150°C but it was a fan oven. If you have a fan oven, you might want to lower the temperature to 140°C or cook the cake for slightly less time.
- Once the cake is cooked, remove it from the oven and leave it in the tin for ten minutes.
- Remove from the tin and leave it to cool completely on a cooling rack.
- Whilst it is cooling, cut out a 5 mm thick layer of marzipan, the size of the cake tin and make 11 balls of marzipan. This cake serves 12, so making 11 balls to stick on it really messed with my love of symmetry, but I did it for the traditional value.
- Once the cake is completely cool, warm the apricot jam in the microwave (~30s) and brush the top of the cake with it using a pastry brush, then place the marzipan on top of the cake. Press down around the edge of the marzipan at even intervals to make a frilled edge pattern.
- Use the jam to stick the (equally spaced) 11 balls around the top of the cake.
- Brush the marzipan with the beaten egg and place the cake under a grill, whilst watching it like a hawk, until the tops of the balls brown. You could use a blow torch lightly if you have one.
- Slice and serve!