Simnel cake is a light fruit cake which is covered in Marzipan and toasted. It’s normally eaten on the middle Sunday of lent and it’s been around since the Middle Ages. More recently it was traditionally given by Victorian servant girls to their mothers when they returned home on Mothering Sunday.
Normally eleven, or more occasionally twelve, marzipan balls are used to decorate the cake, as the balls are supposedly meant to represent the twelve apostles, minus Judas or Jesus and the twelve apostles, minus Judas.
For the cake
100g glacé cherries
225g butter, softened
225g light muscovado sugar
4 large eggs
225g self-raising flour
50g chopped candied peel
2 lemons, grated zest only
2 tsp ground mixed spice
For the filling and topping
2 tbsp apricot jam, warmed
Preheat the oven to 150C/280F/Gas 2.
Grease and line a 20cm/ 8in cake tin with baking parchment.
Cut the cherries into quarters, put in a sieve and rinse under running water. Drain well then dry thoroughly on kitchen paper.
Place the cherries in a bowl with the butter, sugar, eggs, self-raising flour, sultanas, currants, candied peel, lemon zest and mixed spice and beat well until thoroughly mixed.
Pour half the mixture into the prepared tin.
Take one-third of the marzipan and roll it out to a circle the size of the tin and then place on top of the cake mixture.
Spoon the remaining cake mixture on top and level the surface.
Bake in the pre-heated oven for about 2½ hours, or until well risen, evenly brown and firm to the touch. Covering with aluminium foil after one hour if the top is browning too quickly.
Leave to cool in the tin for 10 minutes then turn out, peel off the lining parchment and finish cooling on a wire rack.
When the cake is cool, brush the top with a little warmed apricot jam and roll out half the remaining marzipan to fit the top. Press firmly on the top and crimp the edges to decorate.
Mark a criss-cross pattern on the marzipan with a sharp knife.
Form the remaining marzipan into 11 (or 12) balls.
Brush the marzipan with beaten egg and arrange the marzipan balls around the edge of the cake.
Brush the tops of the balls with beaten egg and then carefully place the cake under a preheated hot grill for a few moments to lightly toast.
Decorate further with candied fruit and flowers is you wish, slice and serve.