This Easter cake is a British classic, a traditional fruit cake, lightly spiced and similar to a light Christmas cake or a Dundee cake. The difference is mainly in the decoration and the use of marzipan. Marzipan isn’t just used to coat the outside of the cake it is also baked into the cake itself, a hidden layer in the middle of the cake. Like all fruit cakes of this style it keeps incredibly well and actually gets better after it sits for a while. Also like other fruit cakes they can sometimes be a tad dry. To counter this issue you need to bake the cake correctly, prevent it from drying out in the oven. You can also choose the right ingredients, in this version using Lyle's Golden Syrup as a sweetener as this gives both a great flavour and it has the added benefit of making the cake moist and keeping it that way for longer.
HOW TO MAKE SIMNEL CAKE
The day before baking the cake, prepare the dried fruit mixture. Add the sultanas, raisins, currants, mixed peel and glacé cherries into a large bowl and pour over the alcohol (or orange juice if you prefer). Zest the orange and add to the fruit. Stir everything together, cover and set aside until ready to bake.
Preheat the oven to 150C (130C Fan). Lightly grease a deep 20cm (8 inch) round cake tin and line the base and sides with a double layer of parchment paper.
In a large bowl beat together the butter, sugar and Lyle's Golden Syrup, using an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, on medium speed for about 5 minutes or until light and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating until fully combined before adding another.
In a separate bowl whisk together the flour, almonds, spices and salt. Add this flour mixture to the bowl with the butter mixture and mix together until a smooth cake batter is formed. Add the soaked fruit mixture and mix briefly until evenly distributed. Set the cake batter aside for the moment.
Take a third of the marzipan and roll out, on a work surface dusted lightly with icing sugar, into an 18cm circle. Scrape half of the cake batter into the prepared tin and spread into an even layer. Gently place the marzipan on top of cake batter, setting it in the middle of the tin so that there is a thin layer of batter showing all around the marzipan. Scrape the remaining cake batter into the tin and spread into an even layer.
Bake in the preheated oven for about 2 hours 30 minutes - 2 hours 45 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the cake comes out clean. Check the cake after about 1 hour 20 minutes - 2 hours and if the cake is browning too quickly carefully tent with foil to prevent it browning further. Once baked remove and set aside for at least 6 hours to cool fully.
To decorate the cake add a couple tbsp of the jam into a small saucepan with a splash of water and bring to a simmer. Brush the top of the cake with the jam. Using another third of the marzipan roll out as before into a 20cm circle and place on top of the cake. For a decorative flourish, crimp the edges the marzipan like you are making a pie. Take the final third of the marzipan and divide into 11 equal sized pieces, rolling into balls. Brush the base of each ball with a little jam and use this to glue the balls around the edge of the cake.
You can serve the cake as is but sometimes a little blowtorch action is called for. Light the blowtorch and lightly burnish the marzipan. I like to do this to the balls only but you can do this to the whole layer of marzipan if you prefer.
Kept in a sealed container and wrapped well this cake will keep for a couple of weeks.
Ingredients – 19 items
Rum / brandy / whisky / orange juice
Rum / brandy / whisky / orange juice
unsalted, room temperature
Tate & Lyle Fairtrade Light Brown Soft Sugar
Lyle’s Golden Syrup
All purpose flour
fine, sea salt
Apricot jam, for decoration
Glacé cherries, halved, rinsed, dried & finely chopped
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