A simnel cake is a fruit cake with a middle layer of marzipan and another layer on the top. Since Victorian times, the cake has been decorated with 11 or 12 little balls of marzipan. It was traditionally eaten on the middle Sunday of Lent – the 12 balls representing Christ and his 11 apostles (minus the 12th, Judas).
I have a confession to make, I’d never actually eaten a simnel cake until I made these. What have I been waiting for? They’re easy to make from scratch and are delicious! The idea of cooking them in used food tins is ingenious. A word of caution, however, try not to use ring-pull tins. They have a lip at the top that makes it difficult to ease the cake out after baking. I had to open the other end of the tin to get them out!
Even though I used small tins (150g Morrison’s own brand sweetcorn… around the size of small Heinz baked beans ones), we shared half a cake each.
- 150g/5oz ground almonds
- 200g/7oz icing sugar + extra for rolling
- 2tsp almond extract
- 1 egg white
- 115g/4oz butter, softened
- 115g/4oz caster sugar
- 2 eggs
- 125g/4½oz self-raising flour
- 300g/10½oz mixed dried fruit ( any of currants, raisins, sultanas, mixed peel, glacé cherries)
- 1tsp mixed spice (I didn't have any, so I made my own mixture)
- 4tbsp apricot jam (I used some home-made plum jam)
- cocoa powder, for dusting
- Put the ground almonds, icing sugar, almond extract and egg white into a food processor and combine until a thick ball of dough is formed
- Turn the paste out onto a work surface and knead it a few times. Roll it into a log and wrap in cling film until the cake mixture has been made
- Any unused marzipan will keep for a month in the fridge or 6 months in the freezer
- Pre-heat the oven to 150ºC/300ºF/Gas mark 2. Line the base and sides of each tin with baking parchment
- Beat the butter and sugar together until creamy
- Add one of the eggs and combine until well mixed. Add the other egg with 1 tbsp of flour and mix again
- Stir in the rest of the four and all of the dried fruit
- Liberally sprinkle some icing sugar on a work surface and roll out the marzipan. Cut out 8 circles about ½cm thick and the same diameter as the tins
- Divide half the cake mixture between the tins and level the tops. Put a marzipan rounds on top of each and cover with the rest of the cake mixture
- Bake for an hour or until a skewer inserted in the centre comes away clean
- Allow the cakes to cool in their for 15 minutes before remove them to cool completely on a wire rack
- Trim the top of each cake with a sharp knife to make them flat
- Heat the jam and brush on the top of each cakes before cover each with the remaining marzipan rounds
- Make 36 mini balls with the remaining marzipan. Put 9 balls around the edge of each cake, using a little brush of jam to stick them in place
- Lightly sprinkle with cocoa powder
Delia Smith is probably my favourite ‘celebrity chef’. I think it’s because she’s really down to earth, and so are her recipes. Easy to follow recipes that result in simple, hearty, tasty food.
This week’s recipe is a case in point, her sticky date cake. Delia calls it a ‘boil and bake’ cake – not terribly enticing I admit, but bear with me.
It’s quick to mix but takes up to 3 hours to bake in a low oven. The result is a big, unctuous, flavourful fruit-filled cake. The original recipe calls for a dollop of orange marmalade – which we never have in the house – so I substituted it for some lime marmalade I made a while ago.
The taste and texture of this cake make it like a cross between a sticky toffee pudding and a Christmas cake.
Try it with vanilla ice cream, thick pouring cream and a splash of brandy or rum for a festive flourish!
This week’s Cakes & Bakes features a traditional Yorkshire fruit loaf. We often sit down for a tea break at about four in the afternoon – and absolutely love this kind of thing as an accompaniment to our brew. Sweet, sticky and full of good things to give you a mid afternoon energy boost.
There’s a very simple list of ingredients.
It’s vital that you soak the dried fruit in tea overnight – it makes a big difference to the end result so don’t be tempted to skip this stage!
It’s everything in one bowl method.
Preparation is easy so you can’t go wrong!
The loaf keeps well for up to 2 weeks, but it probably won’t hang around that long though.
It’s delicious served on its own or with a thin scrape of butter (thick scrape in Justin’s case).
Even just looking at it in pictures, we’re tempted to get the kettle on!!
- 350g mixed dried fruit (currants, sultanas, raisins, mixed peel. Try adding a tbsp of crystallised ginger)
- 350ml strong tea brewed for 3-4 mins
- 2 eggs
- 200g brown soft sugar
- 270g self raising flour
- Brew a large, strong mug of tea (we usually use loose Yorkshire tea... of course! But any strong breakfast or afternoon tea will do!)
- Put the mixed dried fruit into a medium mixing bowl.
- Allow the tea to brew and cool slightly before pouring it into the mixing bowl (it should just about cover all the fruit
- Cover with cling flim/Saran wrap for a few hours, ideally overnight, to allow the tea to plump up the fruit
- In the morning, preheat the oven to 170ºC/
- Grease 2 x 450g/1lb loaf tins ( or 1 x 900g/2lb loaf tin)
- In a measuring jug, lightly beat the eggs before adding them to the mixed fruit and any un-soaked liquid
- Add the sugar and combine well
- Pour evenly into the loaf tins and bake for 40-50 mins or until an inserted skewer comes away clean. If you're using a 900g tin, baking will take about 60-75 mins
- Leave the loaves in their tins to cool completely before turning them out
- They'll keep for a couple of weeks if wrapped in baking parchment and kept in a cool, airtight container