Simnel Cake

Prep Time: 0:30
Cook Time: 1:00
Serves: 8

Ingredients / Shopping List

225g plain flour
2 tsp baking powder
Pinch salt
100g glacé cherries
350g mixed dried fruits
1 tea bag
175g unsalted butter
175g soft light brown sugar
Zest 1 lemon
4 eggs
50g ground almonds
400g marzipan
2 tblsp apricot jam

Prep to Cook:  Deep sided cake tin, mixing bowl, food mixer, spatula, tablespoon, lemon zester or grater, basin, chopping board and vegetable knife, sieve, plate. Pre-heat oven 180⁰C or Gas mark 4.


Prepare the cake tin:

grease and line a 20cm deep sided cake tin. Soak the dried fruit in half a cup of tea made with tea bag and 200ml water.

Zest the lemon

Chop the glace cherries, rinse to remove syrup and dry with kitchen paper
Sift the flour and baking powder onto a plate
Cream the softened butter with the light brown sugar until fluffy
Beat in the lemon zest
Beat in the eggs one at a time with a tablespoon of the flour mixture
Fold in the drained dried fruits, ground almonds and the cherries and stir well
Place half the mixture in the cake tin
Roll half the marzipan into a ball and flatten with a rolling pin to 20cm circle
Place over the cake mixture in the tin.
Cover this with the remaining cake mixture and smooth the top with a slight hollow.
Cook for 25 minutes and turn the oven down to 170⁰C or Gas Mark 3 for a further 30.
Cool in the tin.
Remove and brush the top of the cake with apricot jam.  Divide the remaining marzipan into 3.  Use 2 portions to roll out another circle to cover the top of the cake.
Mark the marzipan with a knife to make a squared pattern
Brown this under the grill and whilst hot make 11 ‘eggs’ with the remaining marzipan.
Position these round the top of the cake.
Store in a tin.
Check it out!

Simnel Cake has a history.  In medieval times girls in service made the cake to take home to their mothers on Mothering Sunday.  It was also decorated for Easter celebrations with 11 eggs to represent the loyal disciples.  

Recipe Science

Cooks Know How:  This recipe demonstrates the effect of using soft brown sugar and marzipan in a fruit cake.  The basic method for making it uses the ‘creaming method’ but the aim is for a flat cake ready for decorative layer so plain flour with a smaller amount of raising agent is used. The cake contains fruits, sultanas, currants, and raisins, bought as ‘mixed dried fruits’.  Using a cold tea marinade the fruits are plumped and softened. The glace cherries add extra sugar and moistness to the cake.  Ground almonds enrich the cake and help it to have a longer shelf life. It is the layering of the cake that is different.  Half the cake mixture is placed in the tin and then a layer of marzipan is shaped and placed on the layer.  Finally the remains of the cake is piled upon the marzipan and levelled out.

Baking slowly allows the sugars to dissolve and the fats to melt and be absorbed by the flour.  The cake gradually browns and the crust caramelises.  The Maillard reaction with the eggs and flour also cause the cake colour to change and enrich the flavour of the cake. The cooked cake is moist and rich and can be painted with hot apricot jam and a layer of marzipan.   The marzipan can be toasted to caramelise it.  Store in a cake tin.