a cake for the weekend :: simnel cake

simnel cake :: circle of pine trees

Since making my Primavera Crown, I have been eyeing the primroses in the back garden. It occurred to me that I could have a try at crystallising some in order to decorate a cake. Simnel cake is one particular cake that is traditionally decorated with crystalised spring flowers. It is a favourite of my Mum’s, and is also a cake traditionally associated with Mother’s Day (originally having been given by girls who worked in service to their mothers on their days off.) Serendipity having taken a hand, I picked some primroses and gathered the ingredients for a Simnel Cake.

simnel cake :: circle of pine trees

To crystallise the primroses, I brushed them with beaten egg white, then dipped them gently in caster sugar and left them to dry overnight. I had mixed success, discovering that the smaller flowers crystallised far better as their petals bore the weight of the sugar. However, a few blooms were all that I needed to decorate the cake, particularly when coupled with a small posy of fresh flowers.

simnel cake :: circle of pine trees

Simnel Cake, with its rich central seam of gooey marzipan, is an absolute treat, and a far lighter fruit cake than its cousin the Christmas cake. I used Mary Berry’s recipe, with a few adaptations. Should you decide to make one, do take care when browning the marzipan under the grill. I can tell you, from experience, that being distracted by a small child for a matter of seconds will lead to singed marzipan. Not once, but twice. Having downed a large cup of coffee and provided alternative entertainment for the children, it was third time lucky.

Baked with love for the Mother’s Day weekend. I hope that my Mum will enjoy every slice.

{If you’re looking for more baking inspiration, I’ve compiled my ‘cake for the weekend’ recipes in a recipe index.}

Simnel Cake

100g glacé cherries

225g softened butter

225g light muscovado sugar

4 large free-range eggs

200g self-raising flour

25g ground almonds

225g sultanas

100g chopped dried apricots

50g chopped candied peel

zest of 2 lemons

2 tsp ground mixed spice

2 tbsp apricot jam

450g marzipan

Preheat the oven to 150C/300F/Gas 2. Grease a 20cm/8in deep round cake tin and then line the base and sides with a double layer of baking parchment.

Cut the cherries into quarters, put in a sieve and rinse under running water. Drain well and then dry thoroughly on kitchen paper.

Cream the butter and sugar together in a large bowl. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, to prevent them from curdling. Sift in the flour  and ground almonds and mix in a little at a time.

Stir the fruit, peel, zest and mixed spice thoroughly into the mixture. Place half the mixture into the prepared tin and level the surface.

Take one-third of the marzipan and roll it out to a circle the size of the tin and then place the circle on top of the cake mixture. Spoon the remaining cake mixture on top and level the surface.

Bake in the preheated oven for about 21⁄2 hours until well-risen, evenly brown and firm to the touch. Cover with foil after one hour if the top is browning too quickly. Leave to cool in the tin for 10 minutes and then turn out, peel off the parchment and finish cooling on a wire rack.

When the cake is cool, warm the apricot jam in a small saucepan. Brush the top of the cake with a little of the jam and roll out half of the remaining marzipan to fit the top of the cake. Press firmly on the top and crimp the edges to decorate. Form the remaining marzipan into 11 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, too, and then place the cake under a hot grill to turn the marzipan golden-brown.

( Adapted from Mary Berry’s recipe)

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  • It sounds absolutely delicious, I really must make one of these. I’ve seen pictures of them before, but I had no idea they had fruit and marzipan inside them as well.

  • What a beautiful Simnel cake, Laura! I really, really want to try the recipe, but Dave has reminded me that no one likes fruit cake other than me. Even if it has lashings of marzipan on top. I need to buy the world’s tiniest cake tin so that I can make a miniature one for myself!!

  • Oh wow, this looks wonderful. You have inspired me to have a go at making one this Easter, especially love the crystallised flowers… Every time I have tried crystallising flowers they have been more of a miss that a success, so I’m determined to have a go again now after seeing how pretty they look on your cake. Thank you for sharing the recipe too.

  • I, too, love to make Simnell Cakes, and rather than grill them, I brush the tops of the marzipan balls with a little bit of brown food colouring, thinned with the tiniest dot of water (I usually use gel paste colours). I find the eye and brain seem to readily accept that this means it has been toasted ( I guess you don’t get a toasty flavour, but it’s a lot less nerve-wracking than grilling!) Your cake looks beautiful, and the little primroses are enchanting.