Simnel cake is a light fruit cake, similar to a Christmas cake, covered in marzipan, and eaten at Easter in England and Ireland. A layer of marzipan or almond paste is also baked into the middle of the cake. On the top of the cake, around the edge, are eleven marzipan balls to represent the true apostles of Jesus; Judas is omitted.
175g self-raising flour
75g plain flour
2 level tsp Mixed Spice – cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger
125g glacé cherries, quartered
225g butter, softened
225g caster sugar, plus extra for rolling out
4 large free-range eggs
Finely grated zest of 1 unwaxed lemon and 1 orange
500g Golden Marzipan
3tbsp apricot jam
Line a deep 20cm cake tin with two layers of baking paper. Preheat the oven to 150C/130C Fan/Gas 2.
Sift the flours and spice into a bowl and stir in the dried fruit. In a different bowl, beat the butter and sugar until light and creamy. Beat in the eggs, one at a time.
Fold in the milk, flour mix and zest, then put half the mixture in the cake tin. Level the top. Dust a surface with caster sugar and roll out a third of the marzipan into a circle the same size as the cake. Lay it on top.
Cover with the rest of the cake mix and level the top. Bake for 2 hours 30 minutes or until a skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean. Remove from the tin and leave to cool.
Roll out half the remaining marzipan into a circle the size of the cake. Shape the rest into 11 balls. Heat the jam with 1tsp boiling water until melted, then brush on to the top of the cake and cover with the marzipan.
Mark the top into a criss-cross pattern with a knife. Put the marzipan balls round the edge, sticking them on with jam. Lightly brown the marzipan under the grill or with a chef’s blowtorch.