Eunice Power's Simnel cake

A light, buttery fruit cake with a double dose of home-made almond paste for your Easter table

Eunice Power's Simnel cake

Eunice Power's Simnel cake

Thu, Sep 5, 2013, 10:49

   

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Cooking Time: 0 mins

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A light, buttery fruit cake with a double dose of home-made almond paste for your Easter table

OUT COME THE tins again for the Easter baking. When I was growing up, a Simnel cake always featured on our Easter table. My grandmother was so addicted to almonds that she would split the Simnel cake in half and add an extra layer of almond paste. Perhaps there should be an Almond Addicts Anonymous?

I still use my grandmother’s recipe, although I have modified it slightly. It’s a delicious light fruit cake with a layer of luscious almond paste baked into the middle where it melts into the body of the cake. Another layer of almond paste is laid on top and it is decorated with 11 marzipan balls that are said to represent the true disciples of Jesus.

If you prefer, you could make little marzipan rabbits like those which adorn the cake photographed here. I found the instructions to make them on the website wikihow.com/Make-a-Marzipan-Bunny. They are quite easy to construct, although in my case I have to attribute the creation of most of them to my very artistic mother. You might need additional almond paste for these little fellows.

Simnel cake

650g mixed fruit, to include sultanas, raisins, currants, a handful of mixed peel and some cherries

Grated rind of 1 lemon

60mls of sherry

20mls of orange flower water (available from supermarkets or health food shops)

250g butter, at room temperature

250g caster sugar

5 eggs

Tiny drop of almond essence, about ¼tsp

350g plain flour

A pinch of mixed spice

½tsp of baking powder

Almond paste

150g caster sugar

150g icing sugar

300g ground almonds

1 tbsp sherry

1 egg and 1 egg yolk (reserve the white)

A tiny drop of almond essence, about ¼tsp

You will need a 23cm (9in) cake tin.

Soak the fruit with the lemon rind, sherry and orange flower water for an hour or so, allowing the fruit to soften and the flavours to macerate. The addition of the orange flower water, with its citrus floral aroma, contributes a gentle, fresh flavour.

Next, make the almond paste by mixing the sugars and ground almonds together in a mixing bowl. In a separate bowl whisk the eggs and remaining ingredients. Add this to the dry mixture and mix until a smooth paste is formed.

Line the base and sides of the baking tin with baking parchment.

Sieve together the flour, mixed spice and baking powder.

Beat the butter and sugar together until pale and fluffy, then add the eggs, one at a time, alternating with the flour until it is all incorporated. Carefully fold in the fruit.

Put half of the mixture into the pre-prepared tin. Roll a little over a third of the almond paste into a round shape, a little smaller than the cake tin diameter, and place it on top of the cake mixture in the tin. Top with the rest of the cake mixture.

Bake in a pre-heated oven at 135 degrees/gas 1, for two and a half hours. Check with a skewer to see if is cooked; it may need an extra 30 minutes or so.

Allow the cake to cool in the tin and then transfer it to a wire tray.

Lightly brush the top of the cake with the reserved egg white. Make 11 little balls with the marzipan (bigger than marbles and smaller than walnuts). Roll out the remaining almond paste into a circle the same size as the cake and place it on top of the cake. Crimp the edges. Fix the marzipan balls to the top of the cake using a little egg white.

Brush the top of the cake with a little beaten egg and place it under a hot grill for one to two minutes until it is lightly toasted.

Your cake is now ready to serve or can be stored.