Spring has finally arrived in all her glory; it seems to have been a very long winter this year! Gorgeous Spring blossom and buds are everywhere, like this gorgeous magnolia coming into bloom near my house.
As it’s only a few days now until Easter, baking is at the forefront of my mind. Even though the Easter holidays are going to be much quieter than normal this year, there’s still something lovely about a toasted hot cross bun (did you see my sourdough hot cross bun recipe?) or a slice of cake – like this Simnel cake.
Simnel cake has been made at this time of year since Medieval times. Originally it was just for Mother’s Day, but then became associated with Easter. If you’re not too sure what Simnel cake is, it’s a light fruit cake with a layer of marzipan in the middle and/or on top, decorated with 11 marzipan balls to represent the disciples (Judas being the twelfth one who’s missing). To finish it off, the marzipan can be lightly browned using a blow torch or under the grill – if you dare!
Apart from the fruit element, there’s not that much that’s traditional about my version of Simnel cake! It’s egg free, dairy free and works well with gluten free flour. It’s low in sugar and refined oil (and you can miss it out completely if you like). And the marzipan is vegan too. The only thing I can’t make it is nut free. Although you could just make the fruit cake and forget about the marzipan. In fact, if you just want a tasty, plain fruit cake then do just that. It’s lovely!
This recipe includes glacé cherries. I’m always torn by these as they do contain a lot of sugar plus they bring back memories of my childhood of some horrid tasting ones. You can substitute more dried fruit for the cherries if you prefer. One top tip is to rinse the glacé cherries under a running tap to wash off some of the sugar syrup before using them – this helps to stop them dropping to the bottom of the cake as well as reducing the sugar content.
As you can see, I’ve not gone in for traditional decoration (no surprise there!). The mini eggs on top come from a company called Doisy and Dam who make chocolate products without animal ingredients or highly processed ingredients. Sadly they still contain lots of saturated fat from the cocoa butter so are not suitable for anyone follow a very low fat diet like Overcoming MS, but if you’re not, then check them out as apparently they’re a bit good.
If you enjoy fruit cake, then you will love this Simnel cake. Do let me know if you make it and how you get on. Wishing you a very Happy Easter!
- 18 cm loose-bottomed cake tin
- 1 portion vegan marzipan see link below
- 270 grams self raising flour wholemeal or gluten free
- 1 teaspoon baking powder gluten free if needed
- 1 medium unwaxed lemon grated rind and juice
- pinch salt
- 400 grams dried mixed fruit
- 150 grams glacé cherries rinsed and chopped
- 250 ml soya milk
- 50 grams coconut sugar
- 60 ml olive oil or extra soya milk if oil free
- Line a 18cm loose-bottomed cake on the bottom and sides with a double layer of non-stick baking paper (this helps to minimise the risk of the edges getting over-cooked)
- Make the marzipan as per the recipe in the link below and leave to firm up for 10 minutes.
- Whilst the marzipan is firming up, weigh out the flour, baking powder, lemon rind and salt into a large bowl. Stir well to combine. Add the dried fruit (not the cherries) and stir again.
- In another bowl or large jug, measure out the soya milk and add a tablespoon of lemon juice. Let it curdle for a couple of minutes then add the coconut sugar, olive oil and chopped glacé cherries.
- Pre-heat the oven to 170ºC
- Cut the marzipan in half. Place one half onto a silicon mat or sheet of non-stick baking paper. If it's really sticky, add an extra sprinkle or two of ground almonds and roll it out to a circle roughly the same diameter as the cake tin. Put to one side.
- Pour the wet cake ingredients into the dry and mix thoroughly and quickly to combine. Make sure you've scrapped up all the flour from the bottom of the bowl.
- Spoon half the mixture into the bottom of the prepared cake tin and spread it out. Carefully pick up the rolled out marzipan on the silicon mat or baking paper, turn it over above the tin and carefully peel it off to cover the cake mix. Don't worry if it breaks a bit as it won't get seen!
- Spoon the remaining half of the mix over the top of the marzipan layer and spread it out to fill the tin. Tap the tin on the work top a couple of times then transfer it to the oven.
- Bake in the middle of the oven for 40 minutes. Check to see if the cake it baked by piercing it with a skewer - if it comes out clean it's done. If not, return to the oven for a couple of minutes and check again. Be careful not to over cook - the cake continues to firm up once out of the oven.
- Remove from the oven and leave to cool in the tin for 10 minutes, then remove and transfer to a rack to cool completely.
- Finish decorating the cake once it is completely cold. Roll out the remaining marzipan and place over the top of the cake. If you're making marzipan balls, you'll need extra (see note below) or decorate with mini eggs or chicks as you desire.