Simnel cake

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!

Simnel Cake

A vegan and gluten free version of this traditional Easter cake. Miss off the marzipan and make a delightful light fruit cake.
Prep Time 20 mins
Cook Time 40 mins
Total Time 1 hr
Course Cake
Servings 12 slices

Equipment

  • 18 cm loose-bottomed cake tin

Ingredients
  

  • 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

Instructions
 

  • 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.

Notes

Vegan marzipan recipe can be found here
If you are covering the cake with marzipan and making 11 balls, please double the recipe found in the link above.
Keyword Easter,, fruit cake, gluten free, OMS friendly, plant based, vegan

Chocolate cupcakes with sweet potato frosting

Easter is associated with many things – the life of Jesus and the religious festival, Spring, chicks and, of course, chocolate! Chocolate eggs became a thing in the early 19th century, first made in France and Germany and then by Cadbury’s in the UK.

Eggs have been part of a spring festival way before Christianity used them to symbolise the resurrection. Used to represent rebirth or awakening, eggs appeared in pagan, Egyptian and Hindu mythology and have long been given as spring gifts, often beautifully decorated.

So chocolate and eggs are synonymous with this time of year. But what if you can’t or don’t eat either of these? Dairy-free and vegan chocolate is widely available so that’s not an issue for many people. However, if you follow a particular dietary programme for health like Overcoming MS then chocolate in its hard form is out due to the high level of saturated fat. So what to do (apart from sulk?) – make cake!

These chocolate cupcakes contain lots of cocoa or cacao powder which doesn’t have the added cocoa butter (which is where the fat is). It does contain all the lovely phytonutrients though, especially if you used raw cacao rather than cocoa. The frosting is a tasty and healthy alternative to heavy butter icing, and as it includes sweet potato you also get all those extra phytonutrients too. Which makes these cupcakes even better and so you can eat loads……well maybe not, but you get the super tasty chocolate hit as well as goodness, so that can’t be a bad thing!

I made these cakes and frosting on my live Facebook cooking session this week; here is the recording in case you missed it and fancied a watch. Plus the full recipe is below with all the ingredients and method. I hope you enjoy them – please let me know how you get on.

Wishing you a very Happy Easter.

Chocolate cupcakes with sweet potato chocolate frosting

Super tasty, easy to bake cakes with a low fat but delicious frosting alternative.
Prep Time 10 mins
Cook Time 20 mins
Cooking sweet potato 20 mins
Total Time 50 mins
Course Dessert
Servings 12 cakes

Ingredients
  

  • 1 medium sweet potato baked in its skin or steamed
  • 225 grams self-raising four wholemeal or gluten free
  • ½ teaspoon baking powder
  • 75 grams cocoa or cacao powder
  • pinch salt
  • 370 ml soya milk or other dairy-free milk
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice or cider vinegar
  • 80 ml olive oil
  • 120 grams coconut sugar or very dark brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla essence

for the frosting

  • sweet potato prepped as above
  • 4 tablespoons maple syrup or other liquid sweetener
  • 3-4 tablespoons cacao or cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla essence
  • fresh or freeze-dried raspberries to decorate optional

Instructions
 

  • Before you make the cake, bake the sweet potato in its skin or steam. This can be done the day before and kept in the fridge.
  • Pre-heat the oven to 180ºC/350ºF/Gas4. Line a muffin tin with wrappers.
  • Add the lemon juice to the soya milk and leave to curdle for a few minutes.
  • Place the flour, baking powder, cocoa powder and salt together in a large bowl and mix well to combine.
  • In a separate bowl add the coconut sugar, oil and vanilla essence. Pour in the curdled soya milk and mix well to combine.
  • Pour the wet mix into the dry and quickly stir to combine - do not overmix and try to be ilght-handed but thorough. This should only take 10-12 seconds. Time is of the essence to get the raising agents to work iin the oven.
  • Quickly distribute the mix out into the prepared tin. Once the mix has all gone, tap the tin on the worktop and place in the oven. Bake for 18-20 minutes - the cakes are ready when risen and firm but bouncy on top. Test with a tooth pick - if it comes out clean they're ready.
  • Transfer the cakes to a cooling rack. Once cooled, they can be frozen for another time or decorated with the frosting.

To make the frosting

  • Place the cooked sweet potato, maply syrup, cocoa powder and vanilla essence into a small blender and whizz for a few seconds to combine. Test the flavour and add more syrup or cocoa as needed and blend again
  • Spread the mix over the top of the cakes and decorate with raspberries if desired. Keep in the fridge and eat within 3-4 days
Keyword chocolate cake,, Easter,, low fat, plant-based diet, vegan cake