Simnel Cake and Spring are here!

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Spring is here! At last! There has been sun, and bird song, and walking, repotting of plants!

Not only that, there has been Simnel Cake making! We’re having a quiet long weekend, with a couple of friends popping over for lunch on Easter Sunday. So I thought I’d take the chance to make a traditional Easter cake – the Simnel Cake.

Simnel cakes have been known since at least the medieval times. They would be eaten on the middle Sunday of Lent, Laetare Sunday (also known as Refreshment Sunday, Mothering Sunday, Sunday of the Five Loaves, and Simnel Sunday), when the forty day fast would be relaxed. More recently, they became a Mothering Sunday tradition, when young girls in service would make one to be taken home to their mothers on their day off. The word simnel probably derived from the Latin word simila, meaning fine, wheaten flour. (taken from Wikipedia).

Simnel Cake

Ingredients

For the filling and topping
To decorate
  • 1 free-range egg white

  • organic primroses (or alternatively other edible spring flowers)

  • handful caster sugar

Preparation method

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

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

  3. Beat the butter and sugar together in a large bowl until light and creamy. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, to prevent them from curdling. Sift in the flour and mix it 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.

  4. 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.

  5. Bake in the preheated oven for about 2½ 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.

  6. 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. Mark a criss-cross pattern on the marzipan with a sharp knife. Form the remaining marzipan into 11 balls.

  7. 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.

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