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Simnel Cake History and Recipe


Simnel Cake, in these times, is associated with Easter but this was not always the case. During Medieval times, it was used to celebrate Mothering Sunday. Young girls, working in service, and living in their workplace, were allowed to visit their mothers on this special day. A moist fruit cake was made by the girl and presented as a gift.

Although Mothering Sunday fell in the middle of Lent, the Lenten Fast was lifted and so this treat could be enjoyed. Some mothers did not break the fast but preferred to keep the cake to be used in the Easter celebrations, starting the tradition of it becoming an Easter Cake.

The origin of the word “Simnel” is unknown, but it is thought to have originated from the Latin word simila, meaning “fine flour”. Records dating back to 1226 refer to ” bread made into a simnel”.
Traditionally, eleven almond balls are placed around the top of the cake, representing the eleven apostles, minus Judas. Sometimes, a large almond ball is placed in the centre of the eleven, representing Jesus Christ.



175g Self-raising flour
1/2 Teaspoon Grated Nutmeg
1/2 Teaspoon Ground Ginger
1 Teaspoon Ground Cinnamon
1 Teaspoon Ground Mixed Spice
Pinch of Salt
175g Butter
175g Brown Sugar
225g Mixed Dried Fruit( currants, raisins, sultanas)
125g Apricot or Raspberry Jam
3 Eggs

450g Ground Almonds
450g Icing Sugar
1 Teaspoon Almond Essence
1 Tablespoon of Almond Essence
2 Egg Yolks
1 Egg White, beaten

Sift the salt, flour and spices together. Cream sugar and butter together, beat in the three eggs, one by one. Fold in the flour and fruit.
Line two 20cm sandwich tins with a double layer of grease proof paper. Divide the cake batter equally between the two tins and place in a preheated oven (170 degrees C/325 degrees F or Gas Mark 3)  Bake for 45 minutes or until a probe comes out clean, without any stickiness. Leave in tins until cool and then place on a wire rack. Spread the tops and sides of the cakes with a layer of jam.
To make Marzipan, beat the ground almonds and sieved icing sugar together, then beat in almond essence, lemon juice and egg yolks. Do not overwork the mixture or it will become too moist. If this happens a little more icing sugar may be added. Divide the marzipan into three equal parts.  Sprinkle some icing sugar and lightly roll out two parts to cover each of the cakes. One layer of cake, place a layer of marzipan on it, place second layer of cake on top and second layer of marzipan on very top.

The remaining piece of marzipan may be fashioned into little balls, representing eggs, and arranged around the top of the cake. Brush the top of the marzipan and balls on top of the cake with some beaten egg white. Put into a preheated oven (230 degrees C or Gas Mark 8) and bake for FIVE MINUTES ONLY to glaze the top.

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