Easter Simnel Cake

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Easter Simnel Cake

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Simnel Cake  is a light fruit cake with a layer of almond paste (marzipan) baked in the centre of the cake for added moisture. Traditionally, the top of the cake is decorated with eleven balls of marzipan arranged around the exterior of the cake to represent the eleven true disciple of Jesus (Judas is omitted). Sometimes there may be a twelfth ball of marzipan placed in the centre of the cake to represent Jesus.. It is a quintessential English and Irish tradition.

Courtesy of top celebrity TV chef Edward Hayden.

Ingredients

  • Fruit Cake:
  • 2oz/50g ground almonds
  • 1 ½ teaspoons mixed spice
  • ¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 6oz/175g self-raising flour
  • 6oz/175g brown sugar
  • 6oz/175g softened butter
  • 12oz/350g mixed fruit (sultanas, currants, mixed peel, cherries)
  • 3 large eggs
  • Almond Paste:
  • 4oz/110g icing sugar
  • 8oz/225g ground almonds
  • 4oz/110g caster sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • ½ teaspoon almond essence
  • Juice of ½ lemon
  • Decoration:
  • A little apricot jam
  • Mini eggs or chicks, as decorations (optional)

Instructions

  1. To Make Almond Paste:
  2. Sieve the ground almonds and icing sugar together.
  3. Add the caster sugar and mix well.
  4. In a separate bowl, whisk the eggs, lemon juice and almond essence with a fork and, then add two thirds of this liquid to the dry ingredients and bind them together.
  5. Do not add all of the liquid at once as you may or may not need it all depending upon the size of your eggs. Add the remaining liquid only if it is needed to bind the mixture together. The almond paste should look like a ball of pastry after it has been kneaded together. Divide the paste into three, wrap each in cling film and store in the fridge until required. (if you have made the almond paste the day before it is best to take it out of the fridge approximately half an hour before you need it as it does have a tendency to become quite firm in the fridge and rolling it out can be difficult.)
  6. To Make the Cake:
  7. Line an eight inch deep cake tin with baking parchment.
  8. Sieve the ground almonds, self-raising flour, mixed spice and nutmeg together.
  9. In a separate bowl, cream the butter and brown sugar together until light and fluffy.
  10. Add in the eggs and sieved dry ingredients to the creamed butter and sugar and mix until thoroughly combined.
  11. Carefully mix in the dried fruits and stir well to ensure that the fruit has become fully incorporated into the cake mix.
  12. Assembly:
  13. Preheat the oven to 150C/300F/Gas Mark 2.
  14. Put half of the cake mixture into the tin and spread out so that it is nice and flat.
  15. Roll out 1/3 of the almond paste into an 8 inch disc and place it on top of the cake mix.
  16. Pour the remaining cake mix on top of the almond paste and spread it out evenly.
  17. Bake the cake for between 1 ½ hours-2 hours depending on the oven. A skewer inserted in the centre should come out clean.
  18. Check the cake after about an hour if the cake is browning too much loosely cover the cake with tin foil. Remove from the oven when cooked and allow the cake to cool completely.
  19. Decoration:
  20. Once the cake is cooled brush the top surface of the cake with boiled apricot jam.
  21. Roll out another 1/3 of the almond paste into a disc and arrange this on top of the cake.
  22. Divide the remaining almond paste into eleven pieces, roll them into balls and secure around the top of the cake with a little apricot jam.
  23. Brush the entire surface of the cake (i.e. the exposed almond paste) with beaten egg and return to garnish the cake with some mini eggs or Easter chicks if desired.
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