Happy Easter! I thought by this point, you might be sick of chocolate eggs and fancy something a little bit more traditional. Before this year, I had never tried, let alone made, a Simnel Cake. But my Mum and I made my Grandma one for Mothers Day, as traditionally it was made by young girls in service in large houses to take home to their mothers on Mothering Sunday. It is decorated with balls of marzipan to represent the 11 disciples and is eaten at Easter.
225g plain flour
1 + 1/2 tsp baking powder
pinch of salt
100g glace cherries
350g mixed fruit
175g unsalted butter, softened
175g light brown sugar
zest of 1 lemon
50g ground almonds
2 tbsp milk
2 tbsp apricot jam
1. Grease and line a 20.5cm round deep cake tin. Preheat your oven to 160 fan.
2. Put the flour, baking powder and salt in a bowl and set to one side. Wash the cherries with warm water to remove their sticky syrup. Halve and put them into a bowl with the dried fruit and 1 tbsp of the flour. Mix well so all the fruit is evenly dusted with flour.
3. Put the softened butter into a large mixing bowl and beat until light and creamy. Add the sugar and lemon zest and beat for a further 4/5 minutes until the mixture is lighter in colour and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add the ground almonds with the last egg.
4. Add the flour and fold in. Add the fruit and the milk and fold again. When thoroughly combined, put half of the cake mixture into the bottom of your prepared tin.
5. Divide the marzipan into 3 and roll out one third to a round just smaller than your cake tin. Gently set the marzipan round on top of the mixture in the tin. Spoon the rest of the mixture on top and spread evenly.
6. Bake for 30 minutes, then reduce the oven temperature to 150 fan and bake for a further 60 minutes. To check if it's done, insert a skewer into the centre of the cake, just down to the marzipan layer, comes out clean. Set the tin on a wire rack to cool completely.
7. Once cooled, remove the cake from the tin and peel off the lining paper. Use another third of the marzipan and roll to a round to fit the top of the cake. Lightly brush the top of the cake with the warmed apricot jam and then press the marzipan round on firmly. Pinch the edge with your fingers and then score with a diamond pattern using a sharp knife. Using the final third of marzipan, make 11 balls and arrange them around the edge of the cake. Place the cake on a baking tray and pop under a hot grill to quickly brown the top.