Tuesday, 31 March 2015

Berry Simnel Cake

Simnel Cake
Also, top right: plain biscuits with fondant icing rabbits and choc drop/raisin eyes

Simnel cake was originally made for Mothering Sunday when workers were allowed to return home to their "mother church".  It eventually came to be made for Easter with the marzipan marking the twelve apostles around the edge of the cake as you can see in the photo above.  I have made it almost every year for Easter Sunday tea since I first read Cattern Cakes and Lace, but I have seen it mentioned more in magazines and on TV over the past decade, being pushed as traditional Easter fare.

We all love to help making simnel cake at Acorn Towers!  The kids love rolling the marzipan balls and helping to decorate it.  It is such a simple cake mix that they can get in on adding ingredients and mixing too.

The citrusiness of this recipe is perfect for Easter, light and fresh, and the berries look like jewels when you cut it. In the past, I have added a tablespoon of Amaretto, or 1 tsp almond extract; this compliments the marzipan nicely for some people, but I now feel it is too much almond.

The nature of this cake is more of a madeira than a traditional fruit cake; I love the breadcrumb coating for a lovely texture and making it a perfect match to a cup of tea. It is best kept for a few days to settle before cutting; the flavour is best that way too.

You can, if you prefer, cook the batter in two sandwich tins for less time, then sandwich by brushing cooled cakes with warmed marmalade and a layer of marzipan or a marmalade flavoured butter icing; I would not want to lose the gorgeous decadent squidginess of the cooked marzipan though. A 500g pack of marzipan should be enough, but I always give in to worry and end up with a 1kg pack just in case!

200g granulated sugar
300g vegetable oil butter (we like Pure for the neutral taste)
150g plain flour
150g cornflour
1 tsp baking powder
Pinch of table salt
100ml sweetened soya milk *why?, with 1 tbsp. mild vegetable oil + 1 tbsp. lemon juice whisked in
200g mixed dried berries
200g sultanas
Grated zest of half a lemon and half an orange
A pack of golden marzipan (see above for sizes)
breadcrumbs for coating
Shredless marmalade and golden marzipan to decorate

Cream the butter and sugar well.  Mix the flours, baking powder and salt separately.  Gradually mix in the flour mixture and the milk/oil/lemon mixture.  Fold in the fruit and zest.  Well butter a 20cm round cake tin, then coat it with the breadcrumbs.  Tip half of the batter into the tin.  Roll half of the marzipan to fit the tin and lay on the top of the batter.  Cover the marzipan with the remaining batter.  Bake at 160C for 2 hours, the top covered with foil - remove foil for the last 20 minutes.  Cool on a wire rack until cool enough t handle comfortably then carefully turn out.

To decorate, brushing the top of the cooled cake with warmed marmalade.  Roll out some golden marzipan and lay on top of the cake.  Roll 12 marzipan balls and place around the cake; this can represent the apostles or the seasons of the year.  We like to finish with an Easter motif cut from marzipan; if you do not have any Easter themed cutters you can cut out a cross with a knife, perhaps using fondant icing if you wish it to stand out against the yellow like a giant hot cross bun.

*To add a little more sweetness, I like to use soya milk sweetened with apple extract (supermarket brands usually are) which is around the same cost as dairy milks but with less saturated fat and is good if you worry about the free-range etc side of things - it also has the advantage of making cakes suitable for the oft-cited 70% of the world's population who are lactose intolerant! If you only have dairy milk in the fridge, then there is no reason that this recipe wouldn't work with that instead.

Costings to come

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