Traditionally made at Easter, Simnel cake is a light fruit cake with two layers of marzipan, one in the middle and the other on the top.
It is decorated with 11 balls of marzipan which are said to represent the twelve apostles, minus Judas. Sometimes an extra ball is placed in the centre to represent Jesus.
I’ve tested several recipes for Simnel cake on friends and family over the years, but this version from Mary Berry, which can be found in the book from the popular TV show ‘ The great British bake off ‘, has definitely proved to be the most popular so far.
100 g glacé cherries
225 g butter, softened
225 g light muscovado sugar
4 large eggs
225 g SR flour
50 g ground almonds
225 g sultanas
100 g currants
50 g candid peel
2 lemon, zest only
2 teaspoons mixed spice
450 g golden marzipan
2 tablespoons apricot jam
Preheat the oven to 150 C/ Gas 2. Grease and line a 20 cm cake tin.
Cut the cherries into quarters, put in a sieve and rinse under running water. Drain well then dry thoroughly on kitchen paper.
Place the cherries in a bowl with the butter, sugar, eggs, self-raising flour, salt, ground almonds, sultanas, currants, candied peel, lemon zest and mixed spice and beat well until thoroughly mixed. Pour half the mixture into the prepared tin.
Take one-third of the marzipan and roll it out to a circle the size of the tin and then place on top of the cake mixture. Spoon the remaining cake mixture on top and level the surface.
Bake in the pre-heated oven for about 2½ hours, or until well risen, evenly brown and firm to the touch. Cover with aluminium foil after one hour if the top is browning too quickly.
Leave to cool in the tin for 10 minutes then turn out, peel off the parchment and finish cooling on a wire rack.
When the cake is cool, brush the top with a little warmed apricot jam and roll out half the remaining marzipan to fit the top. 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.
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 and then carefully place the cake under a hot grill until the top is lightly toasted