It’s Easter! A time for toasty hot cross buns and fruity cakes…
Oh yes, Easter is definitely one of my favourite times of the year, and not just because it’s right after my Birthday! There are some amazing recipes out there associated with this holiday, and today I am going to share my favourite with you…
Easter Simnel Cake with Crystallized Flowers
What’s the first thing that comes to mind when you think of Easter? Chocolate? The Easter Bunny? Having to come up with an even more inventive place to hide the secret hoard of Easter Eggs you have saved for the children? It seems like nowadays Easter fare revolves more around chocolate and sweets than the more traditional recipes, such as Hot Cross Buns and of course, Simnel Cake.
Typically made on the last day of Lent to signify the end of the fasting period, Simnel Cake contains many of the ‘forbidden’ Lenten foods such as dried fruit, marzipan and spices. However, Simnel Cake has not always been an Easter Day tradition. Originally, they were made by working girls who would give the cakes as gifts to their mothers on Mothering Sunday, when they would have the day off work and travel home to their families. It was not until Victorian times that we started to include the Simnel Cake in our Easter Lunch, as opposed to Mothering Sunday, the one day in Lent where we are allowed to loosen our fasting belts.
The recipe I’m sharing with you this today is my take on the traditional Simnel Cake. Typically, the cake is decorated with a layer of toasted marzipan on top and marzipan balls representing Jesus’s Apostles, eleven or twelve depending on if you think Judas should be included. However for my Simnel Cake, I choose to cut back on the sugar content of the marzipan, and adorn mine with crystallized edible flowers to represent growth and rebirth; the true essence of the spring season, and which ‘Ēostre’ was named for.
You can, of course, make this cake with the extra layer on marzipan and marzipan balls on top if you want to. Simply increase the quantity of your marzipan to 500g, using about 1/3rd of it to go into the middle for the cake, and the rest to decorate the top.
Cook the cake as normal and once cooled, brush the top with the warm apricot jam. Cut the remaining marzipan into two halves, rolling one part out to form a circle the same size as the cake (it’s nice if it’s a little bigger, then you can let it fall down the sides a bit, looks great), and the other into a long ‘sausage’. Cut the marzipan ‘sausage’ into eleven or twelve balls, and set aside.
Place the circle of marzipan over the top of the cake, pressing down only slightly so it sticks to the warm jam. Then brush the top of the cake with a little beaten egg, and arrange the marzipan balls around the edge. Brush these with a little egg as well, then set under a hot grill for 2 minutes, turning halfway. You will now have a perfectly golden cake!
If you want to really impress your guests (or happen to have a man in the house who hasn’t contributed to the Easter feastings, and you want to give them a job without them complaining baking isn’t ‘manly’ enough), you can take the cake to the table and use a blowtorch to brown the top of the cake in front of them! Just make sure you have moved anything flammable away from the cake before you do this, you don’t want to end up having an Easter bonfire instead of an Easter feast…
Easter Simnel Cake by The Country KitchenIngredients
- 200g Unsalted Butter, soft
- 180g Light Muscovardo Sugar
- 20g Dark Muscovardo Sugar
- 4 Eggs, beaten
- 225g Self Raising Flour
- 2 tsp. Ground Mixed Spice
- 450g Sultanas, Raisins and Currents
- 50g Chopped Candied Peel
- 100g Glacé Cherries
- 1 Lemon
- 1 Orange
- 150g Marzipan
- 1 Egg White
- 11 or 12 Edible Spring Flowers, such as primroses, violates or roses
- 2 tbsp. Caster Sugar
- 2-3 tbsp. Apricot Jam
- The day before you bake the cake, make the crystallized flowers. Trim the stalks of the flowers and gently clean the petals if necessary.
- Whisk the egg white in a glass bowl until light and frothy, and paint both sides of the petals with the egg white using a small paintbrush. Sprinkle a little caster sugar over the flowers and leave to dry on baking paper, then store in an airtight container.
- Preheat the oven to 150°C and grease a deep 9inch/20cm cake tin, lining the base & sides with baking paper.
- Start out by rinsing the cherries to remove their sticky coating then cut into quarters. Place in a heavy saucepan along with the raisins, sultanas, currents and chopped candied peal.
- Zest and juice the orange and lemon then add the juices to the pan. Simmer for three to four minutes, or until the liquid has been absorbed, stirring constantly. Remove from the heat and set aside to cool.
- Beat the butter and sugars in a large bowl until light and creamy, and then slowly add the eggs, beating well in between each addition.
- Sift the flour and mixed spice together and mix in a little at a time, making sure not to over beat the mixture.
- Stir the cooled dried fruit into the mixture along with the orange and lemon zest, mixing until the fruit is evenly spread through the mixture.
- Spoon half the cake mixture into the tin, making sure the surface is perfectly level. You may need to shake the tin slightly to achieve this.
- Roll the marzipan into a circle & place on top. Spoon the remaining mixture over and bake for 2¼ – 2½ hours until well-risen and firm when pressed. It should be a deep golden colour but not over brown. If you find the cake is browning too quickly, place a lid of foil over the top and continue baking.
- Once cooked, leave to the cake in the tin for 15 minutes then turn out onto a rack.
- To decorate the cake, sieve and warm the apricot jam then brush over the top of the cake. Arrange the crystallized flowers on top, tie a coloured ribbon around the edge and present at your Easter table.
And there you have it, one super special, delicious Easter celebration cake, perfect for sharing with your friends and family. And you know the best part? This recipe has almost half the sugar content compared to regular Simnel Cakes due to reduced amounts of dark sugar and only one layer of marzipan. So no excuses not to have that extra slice, if there is any left that is…
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Happy Baking and I hope you all have a very Happy Easter!
The Country Kitchen x