Simnel cakes have been on my Easter to do list for years. They are a traditional Easter cake which has been baked in Britain since medieval times to celebrate the end of Lent fasting, although Wikipedia says that they were originally baked during Lent to break up the fasting. It’s also interesting that they were adopted for a time by Mothering Sunday as they were a constant presence in our house during Easter due to my Mum’s love of them. My aunt would dutifully make her one every year where it would scooch down happily in our larder, pecked at over a couple of weeks with the magical preserving properties of the rich fruit making the cake moister and fuller of flavour every day.
Having said all that, the only time I can actually remember eating any of the prized cake was when I reached for one of the eleven marzipan balls, which represent the eleven disciples minus Judas, cruelly decorated and coloured by my aunt to resemble the size and shape of Cadbury Mini Eggs, to be wholly disgusted by the intense almond taste. From there, my eight year old self decreed a complete abhorrence to marzipan which survived intact up until my mid-twenties when I gave marzipan another shot and it turned out that actually now I wasn’t expecting a chocolate treat it was very nice indeed.
That said, I sometimes think the two thick layers of marzipan, in the middle of the cake and the one which drapes over the finished Simnel cake is a little sickly so I wanted to disperse my marzipan more evenly throughout the cake by dicing it up finely and adding it in to the end of the batter. So this isn’t what you would call a traditional Simnel cake at all. I have done away with the disciples, not through any religious predilections but because those marzipan balls never get eaten. I have also made it as a bundt rather than the traditional round cake, added diced apples for an superbly moist cake, dark chocolate chips which ooze throughout the sponge and because it’s Easter so why not and then I bound the batter together with zesty buttermilk which makes the crumb a lot lighter and not weighted down with the fruit like a heavy dense Christmas cake. It’s a more spring like version of a Simnel cake if you will.
I read somewhere that the reason our traditional British fruit cakes are not popular with our friends across the pond is because Americans don’t trust a cake that can last for over a week, let alone the months we nurture and feed our fruit cakes. However this is what makes our fruit cakes such a useful addition to your Easter larder. This bundt cake bakes up large but we don’t have to worry about guzzling it all down over a weekend, it won’t be as long lasting as a traditional recipe but it could certainly be chipped at over the course of a week without become stale or dry. Although, there is no way this cake could possibly last a week in our cake crazy household.
Easter Simnel Bundt Cake
225g dark brown muscovado sugar
175g light soft brown sugar
Zest of 2 oranges
Zest of 1 lemon
175g unsalted butter
1½ teaspoons vanilla extract
400g plain flour
125g ground almonds
1½ teaspoons baking powder
1½ teaspoons bicarbonate of soda
1 tablespoon mixed spice
½ teaspoon cinnamon
Pinch of nutmeg
½ teaspoon salt
2 granny smith apples, peeled and diced into small pieces
140g marzipan, chopped into small pieces
150g dark chocolate chips
75g stem ginger, diced
100g glace cherries, diced
200g icing sugar
Juice of 1 lemon
Extra chocolate chips, marzipan and glace cherries to decorate
- Pre-heat the oven to 170°C then grease and lightly dust a 12cm x 7cm bundt tin with a coating of flour, tapping out the excess.
- Beat the sugars together with the orange and lemon zest until fragrant.
- Add the butter, a cube at a time so it creams with the sugar, then continue beating until light and fluffy.
- Add eggs, one at a time followed by the vanilla extract.
- In a separate mixing bowl sift the flour with the almonds, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda, mixed spice, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt.
- Add flour mixture into the rest of the batter, alternately with the buttermilk, one third at a time until just combined.
- Stir in the diced apple, marzipan, chocolate chips, stem ginger, glace cherries, sultanas and currants.
- Pour into the bundt tin and bake for 75-80 minutes, covering the tin with foil after about 30 minutes if the cake is browning too much.
- Remove from the oven, and leave for 5-10 minutes to rest in the tin before carefully turning out to finish cooling on a wire rack.
- To make the icing mix together the icing sugar with the lemon juice until smooth and thick but just pourable. Spoon over the top of the cake then finish decorating with more marzipan, choc chips and glace cherries on top.