Gluten-Free Simnel Cake

This Gluten-Free Simnel Cake is a traditional Easter fruit cake decorated with marzipan balls to represent the apostles. This deliciously modern version has been lightened up and baked in a beautiful bundt tin.

Simnel Cake on a wire rack on a wooden board

This Gluten-Free Simnel Cake is a classic recipe from the blog. The recipe has been updated with gluten-free ingredients. There are new photos and the method and post content have been updated for clarity.

What is Simnel Cake?

Simnel Cake is a light fruit cake, synonymous with Easter. Crammed with marzipan, dried fruit and spices. Simnel Cakes have been baked 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.

Mothering Sunday

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 Auntie Lil would dutifully make her one every year. It would reside comfortably in our larder, pecked at over a couple of weeks. Traditional Simnel Cakes can keep for a while but this lighter version has a shorter shelf life.

A slice of Simnel Cake on a plate

What does a Simnel Cake represent?

Simnel Cakes are instantly recognisable due to the eleven balls of marzipan perched symbolically around the edge of the cake like a confectionary crown. These marzipan balls represent the eleven aspostles, Judas is NFI for obvious reasons.

Growing up I was not a fan of Mum’s Simnel Cake. Auntie Lil would innocently decorate and colour the marzipan balls to bear a striking resemblance to Cadbury Mini Eggs. It left me terribly scarred which led me to eschew all Simnel Cakes until adulthood. When you are expecting chocolate and are met with marzipan the experience can leave a child feeling more than a little cheated.

Simnel Cake on a wire rack on a wooden board

Why is Simnel Cake called Simnel?

Well, now this is ironic. The Simnel Cake is called as such because the latin name for white flour is ‘simila’ and that is what was traditionally used to bake the cake. Not this cake my friend. We have used alternative gluten-free flours, only a couple of which are white.

Modernising a Simnel Cake

It must be said that my version of a Simnel Cake has been modernised a little. The intention, taste and celebratory feel is still present but this version is lighter. It also feels more celebratory baked in the beautiful bundt tin.

homemade marzipan dough rolled into balls on a wooden board

Marzipan

You often find Simnel Cakes to have a thick layer of marzipan in the centre of the cake as well as draped over the top. Instead we are following Delia’s example and dicing up our marzipan to be dispersed throughout the cake which isn’t so heavy hitting.

Baker’s Tip: Try using Homemade Marzipan. The switch from ready-made will transform your Simnel Cake immeasurably. The Homemade Marzipan almost melts into the centre of the cake which is utterly delicious. Plus I guarantee those marzipan balls will be fought over instead of instantly discarded.

Instead of the blanket of marzipan on the surface of the cake we are using a simple lemon icing, spiked with a little almond extract as a nod to the original.

Lightened Up Fruitcake

We are adding buttermilk to our cake batter here which makes for an amazingly moist, light and tangy fruitcake. A lovely contrast with the jewelled fruits.

Baker’s Tip: If you don’t have buttermilk then you can use 350ml whole milk + 1½ tbsp. lemon juice. Whisk together then let sit for five minutes before adding to your cake batter.

Gluten-Free Flours

Obviously the use of alternative flours is not traditional but their presence is completely undetectable. Here we use:

  • Sweet Rice Flour for its light neutral taste, we don’t want it to interfere with everything that’s going on. Plus it gives the cake bounce and binding power.
  • Gluten-Free Oat Flour for its tender crumb and lightness. Swap with sorghum flour if you can’t digest oats.
  • Potato Flour for its hydroscopic tendencies. It helps absorb excess moisture and gives lightness.

Simnel Cake on a wire rack on a wooden board

Bundt Tin. This Simnel Cake is baked in a bundt tin for a further celebratory feel. The marzipan balls then sit happily atop like an Easter garland.

Simnel Cake

Add-ins

We are keeping things traditional with the choice of add-ins:

  • natural marzipan
  • glacé cherries
  • sultanas
  • currants
  • mixed peel

Baker’s Tips:

  • I urge you wherever possible to try making homemade versions of these add-ins. There are recipes for the Homemade Marzipan, Homemade Glacé Cherries and Homemade Mixed Peel on this site. I guarantee you will notice the difference.
  • Ideally the add-ins should be evenly dispersed throughout the cake. Stir them in a little oat flour to coat before adding them into the batter and it should stop them from sinking.

How do you make Gluten-Free Simnel Cake?

  1. Cream the butter with the sugars and citrus zest until light and fluffy.
  2. Eggs. Add them in one at a time.
  3. Flours. Whisk the dry ingredients with the flour.
  4. Buttermilk. Add the flour alternately with the buttermilk.
  5. Add-ins. Finally stir in all the add-ins.
  6. Bake for 75 minutes in a moderate oven.
  7. Ice with a simple icing sugar + lemon icing.
  8. Decorate with the marzipan balls.

Simnel Cake

Simnel Cake

Simnel Cake

How long does Gluten-Free Simnel Cake last for?

This Gluten-Free Simnel Cake won’t be as long lasting as a traditional Simnel Cake but it can certainly be kept for up to a week. Store in an airtight tin in a cool dark place. However, if you are using Homemade Marzipan balls then they should be eaten within three days due to the raw egg in the dough.

Simnel Cake on a wire rack on a wooden board

If you like this recipe then you may like:

Easy Homemade Marzipan
Gluten-Free Hot Cross Buns
Easter-Spiced Chocolate Chip Scones
Easter Welsh Cakes

If you make this Gluten-Free Simnel Cake then please leave a comment below and/or give the recipe a rating. If you then go on to use this recipe as a launch pad for your own baking creation then I’d also love it if you’d share it and tag me on Instagram. It is so lovely for me to see your versions and variations of my recipes.

Gluten-Free Simnel Cake

Gluten-Free Simnel Cake is a traditional Easter fruit cake. This deliciously modern version has been lightened up and baked in a beautiful bundt tin.
Prep Time20 mins
Cook Time1 hr 15 mins
Total Time1 hr 35 mins
Course: Cake
Cuisine: British
Calories: 9517

Ingredients

  • 225 g dark brown muscovado sugar
  • 175 g light soft brown sugar
  • Zest of 1 orange
  • Zest of 1 lemon
  • 175 g unsalted butter room temperature
  • 4 eggs medium-sized
  • 175 g sweet rice flour
  • 175 g oat flour + 2 tablespoons for coating add-ins
  • 50 g potato flour
  • 125 g ground almonds
  • teaspoons baking powder
  • teaspoons bicarbonate of soda
  • 1 tablespoon ground mixed spice
  • ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • 350 ml buttermilk

Add-ins

  • 150 g natural marzipan diced
  • 100 g glacé cherries diced
  • 125 g sultanas
  • 125 g currants
  • 50 g mixed peel

Icing

  • 200 g icing sugar
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • ¼ teaspoon almond extract
  • 275 g natural marzipan

Cake Tin

  • 2.4 litres bundt tin 10 cups

Instructions

  • Pre-heat the oven to 180°C/160°C /gas 4 and grease your bundt tin with spray oil.
  • 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. Continue to beat until light and fluffy, scraping down the sides every so often.
  • Add the eggs, one at a time, followed by the vanilla extract.
  • Sift the flours in a separate mixing bowl with the almonds, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda, mixed spice, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt.
  • Add the flour mixture into the rest of the batter, alternately with the buttermilk, one third at a time until just combined.
  • Mix the marzipan, glace cherries, sultanas, currants and mixed peel together in a separate bowl then mix in the extra oat flour to coat. Stir the add-ins into the cake batter until evenly dispersed.
  • Pour the cake batter into the bundt tin and bake for about 75 minutes or until an inserted cocktail stick is removed clean. Check the cake at 30 minutes and cover loosely with foil 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.

Icing

  • Mix the icing sugar with the lemon juice a little at a time until smooth and thick but just pourable.
  • Stir in the almond extract.
  • Spoon the icing over the top of the cake.

Marzipan Balls

  • Weigh out eleven 25g pieces of marzipan.
  • Roll each marzipan piece between the palms of your hands into the shape of small eggs.
  • Place the eleven marzipan eggs around the top of the cake.

Notes

Oat Flour. If you can't digest oats then use sorghum flour in its place.
Buttermilk. If you don’t have any buttermilk then use 350ml whole milk + 1½ tbsp. lemon juice. Whisk together then let sit for five minutes before adding to your cake batter.
Marzipan. Homemade Marzipan is so quick and easy to make. It will take your cake from delicious to stunning.
Add-ins. Stir 2 tablespoons of oat flour into the add-ins to coat them and help them evenly disperse throughout the cake.
Storage. This Simnel Cake will keep for up to a week in an airtight tin in a cool dark place. However if you are using Homemade Marzipan balls then they should be eaten within three days due to the raw egg in the dough.

Nutrition

Calories: 9517kcal | Carbohydrates: 1464g | Protein: 158g | Fat: 365g | Saturated Fat: 119g | Cholesterol: 1069mg | Sodium: 3840mg | Potassium: 6412mg | Fiber: 61g | Sugar: 1024g | Vitamin A: 5995IU | Vitamin C: 13.2mg | Calcium: 2009mg | Iron: 35mg

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Simnel Cake on a wire rack on a wooden board with text inlay

Easy Homemade Marzipan

This Easy Homemade Marzipan is a delicious and achievable recipe which takes no more than 15 minutes to prepare. Fantastic for marzipan sweets, cake coverings or decorations. With this recipe you will never need to buy ready-made marzipan again.

homemade marzipan dough rolled into balls on a wooden board

If you had asked my former self whether I liked marzipan the answer would have been a resounding no. This is illogical though as I love almonds, they are definitely in my top five favourite foods. But I had never been totally convinced with the overly sweet and sickly marzipan I was familiar with.

In my next post I am going to be sharing my ultra special Easter Simnel Cake recipe of which marzipan plays a huge part. However, when I went to buy the marzipan which is the traditional decoration for a Simnel Cake I cast a quick glance at the ingredients on the back of the packet. It was grim reading. The main ingredient was sugar with only 25% almonds. I put it down and had a think. Surely marzipan doesn’t have to be this way?

homemade marzipan dough on a wooden board

It certainly does not. It turns out Homemade Marzipan is a culinary delight. Worlds away from the shop bought stuff. I had all the ingredients on hand ready to go and what’s more it was so easy. After making Homemade Marzipan I had a total revelation. Sam! I like marzipan. I do! I like it Sam-I-am!

It turns out I just don’t like commercially made marzipan. And maybe that’s the case for you too.

What is Marzipan?

Marzipan is made from ground almonds and sugar which are bound with egg to make a sweet dough. It’s most common use in the UK is to be rolled out and then cover formal cakes like wedding or Christmas cakes which are then decorated with royal icing.

However it can be so much more than that. Marzipan can also be moulded into beautiful shapes and figures then dyed to be eaten as confectionary or to decorate cakes. If you’ve seen the creative way Molly Yeh uses marzipan to style her cakes then you can appreciate how versatile this confection actually is.

Ingredients for homemade marzipan in a bowl

What are the Ingredients in Homemade Marzipan?

Ground Almonds
You need to use very finely ground almonds so that you can achieve a smooth marzipan dough. I choose shop bought in this instance over home ground. Good quality ground almonds or almond flour will have a nice fine even grind. However, it does elicit a blander taste but this is easily fixed with a touch of almond extract.

If you are using freshly ground almonds then the almond extract should not be necessary but your marzipan will be a little rougher.

Sugar
For the sugar this recipe uses a combination of icing sugar, caster sugar and golden syrup. The icing sugar helps create a smooth dough, the caster sugar gives body and the golden syrup helps with the viscosity.

Egg
You then need something to bind the almonds and sugars to create the dough and this recipe uses 1 medium egg. The yolk gives the marzipan a lovely rich taste and the egg white gives the dough an elasticity making it easy to roll out or mould.

A rolled dough of homemade marzipan on a wooden board

This recipe contains raw egg so please take care. The NHS states that because of improved food safety regulations raw eggs are safe for pregnant women, infants and the elderly if they are produced under the British Lion Code of Practice. This is standard for most British supermarket bought eggs. However you may want to check with your guests before serving that they are happy to consume.

Alternative to Raw Egg

You can cook the egg if you are worried about the raw egg. Heat the egg with the sugars, in a bowl over a pan of simmering water, until scalding hot. Remove from the heat and leave to cool before mixing with the ground almonds. Do note that this marzipan is more fragile to work with and doesn’t roll out as well.

homemade marzipan dough on a wooden board

How Do You Make Easy Homemade Marzipan?

Honestly there are just three simple steps. So much quicker than a walk to the shops.

Mix. You simply weigh out and mix all the ingredients together in a large bowl.
Knead. Bring the dough together with your hands, kneading briefly until it has become a smooth ball.
Chill. Wrap in cling film and store in the fridge for a couple of hours when it will then be ready to roll out or mould.

How Long to Store Marzipan

Despite Homemade Marzipan containing raw egg it does keep surprisingly well. The sugars help prevent bacteria from forming. You can store the marzipan wrapped up tightly with cling film for up to a week in the fridge.

How to Marzipan a Cake

These instructions are for if you would like to use homemade marzipan for covering your Christmas or wedding fruit cake

  • Roll out the marzipan to 1cm thickness and 2cm wider than the size of your cake.
  • Brush the surface of the cake with apricot jam to create an adhesive.
  • Drape the rolled marzipan over the finished and cooled cake.
  • Tuck tightly around the cake, smoothing the top and sides with a flat edged cake smoother. Trim off the excess marzipan.
  • Leave the cake in a cool dark place for the marzipan to completely dry out (at least 2 days) before icing the cake with royal icing or fondant.
  • Once the cake has a final layer of icing the cake can keep for 1-2 months in a cool dark place.

homemade marzipan dough on a wooden board

If you like this recipe then you may like these other Essential Baking recipes:

Homemade Mixed Peel
Homemade Glace Cherries
Homemade Stem Ginger in Syrup
How To Temper Chocolate

I hope you give this Easy Homemade Marzipan a try and become a complete convert like me. If you do make this recipe then please leave a comment below and/or give the recipe a rating. If you then go on to use this recipe as a launch pad for your own baking creation then I’d also love it if you’d share it and tag me on Instagram. It is so lovely for me to see your versions and variations of my recipes.

Easy Homemade Marzipan

This Easy Homemade Marzipan is a delicious and achievable recipe which takes no more than 15 minutes to prepare. Perfect for marzipan sweets, cake coverings or decorations. 
Prep Time15 mins
Resting Time2 hrs
Course: Dessert
Cuisine: British
Servings: 450 grams
Calories: 6

Ingredients

  • 300 g ground almonds
  • 150 g icing sugar plus extra for dusting
  • 110 g caster sugar
  • 2 tablespoons golden syrup
  • 1 egg medium size
  • 1/4 teaspoon almond extract optional

Instructions

  • Mix all the ingredients together in a large bowl. Once combined use your hands to knead into a smooth dough.
  • Dust extra icing sugar on the work surface and tip the dough out on top of it. Still using your hands roll the dough together until it forms a smooth ball with almost no stickiness.
  • Wrap in cling film and flatten the ball slightly to make it easier to roll out once ready.
  • Store in the fridge for at least 2 hours for the flavours to settle and the sugar to dissolve.

Notes

Almond Extract. If you are using home ground almonds then the almond taste might be strong enough for you. Shop bought ground almonds are blander so you might want to amp up the taste with the extract.
Storage. The marzipan contains raw egg. However the sugars helps prevent bacteria from growing. If you wrap the marzipan up well in cling film you can keep it in the fridge for up to a week.
Cake covering. If you are using this marzipan to cover a traditional fruit cake then you must let the marzipan completely dry before covering with royal icing (at least 2 days). The royal icing will prevent moisture getting to the marzipan and the iced cake can keep between 1-2 months in a cool dark place.

Nutrition

Calories: 6kcal | Calcium: 1mg

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This post is not sponsored but the images above are affiliate links. This means if you decide you want to use these links to make your purchases then Amazon gives me a small commission at no cost to you whatsoever. I will only recommend products I use in my kitchen and love. To learn more about how the data processing works when using these Amazon affiliate links then please visit my privacy policy page.

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homemade marzipan dough with text