Spring has sprung, clocks have gone forward and the warmer weather has arrived (even if it’s briefly disappeared again!) to lift our spirits. The Easter weekend heralds a culinary baking cornucopia.
From Good Friday onwards, we can traditionally savour hot cross buns, dripping with lashings of butter, all manner of fabulous chocolate treats with nests and eggs and, to top it all, the delectable Simnel cake.
I’ve been getting all the ingredients together for Grandma’s Easter Simnel cake. It’s one of my favourite cake recipes. Simnel cake is said to mark the period at the end of the 40 days of Lent. The word ‘Simnel’ comes from the Latin ‘simila’ meaning wheaten flour which was used to make the cake.
It was also a traditional cake for Mothering Sunday but the Easter version is decorated with 11 marzipan or almond paste balls to signify the faithful disciples of Jesus (omitting Judas Iscariot).
It’s really easy, as you simply mix all the cake ingredients in a bowl. You can buy ready prepared almond paste/marzipan for the decoration but I like to make Grandma’s homemade version. This cake will keep for a couple of weeks or so in an airtight container.
6 oz/175g butter 6 oz/175g sugar 1 tbsp golden syrup 2oz/50g ground almonds 3 large eggs 1 lb/450g mixed fruit 2oz/50g chopped mixed peel 2oz/50g glace cherries (washed and quartered) Grated zest of 1 lemon 8oz/225g self-raising flour 1 tsp mixed spice ½ tsp cinnamon 2-3 tbsps milk
For the Almond Paste
8oz/225g ground almonds 4oz/110g caster sugar 4oz/110g icing sugar 4 tbsps lemon juice 2 tbsps water or 1 tbsp water + 1tbsp sherry
Apricot jam Mini chocolate eggs
First make the almond paste. Mix the ground almonds and sugars together with the lemon juice and water/sherry to make a stiff paste. Leave to chill for an hour before using.
Make the cake mixture. Separate a small amount of egg white and put this to one side to complete the final touches of the decoration. Mix the rest of the cake ingredients thoroughly. Turn half the mixture into a well-greased 8 inch/20 cm tin. Roll out one third of the almond paste, slightly smaller than the cake tin. Place on top of the mixture in the cake tin. Cover this with the remaining cake mixture.
Bake for approximately 2 hours in a slow oven (160C or Fan 140C, Mark 2, 300 F). Allow to cool.
Brush the top of the cake with apricot jam. Roll out the remaining almond paste and place on top of cake, keeping the trimmings back. Shape these into 11 balls and arrange them around the edge of the cake. Brush with reserved egg white. Place under a hot grill or in a very hot oven for 1 to 2 minutes to allow the top to brown. To finish, decorate as you like with Easter chicks and mini chocolate eggs.
Have a wonderful Easter, wherever you are. Above all stay safe!
Read more about Grandma Abson’s life, her passion for baking and more recipes on www.grandmaabson.com and head over to Instagram @grandmaabson to check out how Meryl and Patrick are cooking together.