Easter Baking – a recipe for Simnel Cake & matching Cupcakes
Hurrah for the longer springtime days now here with the change in the clocks to BST and the promise of summer just around the corner. Favourite springtime flowers have appeared – Snowdrops, Daffodils and Crocus – and the trees are coming into blossom – it’s such a lovely time of year don’t you think? If you’ve been feeling a little low or “winter jaded” of late then to feel the sun on your face and to see the vibrant springtime colours emerging all around cannot but help to make you feel “lifted”! With Easter Sunday next weekend we are looking summertime firmly in the face…
To mark the rising of Christ on Easter Sunday it is traditional to celebrate in a number of ways, and food plays a central role. The end of the annual period of lent is often marked with Hot Cross Buns, heaps of Easter Eggs and other chocolate goodies and, of course, the scrumptious Simnel Cake.
A light fruit cake, it was historically made by girls in “Downton Abbey” style domestic service who would bake the cake and take it home on Mothering Sunday when they enjoyed a rare day off. Nowadays, of course, it’s more strongly associated with Easter time celebrations, when the addition of the 11 marzipan balls represents the Disciples of Jesus.
I also like to make Simnel cupcakes at this time of year, light fruity individual cakes topped with scrumptious little Mini Eggs and “runny icing”.
Why not choose one of these recipes to make yourself following the “how to” instructions here and in no time at all you’ll be enjoying teatime treats with your nearest & dearest.
100g glace cherries, 200g sultanas, 200g raisins, 100g currants, 175g butter (unsalted) 175g caster sugar, 225g plain flour, 1 tsp baking powder, half tsp ground cinnamon, 25g ground almonds, 2 tablespoons milk.
1kg golden marzipan, sprinkling of icing sugar, tablespoon of apricot jam, 1 egg white (lightly beaten)
Method: preheat your oven to Gas Mark 3/170 degC. Butter & line (with greaseproof paper) a 20cm tin
Finely chop the glace cherries (I also like to wash them in lukewarm water to remove the syrup and then pat dry first) and mix with the sultanas, raisins and currants. Sift the plain flour into a large bowl with the baking powder, cinnamon and ground almonds and mix together. Now cream together the room temperature/softened butter with the caster sugar until light and fluffy.
Add the eggs, one a time and each with a tablespoon of the flour mixture. When all 3 eggs are added and well combined with the butter and sugar you should gradually beat in the remaining flour mixture. Finally you can now “fold in” the dry fruit to the butter/flour batter.
Spoon half the mixture into the tin and level down gently. Now you should roll a disc of marzipan to the same size as your tin and place this on top of the cake mix already in the tin. Finally, add the remaining cake mix on top of the marzipan disc and gently smooth off the top.
This now goes into the oven. After 40 minutes reduce the temperature of the oven to Gas Mark 2/150 deg.C and bake for a further hour and a half. Don’t be tempted to open the oven door too early, but about 15 minutes before the baking time is up, gently turn the cake around in the oven to ensure even cooking. Once the cake is slightly raised and a beautifully golden brown with a firm texture you can take it out and leave to cool in the tin.
When the cake is cold remove it from the cake tin and remove the greaseproof lining.
Cut out another disc of marzipan large enough to cover the entire top of the cake. Warm the apricot jam in a saucepan on the hob (or briefly in the microwave) until it is fluid (don’t let it burn). Brush the top of the cake with this warmed jam using a pastry brush and gently lift the marzipan disc on top. With the remaining marzipan roll out 11 equal sized balls and stick to the marzipan disc using a little of the egg white mix*
At this point you can brush the cake top and balls lightly with the remaining egg white and put the cake briefly under the grill in order to burnish the top OR leave it as it is – choice is yours.
Place on a cake board or plate, decorate with a springtime patterned ribbon and serve.
*If you prefer you can leave off the marzipan disciples/balls and decorate with other Easter-time decorations (rabbits or chicks for example) or maybe with Mini Eggs to match the Simnel cupcakes?
250g Sultanas/Raisins, Zest & juice of an orange, 175g butter, 175g caster sugar, 3 eggs (beaten), 300g self-raising flour, a tsp mixed spice, Half tsp ground nutmeg, 5 tbsp milk, 175g marzipan.
Mix the orange juice and zest with the dried fruit and leave for an hour.
Preheat your oven to Gas Mark 4/180 degC, and place 12 muffin-sized cases into a cupcake tray.
Beat together the caster sugar and butter in a mixing bowl. Add the eggs, spices, flour and milk and beat until the mixture is light, fluffy and well combined. In an electric mixer this will take a few minutes, much longer if you’re doing it by hand! Finally, add the fruit and mix well.
Fill the muffin cakes halfway. Then place a walnut sized piece of marzipan (flattened slightly) in each. Next cover the marzipan ball in each with the remaining fruity mix.
Bake in the oven for between 25-30 minutes until risen and golden brown. Nearing the end of the standard baking time you should turn the tin around to ensure even colour and baking.
Place the cakes aside until cold, when you can make the runny icing and decorate if you wish.
200g icing sugar (sieved), 2 tbsp of warm water (or orange juice if desired), 36 mini eggs (allows for 3 per cupcake!)
Slowly add the warm water to the icing sugar and beat well until smooth and lump free – it should be of a dropping/pouring consistency (see picture). Spoon a teaspoon of mix on top of each cake and let it arrange itself over the cupcake in a “haphazard” way or using a knife dipped in warm water to spread it across the top of the cake for a more even coverage. Finally place the mini eggs on top of each cake. Perfect!