This classic Easter Simnel Cake recipe is a delicious marzipan topped lightly spiced fruit cake that’s perfect for an Easter afternoon tea.
Had your fill of chocolate Easter eggs already? Then a slice of this Easter Simnel cake might just be a welcome change.
So much emphasis is placed on chocolate during the Easter holiday I think it’s nice to have something a little bit lighter on offer.
There’s also hot cross buns galore around this time of year – and yes, you can actually buy pretty decent ones these days but there’s nothing like homemade if you have the time.
what is the significance of simnel cake at easter?
Much lighter in texture than the dark, rich Christmas cake, the Simnel cake has been around since at least Medieval times.
The 11 marzipan balls represent the Apostles, minus Judas.
This Simnel cake recipe differs slightly from tradition – instead of a layer of marzipan running through the middle of the cake, I’ve taken inspiration from Delia Smith and added little cubes of marzipan to the cake batter.
I like finding random little pieces of marzipan throughout the cake, but if you would rather do it the traditional way ( you roll out a thin layer of marzipan the same size as your cake tin, spoon half the cake mixture into the tin, top with the marzipan then pour the remaining cake mixture on top) please feel free to do so.
- Butter. You can use either block butter or a baking spread such as Stork. I wouldn’t advise using low fat spreads.
- sugar. I use soft light brown sugar for the delicious caramel flavour it adds, but caster sugar (super fine sugar) can be used instead.
- eggs. You’ll need four large eggs, at room temperature.
- self raising flour. If you don’t have self raising, no problem. Simply sieve together the same amount of plain (all purpose) flour with 2 teaspoons baking powder.
- ground almonds. If you’re worried about a nut allergy, just replace the almonds with an equal weight of flour.
- ground mixed spice. If you don’t have any in your cupboard, use 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon, 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg, 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger and 1/8 teaspoon ground cloves.
- the finely grated zest and juice of one lemon and one large orange. Simmering the dried fruit in the lemon and orange juice plumps it up, giving you super juicy fruit, not dried little pellets!
- dried fruit. Sultanas, raisins, currants and mixed peel are traditionally used for Simnel cake. I like to add some glace cherries to the list (I love a cherry cake!)
- Golden Marzipan You’ll need 150g chopped marzipan for inside the the cake and about 500g for the topping/decoration.
- *RECIPE NOTE* Marzipan generally tends to come in either 250g, 500g or 1kg packs. You’ll need roughly 700g of marzipan for this recipe, which is a llttle annoying but you could always make these stunning marzipan stuffed dates with the leftovers….
- apricot jam to fix the marzipan onto the cake.
To make this recipe you’ll need:
- 22cm round deep springform cake tin
- Large mixing bowl
- hand held electric mixer, stand mixer or a sturdy wooden spoon if mixing the cake by hand
- plastic scraper
- a rolling pin to roll out the marzipan
- a pastry brush to brush the apricot jam on the top of the cake
- a cake smoother to smooth out the marzipan – not essential but gives a professional looking finish
- A blow torch to caramelise the marzipan or if you’re like me and don’t own one, a preheated grill and a very watchful eye!
how to make an easter simnel cake
(keep scrolling to the bottom of the post to find printable recipe card with ingredient amounts and instructions!)
soak the fruit
- Place all of the dried fruit in a medium-large saucepan. Add the orange and lemon zest and juice.
- Bring to a simmer over a medium high heat, then turn the heat down to low and gently cook for about 2 minutes or until the liquid has absorbed. Remove from the heat and cool down.
make the cake batter
- Preheat your oven to 150C/130Fan. Grease and line the base and sides of your cake tin.
- In a medium bowl, combine the flour, salt, mixed spice and ground almonds.
- Toss the marzipan cubes in 2 tablespoons of the flour and set aside.
- Cream the butter and sugar together until very light and fluffy, about five minutes.
- Beat in the eggs, one at a time. If the mixture begins to curdle, stir in a tablespoon of flour to bring it back together.
fold in the dry ingredients
- Fold in the flour mixture, followed by all of the dried fruit and the diced marzipan.
- *RECIPE NOTE* If I’m using an electric mixer, I switch it off and fold the cake batter with a metal spoon – you’re much less likely to overmix the batter if you fold by hand.
time to bake
- Spoon the batter into the lined tin, level the top and bake for 1/12 – 2 hours or until the cake has risen and a skewer inserted in the middle of the cake emerges clean.
- Place the cake tin on a wire rack and allow to cool completely in the tin.
decorating an easter simnel cake
- Roll out 400g of golden marzipan on a work surface lightly dusted with icing sugar.
- The marzipan needs to be rolled out 2-3cm larger than the cake to allow for trimming – so 24-25cm is perfect.
- Brush the top of the cake with the apricot jam (if it’s quite thick you can warm it up slightly beforehand.)
- Top the cake with the rolled out marzipan, trim the edges, smooth the top with a cake smooth if you have one and crimp the edges if you like.
make the marzipan balls
- Using the remaining marzipan, roll out 11 small marzipan balls and place them around the edge of the cake.
- Place the cake under a preheated grill on medium-high heat for a couple of minutes or until the marzipan is light golden. Don’t avert your eyes for a second – marzipan burns so quickly! If you own a blowtorch, it’s probably much easier to use that instead!
how far in advance can i make a simnel cake for easter?
It’s not necessary to make Simnel cake months in advance, like a Christmas cake. You can however make it ahead of time, but I would recommend no longer than a week in advance.
Even though the marzipan will protect the cake from going stale quickly, the cake will slowly dry out over time so it’s best not to make it too far ahead.
How long will Simnel Cake keep for?
Simnel Cake should keep for at least 2-3 weeks in an airtight tin. Wrap the cake in a layer of baking parchment, then a layer of tin foil to keep it fresh.
can you freeze simnel cake?
You can freeze an undecorated Simnel cake (without the marzipan) for up to three months. You technically can freeze a Simnel cake with the marzipan topping, but marzipan turns rather sticky after being frozen.
More Easter recipes
- 150 g Marzipan, cut into 1cm cubes
- 400 g mixed dried fruit
- 100 g Glace cherries
- Zest and juice of one large lemon
- Zest and juice of one large orange
- 225 g soft butter
- 225g caster sugar, or light brown sugar
- 4 large eggs, beaten
- 225g self raising flour
- 2 tsp mixed spice
- 1/4 tsp fine salt
- 25g ground almonds
- For the topping:
- 2 tbsp Apricot jam
- 500 g Marzipan
- Toss the marzipan cubes in 2 tablespoons of flour (taken from the measured amount) and set aside.
- Place the dried fruit in a medium saucepan. Add the orange and lemon zest and juice. Bring to a simmer over a medium heat and let it cook for 2 minutes until the liquid has absorbed. Remove from the heat and leave to cool.
- Preheat the oven to 150C/130Fan. Grease and line the base and sides of a deep 23cm cake tin.
- Combine the self raising flour, mixed spice, salt and ground almonds in a large bowl. Set aside.
- Cream the butter and sugar together until very light and fluffy. Slowly add the beaten eggs, a little at a time, beating well after each addition. If the mixture looks like it's beginning to curdle, add in one tablespoon of the flour mixture.
- Fold in the dry ingredients, mixing gently until there are no pockets of flour and the batter looks smooth. Tip in the cooled dried fruit and marzipan cubes, folding gently until well combined.
- Spoon the cake mixture into the lined tin and bake for 1 1/2-2 hours or until the cake is well risen and a skewer inserted into the middle of the cake emerges clean.
- Remove the cake from the oven and cool completely in the tin before turning out onto a wire rack and removing the parchment.
- When the cake is completely cold, roll 400g of the marzipan out to a round 2 or 3cm larger than the cake.
- Brush the top of the cake with warmed apricot jam and top with the marzipan. Trim the marzipan, smooth the top with a cake smoother and crimp the edges.
- Form the remaining marzipan into 11 balls to represent all the Apostles, minus Judus. Using some apricot jam, stick the marzipan balls around the edge of the cake.
- Place the cake under a pre-heated grill to lightly caramelise and brown the marzipan - whatever you do, don't walk away from it! It can go from perfectly toasted to burned in seconds. Leave to cool before transferring the cake to a serving plate.
You can substitute the self raising flour with plain and 2 teaspoons of baking powder.
Nutrition Information:Yield: 20 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 312Total Fat: 6gSaturated Fat: 1gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 5gCholesterol: 37mgSodium: 179mgCarbohydrates: 64gFiber: 3gSugar: 49gProtein: 5g