Friday 29 March 2013

Nigella Lawson Easter Simnel Cake

A Simnel cake is a fruit cake with a layer of marzipan in the middle and one on top, that is traditionally made at Easter. It's usually decorated with eleven balls of marzipan to represent the apostles (minus Judas). Apparently the name Simnel is most likely to come from the Latin word 'simila', meaning 'fine flour'.

My parents came to stay with me over Easter and I wanted to do some baking. I've never made or indeed even eaten a Simnel cake before - I'm not usually a fan of fruit cake or marzipan! - But tastes change and I'm willing to give it a go, and it's the sort of cake my parents would definitely like. There are plenty of recipes around for Simnel cake and variations on the cake, e.g. turned into cupcakes or muffins, but as this was my first Simnel cake I wanted to stick to something traditional - so I turned to my copy of Nigella's Feast, which has sections covering all the major holidays including Passover and Easter.

I adapted the recipe slightly, to leave out the glace cherries (which I don't like) and I also used less marzipan than recommended.

You need:
175g butter, softened
175g caster sugar
zest of 1 lemon
225g plain flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground ginger
25g ground almonds
3 eggs
splash of milk
500g mixed dried fruit
about 1 kg marzipan - I used less but it will depend on the size of the cake tin you use and how thick you like your marzipan layer
icing sugar for rolling out the marzipan possibly - though I didn't use any and it was fine
1 tbsp apricot jam, melted
Nigella also recommends brushing the top of the finished cake with 1 egg white then using a blow torch to give it a burnished look, but I don't have a blowtorch so I didn't do this.

Preheat the oven to 170C. Cream the butter and sugar

Add the lemon zest and beat again

In a separate bowl, mix the flour, baking powder, cinnamon, ginger and ground almonds

Nigella recommends adding one egg at a time with 2 tbsp of the flour mixture each time and beating. Repeat three times, then mix in the rest of the flour and the milk.

Fold in the fruit

Pour half the cake mixture into a loose-bottomed cake tin; I sprayed Cake Release into it first.

Roll out a piece of marzipan

 Use the cake tin to cut out a circle of the correct size

Place the circle of marzipan onto the cake mixture

Spoon the rest of the cake mixture on the top and level off

Bake the cake for half an hour in the preheated oven the turn the temperature down to 150C for another hour and a half. I turned the temperature down to about 120C as my oven always seems to cook fast but the edges of the cake still came out a little darker than I would have liked.

Roll out another piece of marzipan and again use the bottom of the cake tin to cut around. Warm some apricot jam and brush on top of the cake and place the circle of marzipan on top. Roll 11 balls of marzipan to represent the apostles

Using more apricot jam stick the marzipan balls to the top of the cake

I'm sending this to Calendar Cakes, hosted by Laura of Laura Loves Cakes and Rachel of Dollybakes. Their theme this month is of course Easter.
I'm also sending this to Forever Nigella, where the theme this month is also Easter. The challenge is hosted this month by Jen at Blue Kitchen Bakes and was started by Maison Cupcake



  1. I've never made Simnel cake before but I love fruit cake and marzipan so know I'd love this. Great step by step and photos. Happy Easter. X

  2. it is very nice--i recomend you try making one.

  3. I made my first Simnel cake last year using a Mary Berry recipe and loved it although didn't have time to make one this year. She recommended glazing the marzipan and then putting under a hot grill briefly just to give it a bit of colour, obviously being careful to not to burn it! Thanks for entering this into Forever Nigella.

  4. I'm with you, not my favourite things, but I would be willing to try. I hope you will be joining us for this month's Forever Nigella.


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