Saturday 26 March 2016

Simnel-Cake: a Traditional British Confection for Easter

[Image description: simnel-cake on cake-plate]

In commemoration of my Grandma's funeral, today I am posting my simnel-cake photographs. Each Easter my Gran would make us all a simnel-cake. Last year, due to her death, there was none. So, this year I decided I should follow the tradition she set and I baked a cake for home and a cake to give away. I hope I have done you proud, Gran.


I chose a recipe produced by Waitrose (a high-end, UK supermarket) in March 2012. The recipe is © copyrighted, so I am not permitted to reproduce here. However, I doubled the amount of Cointreau and mixed spice, tripled the amount of nutmeg and increased the butter by 20%.

The ingredients (see image above) include:

mixed fruit containing citrus peel
Cointreau liqueur
unsalted butter
caster sugar
Chinese stem ginger in syrup
plain flour
freshly ground nutmeg
ground mixed spice

This is not a cake that can be made in a hurry. The recipe suggests that the fruit is soaked for an hour. I covered and soaked overnight, having carefully stirred the alcohol through several times.

I am arthritic, so creaming butter and sugar is too difficult without my little trick, which traditional bakers will no doubt bemoan: I melt my butter in the microwave before adding the sugar, which part dissolves into the warm liquid. Beware adding eggs too quickly as one does not want them to curdle in the heat. I also added the roughly grated ginger and the sieved flour.

 [Image description: cake mixture]

Having lined my baking-tin, I spooned in half the mixture. Then I added three-eighths of the marzipan which I had rolled into a ball in my palms and then flattened with the heel of my hand (image below).

The resulting 'circle' is then placed atop the mixture (image below).

Then all remaining cake-mixture is spooned into the cake-tin and smoothed (image below).

The cake is then placed into a pre-heated oven (image below) for between 130 and 145 minutes. My oven seems to work a tad faster than that of Waitrose's kitchen.

On this occasion I weighed out and so on ingredients for two cakes. Interestingly the first took a good fifteen minutes less to cook thoroughly than the second. When a skewer comes out clean, the cake is done. The cake then has to cool in its tin (image below) prior to being removed.

Once cooled a further three-eighths of the marzipan are used for a circular topping and the remaining two-eighths to make eleven or twelve marzipan eggs.

 [Image description: the decorated cake]

The recipe goes with the former number, but my Grandma went with twelve to represent the eleven loyal disciples and Jesus. Plus, twelve is an easier number to use for slicing the cake!

Then the simnel-cake is ready to be toasted, just long enough to brown the topping and eggs (image above).

By the time I had finished my simnel-cakes, my kitchen smelled divine.

The recipe suggests Madeira to accompany. My guests however will be offered the half bottle of Cointreau not used in the cake-making! %P


Finally, for anyone wondering what the heck "simnel" means, it comes from an Italian word for semolina, which meant "fine flour".


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