Simnel Cake Recipe

This simnel cake recipe is delicious and has just the right amount of spice to make it my favourite Easter treat!

The cake itself is a perfectly moist and beautifully rich fruit cake with a layer of marzipan running through it. The cake is then topped with marzipan and decorated with marzipan balls.

Traditionally, there should be 11 balls on top of the cake which represent the 11 loyal disciples at the last supper of Christ.

Some people put 12 on top and the twelfth one represents Jesus. Although of course it could represent Judas, since he was forgiven by Christ himself.

Easter is a special time of year for our family and we love to take the time to set our table in the morning with daffodils and plenty of pretty green and yellow decorations. We use these same decorations for our tea in the afternoon and serve either simnel cake or hot crossed buns, depending on how we feel.

You can wrap your cake in pretty ribbon, but this year, we decided to decorate our own band for the cake. It was very simple and easy to do (the children did it), and the daffodils are so pretty.

How to make the daffodil cake band

We used a very light-weight paper. Our border was 26 inches (66cm) long by 2 3/4 inches (7cm) deep. The paper wasn't long enough, so we glued it together with a glue stick.

The background is a very watery green wash. We used acryllic paint with plenty of water.

Once the green was dry, we made five brush strokes from the outside to the centre of the flower in yellow and allowed that to dry. Then we made a much smaller five stroked star in the centre. We did not water down the paint to do this.

Finally, we painted in a suggestion of leaves. We made the border while the cake was cooking.

Simnel Cake Recipe

Level: Easy
Time: 3 hours
including decorating
Cuts into 12 slices

100g glace cherries
100g currants
225g butter
225g muscavado or soft brown sugar
225g self-raising flour
225g sultanas
4 eggs
50g mixed peel
Zest of 2 lemons
2tsp mixed spice *
450g marzipan

*If you can't get hold of mixed spice, you can make your own. It's a delicious mix to use in fruit cakes in particular.
Mix together:
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp fresh ground coriander
1 tsp ground nutmeg (or fresh grated)
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp allspice
1/4 tsp fresh ground cloves
Keep in a spice jar.

  • Pre-heat the oven to 280F (Gas mark 2).

  • Use butter to grease a 7 inch diameter by 4 inches deep cake tin.

  • Use the tin to make two circles on a sheet of parchment paper. Cut out the circles. Use one to line the inside of the greased tin. Reserve the other circle.

  • Wash the glace cherries and cut them in half. Put them on one side.

  • Put the butter in a large mixing bowl and soften it with a wooden spoon. At this time of year, I often find the butter is too hard to just mix it straight into a cake successfully.

  • Add the eggs, flour, spices and sugar to the bowl.

  • Mix until all the ingredients are fully incorporated. You can use the wooden spoon, or you can speed things up with an electric mixer.

  • Fold in the dried fruit.

  • Fold in the cherries.

  • Put half of the cake mixture into the prepared tin and level it out.

  • Divide the marzipan into 3 more-or-less equal portions.

  • Sprinkle some icing sugar (confectioner's sugar) on the work surface. Roll the marzipan into a ball and flatten onto the icing sugar. Place the reserved disk of paper on top and then roll out on top of the paper with a rolling pin to make a fairly even circle of marzipan. Using a palette knife, very carefully lift the marzipan off the work surface.

  • Lay the disk of marzipan on top of cake mixture. Retain the parchment paper circle.

  • Put the second half of the cake mixture on top of the marzipan layer and spread to make a level surface.

  • Bake at 280F (gas mark 2) for an hour.

  • Loosely cover the cake with the saved parchment circle to prevent it from burning at this stage. Continue to bake for a further hour and a quarter.

  • Let the cake cool for 10 minutes in the tin. Retain the parchment circle.

  • Turn on to wire rack to cool. Leave the cake for a further 20 minutes.

  • When the simnel cake is fairly cool (or fully cool), roll another third of marzipan in the same way, using the same disk of parchment. Place this disk on top of the cake. It doesn't have to be exact - I think it looks pretty if it drapes over the edge a little and has a more lacy edge.

  • Turn the grill on to high.

  • Take the final third of the marzipan and divide it into 12 more-or-less equal pieces.

  • Roll each piece of marzipan into a ball. Decorate the cake with 11 of the balls by placing them equally around the edge and pressing them gently down. Eat the other one. :-)

  • Put the whole cake under the grill for two minutes. Watch it very carefully because it burns quickly and it may need turning during the grilling process. Do this carefully, as the balls sometimes roll off....

  • Allow the cake to cool completely before finally decorating with a pile of mini eggs, and wrapping a ribbon or a hand-painted border around the edge. Hold in place with a pin.

Serve with

We love simnel cake with fresh mint tea. This is a rich cake, and really doesn't need to be served with anything else. It's perfect on its own with a nice cup of tea. A nice spicy tea such as masala chai goes well, as does earl grey.

If you loved this simnel cake recipe, you might also enjoy our apple fruit cake.