I love marzipan, so I got very excited when I started to see Simnel cake posts appearing on the blogosphere around Mother's Day this year. This is traditionally served at Easter, although it is also associated with Mothering Sunday where servant girls were given the day off and allowed to take a cake home for their mothers. Not only do you get all that lovely marzipan on top, but you get the most delightful surprise layer of squidgy marzipan in the middle which half melts into the cake mixture as it cooks. The whole is topped off with 11 balls of this delicious almond confection. These balls are there to represent the 12 apostles, minus Judas, for reasons any Christian can explain.
Giles's post for Simple Simnel Cake was the inspiration I used to create my own chocolate version. I particularly liked this one because of the inclusion of apricots. Unfortunately, when I went to make the cake, there were no apricots to be found. Improvising madly, I ended up using dried papaya and pineapple instead. This is what I did:
- Creamed 6oz brown sugar with 6oz unsalted butter until pale and well incorporated.
- Beat in 3 large eggs alternately with 6oz sieved flour (4oz wholemeal spelt and 2oz coconut flour) and 1 tsp baking powder.
- Stirred in 1 oz ground almonds, 1/2 tsp mixed spice, 2 tsp ground ginger.
- Added 2oz dried papaya, 2oz dried pineapple, 3oz cherries (halved), 2oz raisins and 100g 70% dark chocolate (broken into small pieces).
- Mixed in 2 large tbsp Greek yogurt (TOTAL 0% fat)
- Spooned 1/2 of the mixture into a 22cm cake thingie, then covered this with 5oz marzipan rolled out into a round slightly smaller than the cake. Covered with remaining cake mixture.
- Baked at 160C for 1 hour until firm and a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean (ish).
- Allowed to cool, wrapped well in greaseproof paper and placed in a tin for a couple of weeks.
- On the day of reckoning, rolled out 6oz marzipan into a 22cm round to cover the cake.
- Melted 1 tbsp plum jam (didn't have any apricot) and brushed over the top of the cake. Placed the marzipan round on top of this and gently pressed into position.
- Divided another 4oz marzipan into 11 equal lumps and rolled into balls. Placed these around the edge of the cake.
- Brushed the whole with a beaten egg and put under the grill for mins to brown slightly. Unfortunately, like King Alfred, I managed to burn the marzipan at this point.
- Decorated with chocolate eggs.
Foolishly I made this three weeks ahead of the event - trying to be organised and thinking that, like a Christmas cake, it would improve on keeping. Nearer the time, I realised this was only a light fruit cake with a relatively short shelf life and I started to panic. Luckily when it came to the grand unveiling at my Easter Tea, all was well. The cake was still moist and made a good impression on all that partook of it. The seemingly burnt marzipan added a lovely caramel flavour - phew! I was somewhat dubious as to how the chocolate would affect the cake, but it actually worked really well. The chocolate bits were by no means overwhelming, but they did enhance the flavour and combined particularly well with the marzipan. Now I know it works, I'm keen to try chocolate with fruit cake again.