Mrs Simkins’ Simnel Slice
Although nowadays an Easter Sunday treat, Simnel cake was originally served on Mothering Sunday. This particular Sunday, falling in the middle of Lent, used to be also known as Simnel Sunday or Refreshment Sunday and was a day when you could take a short break from the traditional Lent fasting and enjoy a slice of cake with your mum.
You can bake this alternative to a full sized Simnel cake in around half an hour. Instead of the eleven marzipan balls (in memory of the disciples, without Judas) that traditionally decorate the cake, you can make your slices look pretty and spring-like with a few fresh primroses and pansies. You can use ready made marzipan to top the cake but it’s very easy to make your own in a food processor.
Cuts easily into 12 slices
- 75g (3oz) raisins
- 75g (3oz) currants
- 75g (3oz) sultanas
- 110g (4oz) soft dark brown sugar
- 1 teaspoon mixed spice
- 75g (3oz) butter
- 100ml (4 fl oz) water
- 150g (5oz) plain flour
- 2 level teaspoons baking powder
- 2 medium eggs, lightly beaten
- 25g (1oz) dried sour cherries or dried cranberries
- 25g (1oz) candied peel, finely sliced and cut into small pieces
- Marmalade, for glazing, peel removed
You will need a greased 20 cm (8 inch) square brownie tin, lined with a piece of greaseproof paper cut to fit the bottom (draw round the bottom of the tin and cut inside the pencil marks)
Put the butter, sugar, dried fruit and mixed spice into a large pan with the water. Bring to the boil and simmer gently for five minutes. Leave to cool.
Preheat oven to 150C (fan ovens) or equivalent
Sieve the flour and baking powder into the mixture and stir in the eggs and candied peel. Mix everything together thoroughly.
Pour into the prepared tin and bake for approximately 30 minutes until golden brown, firm to the touch and a skewer inserted comes out clean.
Leave in the tin for a few minutes then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
Once cold, spread the marmalade over the top and cover with marzipan – see below.
This is beautifully fresh and almondy: a food processor makes it quick and easy.
- 110g (4oz) icing sugar
- 225g (8oz) ground almonds
- 1 very fresh egg yolk
- 3 tablespoons lemon juice
- ½ teaspoon almond extract
Stir the icing sugar and ground almonds together in a bowl and transfer to the bowl of your food processor. Add the egg yolk, almond extract and lemon juice. Whiz briefly. Stop and scrape the mixture down from the sides and whiz again. The second the mixture congregates together on the side of the bowl, stop immediately otherwise the marzipan will become oily and over-processed. Take the mixture from the processor, gathering up any loose crumbs and transfer to a large board dusted with icing sugar.
Knead it together and shape and roll into a square the same size as your cake. Lift onto the cake and smooth gently with your rolling pin, pat down the edges and neaten with a sharp knife.
Store in an airtight tin or wrap closely in foil until needed. Just before serving, cut into slices and decorate each slice with edible spring flowers such as pansies and primroses (anything grown from a bulb tends to be mildly toxic).