Tuesday 18 December 2018

Rise to the occasion


Make a traditional Easter Simnel cake with the baking experts from the ICA.

Simnel cake

A light fruit cake baked  at Easter time with a  central layer of almond paste for added moisture, Simnel cake's traditional decoration of balls of marzipan represents Jesus and his 11 true apostles - leaving Judas to his own fate.

Serves 12-15


250g (9oz) unsalted butter

200g (7oz) brown sugar

4 eggs

250g (9oz) plain flour

1 tsp baking powder

1 tsp mixed spice

250g (9oz) raisins, chopped coarsely

150g (5½oz) sultanas

50g (2oz) mixed peel

4 tbsp apricot jam

600g almond paste (ready-made or see right for recipe)

To decorate: Mini eggs or chicks

Sugared flowers Ribbon

You'll need: 25cm (10in) springform cake tin


1. Preheat oven to 180°C/350°F/gas 4. Grease the tin and line with baking parchment. Beat butter and sugar until light and creamy. Beat in eggs one at a time, incorporating each before adding the next.

2. Sieve in the flour, baking powder and mixed spice and fold to incorporate. Fold through dried fruit, stirring well to mix, and spoon half of the mixture into the prepared pan and smooth out to level.

3. Roll out one third of the marzipan into a 25cm (10in) circle. Place over the fruit mixture. Pour the remaining mixture on top and bake for 90 minutes or until a skewer inserted into cake comes out clean. Check the cake after 30 minutes and if it is browning too quickly, loosely cover with tin foil. Once cooked, allow cake to cool completely.

4. Roll out another third of the marzipan into a 25cm (10in) circle. Loosen the jam with a little boiling water to make a glaze and brush this over the cake. Top with the marzipan circle and trim to fit.

5. Divide the remaining marzipan in thirds and then quarter each third again to roll into 12 balls. Place these on top of the cake and grill under a hot grill for three minutes or until golden brown. Decorate as desired.

Almond paste


140g (5oz) icing sugar

285g (10oz) ground almonds

140g (5oz) caster sugar

1 large egg

½ tsp almond essence

½ lemon, juice only


1. Sieve the ground almonds and icing sugar together. Add the caster sugar and mix well. In a separate bowl, whisk the egg, almond essence and lemon juice with a fork. Add two thirds of this liquid to the dry ingredients and bind them together. Do not add all of the liquid at once as you may or may not need it all depending upon the size of your egg. Add the remaining liquid only if it is needed to bind the mixture together, using a little cold water if extra liquid is needed. The almond paste should look like a ball of pastry after it has been kneaded together.

2. Divide the paste into three, wrap each in cling film and store in the fridge until required.

ICA Tip: If you make the almond paste in advance, take it out of the fridge about 30 minutes before you need it, to soften it for rolling out.

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