Easter Simnel Cake

For those of you who are still on the fence about marzipan and maraschino cherries (these from Hotel Starlino in Italy are STUNNING) – it’s all about the ingredients. If your guests love marzipan, then double up and add an extra layer in the middle of the cake. Mahleb is an aromatic spice made from cherry seeds and gives a slightly bitter edge to sweet foods, with notes of cherry and bitter almonds. It’s often used Greek celebratory cakes.

Ingredients

50 g candied mixed peel

20 g dried mulberries (I used @ajanovorganic)

180 g mixed dried fruit

2 medium oranges, zested and juiced

200 g pack marzipan (I use Odense Mandelmassa almond paste)

250 g unsalted butter, softened

200 g light brown soft sugar

4 medium eggs (@clarence_court for me)

175 g plain flour

100 g ground almonds

1 tsp baking powder

1 lemon, zested

1 tsp mahlab (optional)

2 tsp mixed spice

1 tsp vanilla paste

100 g maraschino cherries, halved (I used @thestarlino maraschino)

To glaze: apricot jam and 1 beaten egg

Method

Put the dried fruit in a small saucepan with the orange juice and zest. Warm over a low heat, stirring occasionally, until most of the liquid has been absorbed. Remove from the heat and leave to cool. 

Preheat the oven to 150 C/130 C fan/gas 2.

Roll out the marzipan into a circle and cut out a 20 cm circle using the cake tin as a template. Roll the offcuts into 11 equally sized balls (representing the apostles, minus Judas). Cover the marzipan to stop it from drying out.

Butter and line a loose-bottomed, high-sided cake tin with baking parchment. If you have a shallow tin, let the parchment extend 2 cm above the tin and spoon any leftover mix into muffin cases (and bake for about 40 mins).

Beat the butter and sugar together in a stand mixer (paddle attachment) until pale and creamy.

Add the eggs, flour, almonds, baking powder, lemon zest, spices and vanilla and mix until well combined.

Fold in the fruit and cherries then spoon into the tin and level off with a spatula.

Bake for 75 mins or until the centre is cooked. Test by inserting a skewer into the centre of the cake, if any wet mixture is on the skewer, return the cake to the oven for another 5 mins, then check again.

Remove from the oven and leave to cool for 20 mins. Take out of the tin and leave to cool completely on a rack.

Brush the top of the cake with apricot jam and place the marzipan on top. Brush over beaten egg then place the marzipan balls around the edge. Brush the balls with beaten egg. Either place under a red hot grill to start to caramelise the marzipan or use a blow torch. But take care, it burns easily.

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