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Recipe to Make a Traditional Simnel Cake for Easter

Updated on August 1, 2012

What is Simnel Cake?

Simnel cake is traditionally eaten at Easter in the UK. It is a light fruit cake which is covered in marzipan then toasted. There are lots of variations of the recipe with many being passed down from one generation to the next. Although now associated with Easter, Simnel Cake was originally made for Mothering Sunday, the fourth Sunday in Lent (in the UK). In the 1600s, Mothering Sunday was the day when boys and girls in service were allowed a little time off to spend with their mothers and the girls used to make simnel cakes as a gift.

Simnel cakes have been baked since the middle ages and there are different stories surrounding it. One is that the word simnel comes from the Latin word for a fine flour made from wheat - simila. Traditionally the cake is decorated with eleven balls of marzipan, said to represent the disciples of Jesus (omitting Judas, who betrayed him). However, food historians dispute this idea, claiming that the symbolic link with Jesus was devised by the Victorians.

Since the First World War, simnel cakes have become firmly associated with Easter and are a popular treat, along with hot cross buns and chocolate eggs.

Cook Time

Prep time: 30 min
Cook time: 2 hours
Ready in: 2 hours 30 min
Yields: Serves up to 20 people, depending on portion size


  • 1 lb mixed dried fruit, raisins, currants, sultanas
  • 8 oz all purpose flour, sifted
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp nutmeg
  • 1 tsp ground ginger
  • 6oz butter, unsalted
  • 6 oz brown sugar
  • 3 eggs, medium size
  • 1 tbsp apricot jam, for brushing the cake with
  • 1 lb marzipan

How To Make Your Simnel Cake

  1. Pre-heat oven to 160 C / 325 F
  2. Line a deep 7 inch cake tin with baking parchment
  3. Divide the marzipan into 3 - one piece should be slightly smaller than the others.
  4. Cream the butter and sugar and when well mixed, add the eggs, one at a time.
  5. Sieve the flour and spices together into the mixture and fold in. You want the flour to be fully incorporated, but don't over-mix.
  6. Now stir in the dried fruit.
  7. Place half of the cake batter into your baking tin. Take one of the larger pieces of marzipan and roll out to approximately 1/4 inch thickness. Cut into a circle and place on top of the cake batter in the tin. Then add the rest of the cake batter on top of the marzipan layer.
  8. Bake in center of oven for 2 hours until the cake is golden brown and the middle of the cake is firm to the touch. It's difficult to use a skewer to test because of the layer of marzipan.
  9. Leave to cool in tin.
  10. When the cake is cooled, take the 2nd big piece of marzipan and roll out a circle to fit the top of the cake. Brush the top of the cake with apricot jam and lay the marzipan circle over the top.
  11. With the final piece of marzipan, make 11 small balls, and place them around the edge of the cake. You now need to caramelize the marzipan, either by placing under the broiler until the marzipan browns, or by using a kitchen blowtorch.
  12. Serve in thin slices - fruitcake is rich, so you don't want to eat huge chunks of it. Eat and enjoy!

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  • Michele Travis profile image

    Michele Travis 5 years ago from U.S.A. Ohio

    Thank you for letting me know :)

  • alliemacb profile image

    alliemacb 5 years ago from Scotland

    Oops, noticed I missed out a couple of ingredients. That's the entire recipe now

  • Michele Travis profile image

    Michele Travis 5 years ago from U.S.A. Ohio

    That looks awesome, if you don't mind I am going to print it out and make it for my family for Easter. We always have a Easter dinner and we all bring something. I can bring dessert!