Marzipan (homemade or purchased 450g block)
450g fine ground almonds
2 cups icing sugar
3 tablespoons of honey, golden syrup, light corn syrup, or maple syrup
1 teaspoon of lemon juice
Ω teaspoon of vanilla
3 tablespoons of rum, brandy or other liqueur
Combine the almond meal with the icing sugar. Add the syrup, lemon juice, vanilla, liqueur, then mix the cake ingredients well. Add more icing sugar until the mixture holds together. Dust a cutting board with icing sugar and put the marzipan onto the board. Knead the mixture until it has the consistency of a stiff pie crust. Cut into three pieces. Take two of the pieces and, one at a time, roll them out into a circle. Place a 7 inch (18 cm) cake pan on top of each circle and cut around the bottom of the pan. Take the last section and divide it into 11 pieces, rolling each into ball (each ball represents one of the disciples, minus Judas). Use the off-cuts to create another ball and place it in the centre to represent Christ.
Baking your Simnel Cake:
Preheat the oven to 140 degrees Celsius, (275 degrees Fahrenheit, or gas mark 1).
175g (6 oz.) butter softened
175g (6 oz.) soft brown sugar
3 eggs beaten
225g (8 oz.) flour
75g (3oz.) glace cherries cut into fourths
450g (1 pound) of raisins, currants or mixed dried fruit
1 tablespoon of lemon zest chopped (take a vegetable peeler and scrape just the yellow part of the peel from the fruit)
1 tablespoon of orange zest chopped (obtain the same way as the lemon zest)
º teaspoon each of cinnamon, ginger and nutmeg
1 pinch of salt
Place the cake pan on top of a piece of greaseproof or parchment baking paper. Trace around the bottom of the pan and cut out the circle. Cut a strip of paper long enough to go around the inside edge of the pan and just to the top of the rim. Butter the bottom and sides of the cake pan. Place the paper on the bottom and around the sides of the pan.
In a mixing bowl, cream together the softened butter and brown sugar using an electric whisk or a wooden spoon. Add a beaten egg with 1 teaspoon of flour and mix well. Repeat this two more times. Gradually add in the flour (8oz.) a little at a time. Fold in the dried mixed fruit, cherries, spices, salt and citrus zest mixing thoroughly. Add a little milk if the mixture is too thick.
Put half of the cake batter into the cake pan and level this layer. Cover the batter with one of the marzipan circles. Add the remaining cake batter on top of the marzipan and level this layer. Bake the cake for 2 hours. If the cake browns too quickly, use a piece of aluminium foil to cover the cake and finish baking. Let the cake cool in the pan.
Brush the cooled cake with warmed marmalade. Place the second marzipan circle on top. Brush the marzipan with warmed marmalade. Place each marzipan ball on top of the cake close to the edge. Put the cake into a hot oven until the tops of the balls and marzipan circle begins to brown.
The simnel cake traditionally decorated with fresh flowers, is decorated today with sugar flowers, chicks or rabbits. A ribbon around the outside of the cake completes the decorating process.