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How to make simnel cake

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You may not be familiar with simnel cake, but if you’ve never tried it we recommend you remedy this immediately. Similar to a Christmas cake and a little lighter than a fruit cake, simnel cake is a traditional Easter cake which is toasted and covered in marzipan. There’s also a delicious layer of almond paste in its center and is decorated with marzipan balls - or, in the case of our recipe from Divine Chocolate, miniature chocolate eggs.

The below recipe for simnel cake was created by Linda Collister for Divine Chocolate to accompany BBC2’s The Great British Bake-Off, and is made from a light fruit-cake mixture with Divine’s 70% chocolate, and is the perfect alternative to chocolate eggs this Easter, in our eyes...

Ingredients

Makes one large cake

  • 230g plain flour
  • 1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
  • A good pinch of salt
  • 175g unsalted butter, softened
  • 175g soft light brown muscovado sugar
  • 4 large free-range eggs, beaten to mix
  • 50g ground almonds
  • 350g mixed dried fruit
  • 100g glace cherries, rinsed, dried and halved
  • 100g bar Divine 70% Chocolate, roughly chopped (available at all supermarkets)
  • 2 tablespoons milk
  • 450g white marzipan
  • A little apricot jam or sherry for brushing
  • Divine Speckled Eggs (available at Waitrose)
  • A ribbon

Method

1. Heat the oven to 180°C/350°F/Gas mark 4, and grease and line a 20.5cm/8" round, deep cake tin or springform.

2. Sift the flour, baking powder and salt on to a sheet of greaseproof paper and set aside until needed.

3. Beat the butter and sugar until light and fluffy; you can use a wooden spoon or an electric whisk or mixer. Then gradually add in the eggs, beating well after each addition and adding the ground almonds with the last egg.

4. Using a large metal spoon fold in the flour followed by the dried fruit, cherries, chocolate and milk and, when thoroughly combined, spoon half of the mixture into the prepared tin and spread evenly.

5. Roll-out one third of the marzipan to a circle slightly smaller than the tin. Set in on top of the cake the cover with the rest of the cake mixture. Spread it evenly then make a slight hollow in the centre so the cake rises evenly.

6. Bake in the centre of the oven for 30 minutes, then reduce the oven temperature to 170°C/325°F/gas mark 3 and bake for a further 60 - 70 minutes or until a skewer inserted in to the centre of the cake, just down to the marzipan layer, comes out clean.

7. Leave to cool on a wire rack then remove from the tin and discard the lining paper.

8. Roll out two-thirds of the remaining marzipan to a circle to fit the top of the cake. Brush the top of the cake with a little warm apricot jam or sherry and set the marzipan disc on top.

9. Shape the rest of the marzipan into 11 balls and arrange around the edge. Then fill the centre with mini Speckled Eggs and finish with a ribbon around the cake.

10. Enjoy!

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