Simnel cake is a traditional Easter treat but some time ago it was made for Mothering Sunday so you can make it then if you like.  It has almond paste baked into the middle of it and also almond paste made into balls and placed on top of the cake for decoration. You can make your own almond paste or use bought.

For the almond paste you will need:

9 oz Caster sugar
9 oz ground almonds
2 eggs beaten
1 tsp almond essence

Place the sugar and ground almonds into a bowl and add the beaten eggs to a soft consistency, add almond essence and knead well.  Roll out a third of the paste into a 7 ” circle. Put the rest on one side.

For the cake you will need:

6 oz butter
6 oz soft brown sugar
3 eggs
6 oz plain flour
pinch of salt
1/2 tsp ground mixed spice (optional)
12 oz mixed dried fruits
2 oz chopped mixed peel
1/2 lemon, grated zest only.

1 egg beaten for glazing plus 1 or 2 tablespoons apricot jam.

Grease and line a 7″ cake tin and set the oven to 140 C, 275 F or gas mark 1

Cream the butter and sugar together until pale and fluffy. Gradually add the beaten eggs and beat well. Fold in the flour, salt, mixed spices if using and finally add the mixed dried fruit, candied peel and lemon zest. Put half the mixture into the tin and smooth the top. Cover with the circle of almond paste and add the remaining cake mixture, smooth the top but add a slight dip in the centre to allow the cake to rise. Bake for 1 3/4 hours or until a skewer inserted into the cake comes out clean. Allow to cool.

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(c) Julia Briggs for The English Tea Store, all rights reserved.

Brush the top of the cake with the warmed apricot jam, divide the remaining almond paste into two and roll a circle for the top of the cake. Place this circle on the top of the cake.  Make 11 small balls with the remaining paste and place in a circle on top of the cake. Put the whole cake back into a hot oven for 10 mins or under the grill for 1 or 2 mins to brown the almond paste balls.

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