Mini Easter Simnel Cakes


So today we are talking fruit cake, spices and chocolate. Music to my ears… and my stomach. I am not sure how I got this far in my baking career without trying this recipe! I suppose that while traditional fruit cakes are found in abundance around Christmas time, the simnel cake is less common down here at the tip of Africa. This fruity cake adorned with marzipan is traditional around Mothering Sunday and/or Easter particularly in the U.K, and I thought I would channel my British ancestors and give it a bash this week.  

This recipe is adapted from Nigella Lawson’s Simnel Cake recipe found in her book “Feast“. I decided to have a go at creating quirky, mini cakes and also added dark chocolate chips and citrus peel to the cake mix. The result was a rich fruit cake with a hint of spice, small bursts of crunchy chocolate loveliness and a sticky melted marzipan centre. 

Cooks tip: I was rather dismayed to find that my store-bought marzipan was a bit on the crumbly side and difficult to roll. If you find yourself in a similar situation (or if your homemade marzipan is a little dry) you can fix it by simply mixing some glucose syrup into the marzipan a little at a time until you have a softer and more pliable paste. Sorted! 

Have a lovely Easter everybody!

_________________________



MINI EASTER SIMNEL CAKES 


Makes 4 small but tall cakes

225g plain flour

1.5 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground ginger
175g butter, softened
175g castor sugar
2 tbsp mixed citrus peel
3 large eggs
2 tbsp milk
400g cake mix (sultanas, raisins and currants)
100g dark chocolate chips
icing sugar for dusting
300g marzipan
1 tbsp smooth apricot jam
decorations (optional)
4 x 400g tins, emptied and washed 
Step 1.)  Line the base and sides of each tin with baking paper, allowing it to overlap a little at the top. Preheat your oven to 170°C.

Step 2.) Sift the flour, baking powder, cinnamon and ginger into a bowl. Stir and set aside.

Step 3.) Cream the butter and castor sugar together until light and fluffy. Mix in the citrus peel. Next, add the eggs one at a time, beating between each addition.  

Step 4.) Add the flour mixture and mix to combine. Mix in the milk. Lastly, fold in the cake mix and the chocolate chips

Step 5.) Dust your work surface with a little icing sugar. Roll out 150g of marzipan to a 5mm thickness. Cut out 4 circles, large enough to fit snugly inside the tins. 

Step 6.) Divide the cake batter in half. Divide one half of the batter between the four tins and smooth the tops as best you can. Place a disc of marzipan on top of each and press down firmly onto the batter. Divide the remaining cake batter between the 4 tins and smooth it down again. 

Step 7.) Place the tins on a baking tray and pop them in the oven for 20 minutes. Reduce the oven temperature to 150°C and bake for a further 50-60 minutes until risen, golden and cooked through. 

Step 8.) Allow the cakes to cool completely in their tins. Then, carefully run a small knife around the inside of each tin (between the tin and the baking paper) and gently shake the cakes out. 

Step 9.) Dust your surface with icing sugar and roll out the remaining marzipan to a 5mm thickness. Cut out 4 discs, large enough to cover the top of each cake. Heat the apricot jam in the microwave for a few seconds to melt. Paint the top of each cake with melted jam and place a marzipan disc on each. 

Decorating ideas: the tradition is to top a Simnel cake with 11 small marzipan balls representing 11 Apostles (minus Judas), but you could use small Easter eggs or fondant to decorate your cakes. I have also seen a large number of recipes that call for the use of a blowtorch or grill to caramelise the marzipan before serving. 


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