Spring has sprung and Lent has been lifted…well, nearly. There’s no better time to stock up the pantry with sugar, spice and all things nice than the lead up to Easter weekend; think hot cross buns, chocolate eggs, and a big slice of Simnel cake.
Simnel cake, or Easter cake, is a rich fusion of mixed spice and marzipan which sweetens up any bank holiday picnic. Elizabeth Craig’s version, from her book ‘Cooking with Elizabeth Craig’ (1932), is one of the tastiest treats to hit the cake-spot to date.
The Scottish food writer and home economist dedicated it to ‘those who like to cook.’ Elizabeth was a widely-travelled journalist with a host of admirers; in the 1920’s she was described as the ‘only woman on Fleet Street who could cook’ by the then Editor of the Daily Mail. She was to receive ‘Woman of the Year Awards’ at the Savoy Hotel in 1967.
- ½lb butter
- ¾lb currants
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- ¼lb citron peel
- ¾ plain flour
- ¼oz mixed spice
- ½lb sugar
For the almond paste:
- 2oz melted butter
- 1lb ground almonds
- 10oz caster sugar
- 2 eggs
- Juice of 2 lemons
- Beat butter and sugar to a cream in a basin
- Beat in eggs one at a time
- Add flour sifted with baking powder, washed and dried currants, chopped citron and spice. Stir well together
- Put half the cake mixture into a greased tin, lined with three layers of buttered paper
- Place a layer, about half a pound, of almond paste on top, taking care that it’s even in thickness (it should be about ¾ of an inch thick)
- Cover with remainder of cake mixture. Press down well and bake in a moderate oven at 350ºF for 2-3 hours. When nearly done, rough a roll of almond paste up with a fork, and place it round the edge
- Cover with a piece of kitchen paper and return to oven to cook. Then remove paper and sprinkle top with water and sugar.
- Decorate with marzipan eggs , a fluffy chicken, a chicken and a nest, or glace cherries, and leaves of angelica