Sunday, 8 April 2012

Simnel Cake

To the left, iced tea made with 3 bags Lady Grey, 4 sprigs mint and 1 lemon to 1 litre boiling water
Christians really seem to like their fruitcakes for special holidays.  At least English Christians do, and I love fruitcake, so I am happy to go along.  Both Christmas Cake and Simnel Cake (Easter cake) contain dried fruit, and use marzipan as part of the icing.  The difference is that Simnel Cake is superior, as it is both a lighter cake (no treacle) and is divided into two or three layers by marzipan circles.  This means that it is impossible for all of the fruit to sink to the bottom.
This large and imposing article formed the pudding for a Moroccan Easter dinner, which was to have involved roast figs.  Unfortunately Waitrose (Christ's own supermarket) didn't have any fresh figs (Jesus does like them, but decrees that they should be unavailable).  You could very much use dates and dried figs in this recipe if you like, but for lightness I prefer pears and apricots.

Simnel Cake

6 eggs (13oz)
13oz butter
6oz light brown soft sugar
3 oz caster sugar
1.5 tblsp clear runny honey
10oz dried fruit - dried pears, cranberries, apricots, vine fruits (use minimum amounts of raisins).
zest 1 lemon
zest 3 clementines
chopped flesh 1 clementine
2 Lady Grey teabags
300ml boiling water
13oz self-raising flour
1tsp ground cardamom (or 1/2 tsp nutmeg)
2tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
packet marzipan - 200g ish
11 chocolate Mini Eggs

 You Will Need: 24cm cake tin, large bowl, small bowl, scales, kettle, measuirng jug, sieve, saucepan, chopping board and sharp knife, zester/cheese grater, wooden spoon, whisk, teaspoon, tablespoon, rolling pin, serving plate

1) Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C.  Boil a kettle.
2) Put the two Lady Grey teabags in the measuring jug and make 300ml of tea with the boiling water.  Leave to steep while you do Step3.
3) Chop any larger pieces of dried fruit into raisin-sized pieces.  Put the dried fruits into the small bowl with the citrus zest.  When it is ready, pour over the tea to cover and leave to soak.
4) Weigh 6 eggs (mine came to 13oz more or less; one normal egg is about 2oz).  Weigh out the same amount of butter, and melt in the pan with the sugars and honey.  Don't get too niggly about the amount of honey which sticks to the spoon, if you use the measuring spoon to stir the mix it will all come out in the wash.
5) While the butter and sugar is melting, quickly beat the eggs together in the large bowl.  Go back and stir the butter/sugar until all the butter has melted and the mixture is caramel brown.  Now very carefully pour the melted mix onto the eggs, whisking to mix as you go in a steady stream.  This is by far a superior technique for speed than creaming things.
6) Strain the fruits out of the tea.  Add the fruits to the eggmix; chop the clementine into raisin-sized pieces and stir in.  Add 100ml of the tea.  When mixed well, weigh out flour to match your eggs and butter.  Stir in the spices.  Fold the flour and spices into the fruitmix a quarter at a time, until smooth.
7) Put the finished cakemix aside.  Divide your packet of marzipan into 4 equal pieces.  Scatter caster sugar over your worksurface, and roll out circles the size of your caketin using 2 quarters.  Pour 1/3 of your cakemix into the tin; cover with a marzipan circle; pour in another 1/3, another circle; finish with the last 1/3.
8) Bake for approximately 1 hour 30mins, or until a skewer in the very middle comes out clean.  If it looks to be browning too much at the edges, put a piece of tinfoil over the tin to protect the top of the cake from burning.
9) Allow the cake to cool completely, and turn out onto its eventual serving plate.  Spread the top with a fine layer of jam.  Roll out one last circle of marzipan and cover the top of the cake with it, trimming any loose edges.  Using the last quarter of the marzipan, make 11 balls to decorate the top.  These represent the faithful Apostles e.g. everyone except Judas.  I have made marziflower-nests for 11 mini eggs because I am a hopeless pagan.

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