The Simnel Cake, a rich luscious fruit cake, has symbolised Mother's Day since medieval times. In those days, the cakes were decorated with wildflowers gathered by sons and daughters as they made their way home to spend the day with their mothers.
The word simnel probably derived from the Latin simila, meaning fine wheaten flour with which the cakes were made, though others say the name resulted from a quarrel between a certain Simon and his wife, Nell, about whether the cake should be boiled or baked.
- softened unsalted butter - 250g
- brown sugar - 1 1/4 cups
- white sugar - 1/2 cup
- lemon - 1, finely grated zest
- vanilla essence - 1 teaspoon
- bitter orange marmalade - 2 tablespoons
- free range or organic eggs - 5, at room temperature
- plain flour - 2 1/2 cups
- baking powder - 1 1/2 teaspoons
- salt - a pinch
- mixed spice - 1 teaspoon
- sultanas - 250g
- seedless raisins (or cranberries) - 250g
- glace cherries - 200g
- mixed peel - 200g
- blanched almonds - 100g, chopped
- brandy or rum - 100ml
- marzipan - 250g packet
Preheat oven to 150degC (130degC fan forced). Line the bottom and sides of a 23cm round cake tin with baking paper.
Cream together the butter and sugars in the bowl of an electric mixer. Beat in the lemon zest, vanilla and marmalade. Add the eggs one at time, beating well after each addition.
Add the dried fruits, cherries, mixed peel and nuts and mix well to combine.
Sift together the flour, baking power, salt and mixed spice. Fold in half the sifted ingredients, add the brandy or rum, then fold in remaining sifted dry ingredients. Mix well to combine.
Spoon half the mixture into the prepared tin. Roll out half the marzipan between two sheets of baking paper to approximately 23cm diameter. Carefully place the marzipan over the fruit batter and press down. Spoon the remaining cake mixture over the marzipan.
Place in oven and bake for 3 -3 1/2 hours or until cooked when tested with a skewer. Remove from oven and leave to cool in tin.
Remove cake from the tin and decorate the top with remaining marzipan (rolled out to 23cm diameter to fit top of the cake) and your mother's favourite pesticide-free flowers.