Sunday, 23 March 2008

a return to the traditional - easter simnel cupcakes

so, i wanted to bake something traditional for easter and saw a segment on one of the morning tv shows on how to make simnel cake. when i delved a little bit further i found this about simnel cake on wikipedia...

Simnel cake is a light fruit cake, similar to a Christmas cake, covered in marzipan, and eaten at Easter in England and Ireland. A layer of marzipan or almond paste is also baked into the middle of the cake. On the top of the cake, around the edge, are eleven marzipan balls to represent the true apostles of Jesus; Judas is omitted. In some variations Christ is also represented, by a ball placed at the centre.

The cake is made from these ingredients: white flour, sugar, butter, eggs, fragrant spices, dried fruits, zest and candied peel.

Simnel cakes have been known since mediaeval times, and were originally a Mothering Sunday tradition, when young girls in service would make one to be taken home to their mothers on their day off. The word simnel probably derived from the Latin word simila, meaning fine, wheaten flour with which the cakes were made. A legend, however, attributes the cake's creation to the English pretender Lambert Simnel, who supposedly devised it during the time in which he was forced to work in Henry VII's kitchens.

this sounded perfect and i liked the idea that it was used traditionally for easter. my mum is a big fruitcake fan and she especially wanted some. i found a recipe from Odlums that looked good and set to work. the recipe was easy to follow and easy to make. once i'd made the batter i rolled out the marzipan and cut out shapes to put into the middle of the cupcake. divided up the batter, spooned in a tablespoon of batter, placed the rolled out marzipan and then another tablespoon on top. the cupcake case was pretty much full to the top at this point because these do not rise very much so make sure you fill them to where you want them to end up! this is what they looked like when thy came out of the oven....

they smelled so good, really rich and spicy and filled the whole house with their aroma. wonderful! i must admit that i was a bit worried about the baking time because it is hard to judge when these are done. i just went by their golden brown-ness on top because the toothpick test doesn't really apply here as the cake is so full of fruit. while they were cooling i rolled out the second batch of marzipan and placed these on top. then popped them back in the oven to bake the marzipan for about 5 minutes. it said in the recipe that you should bake them until the tops are brown but i didn't want the marzipan to be brown-looking. that didn't seem to appeal to me and i thought it wouldn't look so pretty. so i took them out just after 5 minutes to make sure.

once out of the oven i decorated them my style. again the original recipe said that you can make 11 marzipan balls to decorate the top, to represent the disciples and leave one empty for Judas, but i didn't wanna overkill on the marzipan, so i used chocolate eggs instead and added some little sugar decorations around the edge. it definitely made them more easter-like too.

we were supposed to save these for after easter lunch today but i went out for a walk and came back and was feeling a tad peckish, so in cahoots with my mum, we cut one up and tried it...oh, it was just delicious. oh, so, fruity and moist and just enough marzipan to enhance the whole flavour of the fruitcake. i loved it, but then i DO like fruitcake and yet i know that a lot of people are not big fans. but this, rather than tasting like rich christmas cake, reminded me more of christmas stollen - especially with that layer of marzipan in the middle. it was light fruitcake, not heavy and alcohol-laden. so good with a nice mug of tea and just delightfully fruuuuuuuuuity! Happy Easter!

Easter Simnel Cupcakes

150g/5oz Odlums Cream Plain Flour
125g/4oz Butter (room temperature)
125g/4oz Light Brown Sugar
3 Eggs (beaten)
1/2 teaspoon Mixed Spice
Grated Rind of a Lemon
1 tablespoon Brandy or Rum (optional)
500g packet Shamrock Luxury Fruit Mix (consisting of currants, raisins, candied peel, cherries)
2 tablespoons Apricot Jam to glaze cupcakes (i used marmalade and it was fine!)
2 x 250g packets of Almond Marzipan

Preheat oven to 190°C/375°F/Gas 5. Line muffin tins with paper cases.
Cream butter and sugar together until smooth. Gradually beat in the eggs.
Add flour, lemon rind and mixed spice. Gently stir until well combined.
Finally mix in the fruit and brandy or rum.
Divide half the mixture into the paper cases. Take half the marzipan, roll out and cut into circles, place onto the fruit.
Top marzipan circles with remaining mixture. Bake for about 25 minutes until risen and golden brown.
Meanwhile, roll out other half of marzipan and cut out 12 circles and shape out 11 balls.


Lisa Johnson said...

Oh, these look delicious! ; )

Unknown said...

thank you anali...they really tasted very good! perfect to slice up and share!

Anonymous said...

So elegant and gorgeous. I've never eaten Simnel cake before but I want to now after seeing your pics!

Unknown said...

thanks lorraine, you should definitely try it if you like fruitcake! it's so fruit-laden and moist. yummy...i've eaten FAR too many already!

Sam said...

I really like the look of these, making a cupcake version is such a great idea.

Unknown said...

thanks sam for dropping by - it was fun making the cupcake version but then again that's why i love making cupcakes because each cup holds a perfect portion for one!