Simnel cake. The evolution of an Easter delicacy Monday - 16th March 2020

The History of Simnel Cake

A Simnel cake is a delightful English delicacy, usually made during the Easter period. The cake is made on or around Easter Sunday, which falls the weekend after the end of Lent. This year (2020, lent runs from Wednesday the 26th of February until Thursday the 9th of April with Easter Sunday falling on the 12th of April). The fruity cake was traditionally made in the medieval era and was a sweet treat created for those who had fasted for lent. The delicious bread-like cake provided respite from fasting.

Also, servant girls would bake this cake to give to their Mothers when returning home from work on Mothering Sunday; another Christian celebration in the middle of lent where celebrations include gift-giving and visiting one’s mother.

A Traditional Simnel Cake

Simnel is likely to have come from the Latin phrase “simila” which translates to fine wheat flour. The batter should be filled with fruit, a mix of spices and a lot of marzipan. The resulting cake is light in texture and taste and is another reason it is served in the springtime.

The Basics

Like all traditional fruit cakes, the ingredients are butter, sugar, flour, eggs, and some raising agents. Adding milk and having a smoother batter can also serve a moister cake.

Filled with Fruit

A choice of dried fruits can be added to the mixture with candied peels to add some further sweetness. Then a mixture of spices like nutmeg, cinnamon, and ginger. Although the choice is yours and can have a range of spices.

Covered in Marzipan

Once the cake is out of the oven and cooled, you can then cover with either homemade or ready-made marzipan. A traditional Simnel cake has 11 or 12 balls of marzipan on top as decoration. After you cover the Simnel cake in marzipan, pop it back in the over to brown off.

Adaptations of Simnel Cake

The ongoing traditions of a Simnel cake are still strong, although there are some delicious adaptations to try out. Soaking the dried fruit in your chosen alcohol is a classic twist and can also be used when baking this cake around Christmas time. Other infusions added to your cake, like coffee or cocoa powder, can make a delightful change to the traditional fruit cake. There is a considerable variation in cake toppings. From edible flowers and different icing, the marzipan balls are swapped out for other treats. Some replace the 12 marzipan balls with 12 delicious chocolate mini eggs, aligning with Easter festivities.

The Simnel cake has been around for a long time with little changes to the recipe. Traditions of the cake are still be followed every Easter. There are some fantastic alterations of the Simnel cake that can be introduced to the classic recipe. Why not try out some of your favourite flavours when you bake this fruity cake come Easter.