Simnel Cake is an ancient British dessert going back to pre-Christian times. Today is it more associated with Easter itself, but any spring celebration would do well with this cake. Flavored with bits of fruit and currants, it features an inner layer of rolled almond paste, which not only adds tons of flavor, but also moistness.
To make it even more authentic, I used my Victorio grain mill to grind some home ground flour using hard red wheat berries. After having this cake with conventional flour and the home ground, home ground is the way to go. If you refer to my previous blog about my Victorio mill in May of 2016, you will see that the flavor and quality derived from home ground flour is unsurpassable.
The original recipe includes a buttercream frosting, I omitted that, as the cake speaks for itself, with perhaps a dusting of powdered sugar. If you wish to frost it, by all means, go for it if you have your favorite vanilla buttercream in mind. As usual, it is your choice. Once again, I have delved into my library of older cookbooks to come up with this one, full references are below.
• 2 sticks butter
• 1 cup granulated sugar
• 4 eggs
• 2 cups all purpose flour (or peferably home ground)
• 2/3 cup currants
• 1/3 cup candied orange peel, finely chopped
• 1/3 cup candied lemon peel, finely chopped
• 1 tbsp grated lemon rind
• ¼ tsp. salt
• ¼ tsp. baking soda
• 8 oz. almond paste*
1. Grease one 8” springform pan and line with parchment. If you don’t have an 8”, a 9” will also work, just shorten your baking time.
2. In a mixer bowl, cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs one at a time, beating after each addition.
3. In a small bowl, reserve ¼ cup of the flour. Add currants, candied fruit and lemon rind. Mix.
4. Add remaining flour and other dry ingredients to the batter. Fold fruit into batter.
5. Pour 1/2 of the batter into the pan.
6. Roll almond paste to fit into pan and place on top of batter in pan. Add remaining batter.
7. Bake in a preheated 300 degree F oven for 2 hours, (keep an eye on it, as it may not need the full 2 hours) or about 1 hour if you’re using a convection oven, until cake tester or toothpick comes clean. Cool 15 minutes, remove outer ring, and cool completely on wire rack.
*To roll the almond paste, take one 8 oz. piece of almond paste and roll it out with a rolling pin on a board. It probably would not be necessary to flour it, but if it does stick, use powdered sugar instead of flour.
References: Cutler, Kathy. The Holiday Dessert Book. NY: Macmillan Publishing Co, 1986. If you can find a copy of this book, it has recipes for a myriad of holidays, about 25 in total, including less well-known ones worth taking a look at.
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