Tomorrow is another traditional family gathering. Earlier in the week, Pater text me from his new iPad, (he is a techno wunderkind) to ask if we would be attending. If we were, he said he would try and tempt some poor, shivering lamb in to warm itself in his oven, with a blanket of rosemary and garlic. He’s so thoughtful.
I digress. Tribal gatherings mean one has to present oneself with offerings for the hosts. Not compulsory, just polite. But what to take now? I hit the recipe books. Of course, the traditional Easter Simnel cake. Pater and I are both suckers for anything with marzipan anyway. A quick root through the cupboards showed I didn’t have enough currents, raisins and sultanas for the recipe. However, I did have other ingredients and so, as is my want, I adapted the BBC Food recipe to what I had in.
Because these cakes were for presents I baked in two 4” tins as opposed to one 7”. It’s always a bit hit and miss at the best of times with my oven so I baked them for 45 minutes at 140°C, (130°C Fan, 275°F or Gas Mark 1). Then turned it down to 120°C for 20 minutes.
175g/6oz soft brown sugar
3 free-range eggs, beaten
175g/6oz plain flour
Pinch of salt
½ tsp ground mixed spice
85g/3oz ready to eat prunes, chopped
85g/3oz ready to eat apricots, chopped
85g/3oz chopped almonds
½ lemon, grated zest only
Marzipan, shop bought or make your own
1-2 tbsp apricot jam
1 free-range egg, beaten for glazing
For the cake, cream the butter and sugar together until pale and fluffy. Gradually beat in the eggs until well incorporated and then sift in the flour, salt and mixed spice (if using) a little at a time. Finally, add the mixed dried fruit, peel and grated lemon zest and stir into the mixture.
Put the mixture into a greased and lined 18cm/7in cake tin. Smooth the top leaving a slight dip in the centre to allow for the cake to rise. Bake in the preheated oven for 1¾ hours. Test by inserting a skewer in the middle - if it comes out clean, it is ready. Once baked, remove from the oven and set aside to cool on a wire rack.
Brush the top of the cooled cake with the apricot jam. Divide the remainder of the almond paste in half; roll out a circle to cover the top of the cake with one half and form 11 small balls with the other half.
Place the circle of paste on the jam glaze and set the balls round the edge. Brush the cake topping with a little beaten egg.
Preheat the grill to high. Place the cake onto a baking tray and grill for 1-2 minutes, or until the top of the marzipan begins to brown. Alternatively, lightly heat the cake topping using a cook's blow torch, until the marzipan is golden-brown.