At Easter, I love the sight of a Simnel sitting on the Sunday table. Golden marzipan top, circled with a ring of yellow marzipan balls, toasted and crackled on top. 11 apostles standing proud.
Having only just finished the fruit cake from Christmas, however, it seemed a little unnecessary to bake another big fruit cake. This tea loaf is inspired by the flavours of the Simnel Cake but its lighter, more suitable for a teatime nibble. Its delicately spiced, and speckled with juicy dried raisins and sultanas. Run right through the middle of the cake is a layer of marzipan, my favourite part of a Simnel Cake.
For this recipe I tried out making my own marzipan for the first time with my Mum. It was surprisingly easy to make, and made a smooth, delicious paste. Although there are several ways to make it, we used the Delia Smith method. Egg, caster sugar and icing sugar are mixed together and heated over a pan of boiling water for about 10 minutes. Once the mixture had cooled, we kneaded in ground almonds and almond extract. At first the mixture seemed quite dry and crumbly, but as it was kneaded the oils from the almonds were released into the paste, binding the marzipan together and smelling delicious.
If you get the chance to make your own marzipan give it a go, its very satisfying!
This would be the perfect cake to keep in the kitchen, and slice into over the Easter weekend for an afternoon treat with a cup of tea.
Easter Simnel Tea Loaf
(adapted, barely, from Year Round Dairy Cookbook)
250g plain flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
1 teaspoon mixed spice
110g light muscavado sugar
50g mixed dried peel
1 tablespoon apricot jam
Preheat the oven to 180C/350F.
Grease and line a 1 kg ( 2 lb 4oz) loaf tin.
Sift the dry ingredients, flour, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda and mixed spice together.
Chop the butter into slivers, add to the dry ingredients and rub in with your finger tips. You’re looking for a texture like fine bread crumbs.
Stir through the sugar and the dried fruit.
Finely, add the milk and mix to a soft constancy.
Spoon half of the mixture into the prepared loaf tin.
Pull of small pieces of marzipan and lay them over the cake mixture, taking care not to go right up to the edge, you don’t want the marzipan to come out from the side of the cake.
Cover the marzipan with the rest of the cake mixture.
Bake for about an hour, until risen and firm to the touch. You may need to cover the cake with some tinfoil for about the last 15 minutes of baking if the cake looks like its starting to get too brown.
Cool in the tin for about 10 minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack. You may need to run a knife around the edge of the tin if it is sticking.
Prepare the glaze. Heat the jam with 1 tablespoon of water until the jam is liquid and boiling. Brush over the top of the cake, then leave to cool completely.