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Simnel Cake (marzipan iced)


  • 350 grams / 12 oz / 2 generous cups best-quality sultanas (golden raisins)
  • 350 grams / 12 oz / 1 1/2 generous cups best-quality currants
  • 350 grams / 12 oz / 1 1/2 generous cups best-quality raisins
  • 110 grams / 4 oz / 1/2 cup natural glace cherries, washed and chopped
  • 110 grams / 4 oz / 1/2 cup best-quality candied peel
  • 55 grams / 2 oz / scant 1/2 cup whole almonds, skinned
  • 55 grams / 2 oz / generous 1/2 cup ground almonds
  • zest of 1 lemon
  • zest of 1 orange
  • 60 milliliters / 2 1/2 fl oz / generous 1/4 cup Irish whiskey, optional
  • 225 grams / 8 oz / 2 sticks butter
  • 225 grams / 8 oz / 1 1/2 cups pale soft brown sugar
  • 6 eggs, beaten
  • 285 grams / 10 oz / 2 1/4 cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon mixed spice (pumpkin pie spice)
  • 1 large or 2 small baking apples, grated
  • 450 grams / 1 lb / 4 cups ground almonds
  • 450 grams / 1 lb / 4 cups caster sugar
  • 2 small eggs
  • 50 milliliters / 2 fl oz / 1/4 cup Irish whiskey, optional
  • a drop of almond essence


Traditional Irish Easter cake. Line the base and sides of a 23 cm / 9 inch round, or a 20.5cm / 8 inch square tin with brown paper and greaseproof paper. Mix the dried fruit, nuts, ground almonds and orange and lemon zest. Add the whiskey and leave for 1 hour to macerate. Meanwhile, make the almond paste. Sieve the sugar and mix with the ground almonds. Beat the eggs, add the whiskey and one drop of pure almond essence, then add to the other ingredients and mix to a stiff paste (you may not need to all the egg). Sprinkle the work top with icing (confectioner's) sugar, turn out the almond paste and work lightly until smooth. Set aside. Cream the butter until very soft, add the sugar, beat until light and fluffy. Add the eggs bit by bit, beating well between each addition so that the mixture doesn't curdle. Mix the spice with the flour and fold in gently. Combine the grated apple and the fruit and stir gently but thoroughly into the cake mixture (don't beat again or you will toughen the cake). Put half of the cake mixture into the prepared tin. Roll out half the almond paste into a 21.5 cm / 8 1/2 inch round, place this on top of the cake mixture in the tin and cover with the remaining mixture. Make a slight hollow in the centre and dip your hand in water and pat it over the surface of the cake; this will ensure that the top is smooth when cooked. Bake in a preheated 160 deg C / 325 deg F / gas3 oven for one hour, then reduce the heat to 150 deg C / 300 deg F / gas2 and bake for a further two hours, or until the cake is cooked (a skewer inserted in the centre should come out perfectly clean). Leave to cool in the tin. Next day remove the cake from the tin. Do not remove the lining paper but wrap in some extra greaseproof paper and tinfoil until required. When you are ready to ice the cake, roll two-thirds of the remaining almost paste into a 23 cm/9 inch round. Brush the cake with a little lightly beaten egg white and top with the paste. Roll the remaining almond paste into eleven balls about the size of a large walnut. Score the top of the cake in 4 cm / 1 1/2 inch squares and brush with beaten egg or egg yolk. Stick the apostles' around the outer edge of the top and brush with beaten egg. Toast under a grill in a preheated 220 deg C / 425 deg F / gas7 oven, for 15-20 minutes or until slightly golden. Protect the sides with tin foil. Decorate with an Easter chicken.

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