Mix the marzipan ingredients to a stiff paste and knead well; divide into three and roll out two of the pieces into circles eight inches in diameter. Put aside with the rest of the marzipan. To make the cake, cream butter and sugar together until light and fluffy, then beat in the eggs one at a time. Sieve the flour, spices and salt together and add to the mixture; finally add the dried fruit. If the mixture is a little stiff, add enough milk to give a dropping consistency. Put half the cake mixture into a greased and lined eight-inch cake tin, then put in one circle of marzipan and cover with remaining cake mixture. Bake at 300°F, 150°C, gas mark 2 for three and a half hours. Allow to cool. Brush the top of the cake with a little warm jam, and put on the second circle of marzipan; press down well. Make twelve small balls from the remaining marzipan, and arrange these round the edge. Brush lightly with a little egg and put the cake into a hot oven or under the grill for a few seconds to glaze lightly. Fill the centre with a little white glacé icing and decorate.
Originally, the Simnel cake was taken home by servant girls on ‘Mothering Sunday’ (the fourth Sunday in Lent) as a present for their mothers. It was made with figs, the fruit symbolising ‘fruitfulness in offspring’.
Only later did it become a traditional Easter-time cake. The balls of marzipan symbolise the number of Christ’s disciples.