Light Simnel Cake

Preparation info

  • Difficulty


  • Makes


    8 inch 20.5 cm cake

Appears in

The simnel cake, a dense, rich confection of dried fruit and spices, was traditionally served on Mothering Sunday, and now more often at Easter time.


  • 4 oz / 110 g unsalted butter, softened
  • oz / 70 g demerara sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 6 oz / 170 g fine wholemeal flour
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 tsp ground mixed spice
  • ½ tsp baking powder
  • 4 oz / 110 g dried apricots, pears or peaches, or a mixture chopped
  • 4 oz / 110 g sultanas
  • 2 tsp lemon juice
  • grated zest of ½ lemon

Almond Paste

  • 7 oz / 200 g ground almonds
  • 4 oz / 110 g unrefined caster sugar
  • grated zest of ½ lemon
  • 1 tsp lemon juice
  • 1 oz / 30 g unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten


First make the almond paste. Mix all the ingredients together thoroughly, using only as much egg as is needed to bind the mixture. Knead lightly and put to one side, loosely covered.

Grease and line a 8 in / 20.5 cm cake tin and preheat the oven to 170°C / 325°F / Mark 3. Cream the butter and sugar together, and beat in the eggs, one at a time. Sift the dry ingredients together and fold into the mixture. Stir in the dried fruit, lemon juice and zest, and mix thoroughly but gently. Pour half the mixture into the prepared cake tin. Roll out slightly less than half the almond paste, and cut out a circle in / 16.5 cm diameter and about ¼ in / 0.5 cm thick. Place in the cake tin, pressing down lightly. Spoon on the rest of the cake mixture, smooth the top of the cake and make a slight depression in the centre so that the cake will bake flat. Bake in the centre of the oven for 1–1¼ hours, or until a skewer inserted into the middle comes out clean. Allow the cake to cool in the tin before removing it to decorate it. Roll out the rest of the almond paste and cover the surface of the cake with it so that it overlaps by about ½ in / 1 cm. With the trimmings, make suitable decorations – eleven small balls to represent the eleven faithful apostles, eggs, nests, chickens, whatever you think suitable. Brush the top of the cake with the remaining beaten egg and put under a hot grill for 8–10 minutes to glaze, taking care not to let the surface burn.