Cakes

Easy Simnel Cake Recipe (Easter Fruitcake)

4.59 from 12 votes
Make this easy Simnel Cake Recipe and celebrate Easter with a sweet, nutty, and boozy Irish and British classic Easter fruitcake!

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Hi Bold Bakers!

WHY YOU’LL LOVE THIS RECIPE: This traditional Simnel Cake Recipe is so easy to make for Easter! It’s a lighter fruitcake compared to Christmas Cake but still sweet, dense, loaded with chewy brandy-soaked dried fruit and aromatic and nutty marzipan

Like most very young kids, I did not even care about eating fruitcakes until I grew up. Besides counting up chocolate eggs with my brother and sisters in the mornings on Easter Sundays, one of the most memorable moments was gathering and even making the ingredients for this easy yet delicious Simnel Cake with Mammy Stafford. Now being away from Ireland, this traditional Easter Treat brings me back home and something about the almond just has me coming back for more!

I can’t think of a better way to share the joy than passing this traditional Simnel Cake Recipe onto Georgie and you Bold Bakers!

IMPORTANT NOTE: This recipe was improved and updated on 3/21/2024, to include a NEW step-by-step tutorial video, answers to most frequently asked questions, and Pro Chef Tips. 

Table of  Contents

What is Simnel Cake?

Simnel Cake is a delicious traditional fruitcake often eaten during Easter in the United Kingdom, Ireland and some other countries, typically distinguished by a layer of marzipan baked in the middle and one toasted on top. 

  • It’s sweet, zesty, aromatic, spiced, and dense, loaded with brandy-soaked dried fruit and nutty marzipanConventionally, bakers decorate their Simnel Cakes with 11 marzipan balls on top symbolizing 12 apostles without Judas Iscariot.

Easy Simnel Cake Recipe

  • The history of Simnel Cake can date back to medieval times when yeast was the original leavening agent instead of baking powder. Nowadays, it has evolved into rich and fancy cakes:
    • The 1st version is believed to be Shrewsbury Simnel cake. It was infused with saffron representing a deep yellow color, packed with candied peel and rich mixed fruit, and covered with a scalloped-edged pastry.
    • The 2nd is a first boiled, then baked and glazed Devizes star-shape Simnel with currants, lemon peel and saffron.
    • The 3rd also what’s mostly eaten today is from Bury, England. It likely became the most common one from presenting it to Queen Victoria in 1863.
  • Though the origin of the name “simnel” is unclear, people have their own theories:
    • “Simnel” may come from the two inventors “Simon” and “Nelly” who respectively insisted boiling and baking the cake with leftovers from Christmas.
    • It may be named after Lambert Simnel who shared her memory of enjoying the cake on Mothering Sunday.
    • Most likely, “simnel” came from Latin word meaning “fine wheat flour”-“simila”.

Tools for a Simnel Cake Recipe

Simnel Cake Recipe Key Ingredients and Why

  • Fruit Mix

    • Mixed dried fruit:  Such as raisins, diced apricots and currants or sultanas. Be sure to keep the soaking fruit covered so the brandy absorbs into the fruit and doesn’t evaporate.
    • Glacé cherries: Not maraschino cherries! Make Glacé Cherries with fresh fruits if you can’t find any!
    • Brandy: If you want to keep this alcohol-free, replace the brandy with an additional 3 tablespoons of orange juice.
    • Citrus zest and juice: From 1 medium orange and 1 lemon, which add freshness and tang to balance the sweetness and richness.
  • Marzipan

    • A rich sweet almond paste consisting of almonds, sugar, icing sugar, egg, and almond extract to elevate baked goods with nutty flavor.
    • If you can’t find a store-bought marzipan, make your own very easily! Make 1½ times the Marzipan recipe to yield enough for the cake.
  • Cake Batter

    • Butter: Softened perfectly – when you push the butter and it makes an indent, but your finger doesn’t easily squish right through.”creaming” butter and brown sugar together until light and fluffy will incorporate air in the batter to aerate the cake.
    • Dark brown sugar: Besides sweetness, dark brown sugar also adds richer molassesy flavor, more moisture and attributes to a better golden brown finish than light brown sugar.
    • Granulated sugar: For sprinkling the work surface for rolling out marzipan.
    • Large eggs: Always have eggs at room temperature unless specified otherwise. They’re easy to whip up and to mix throughly with fat to form a homogenous emulsion. This will not only stabilize the airy and fluffy cake structure but also avoid uncooked raw eggy taste.
    • All-purpose flour (AP):  All-purpose flour also known as “plain flour”, is the base of this cake with a perfect protein content of around 11% for a signature cakey texture instead of being chewy like bread.
    • Ground almonds: Use store bought or homemade ground almonds.   
    • Mixed spice: If it’s hard to come by, worry no more and make homemade mixed spice to enjoy!
    • Baking powder: It’s the leavening agent to make Simnel Cake rise at the present time (in place of original yeast).
    • Salt: Brings out all the flavors, savory and sweet!
  • Decoration

    • Apricot jam: Try out my easy homemade Jam Recipe! It tastes much better with good quality ingredients than store-bought ones.
    • Egg wash: Beaten whole eggs or egg yolk slightly thinned out with milk.

 

How to Make Simnel Cake

Bake the Cake

  • Cook and soak dried fruit:
    • In a small saucepan over medium-low heat, combine the mixed dried fruit, glace cherries, brandy, orange zest and juice and lemon zest and let come to a simmer.
    • Remove from the heat, cover and set aside, stirring occasionally, until the mixture cools to room temperature and the dried fruit has absorbed the liquid. (Taking about 1 hour.)
  • Prep oven & pan: Preheat the oven to 325°F (160°C) and butter and line the bottom of an 8-inch (20 cm) springform cake tin with two layers of parchment. Set aside.
  • Roll out marzipan: On a surface sprinkled with granulated sugar, roll out ½ the marzipan to ¼-inch thick and cut out an 8-inch (20 cm) circle. Repeat with the remaining ½ to yield another 8-inch (20 cm) circle. Set these and the remaining marzipan aside.
  • Mix WET for batter:
    • In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment (or with a large bowl and a handheld electric mixer), beat the butter and brown sugar together on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes.
    • Add the eggs, one at a time. Scrape the bowl a few times to ensure even mixing.
  • Mix DRY for batter: In a medium bowl, combine the flour, almonds, mixed spice, baking powder and salt, then gradually add this to the butter mixture.
  • Combine: Fold in the cool dried fruit and any remaining liquid in the pot.
  • Bake: 
    • Pour half of the batter into the prepared springform pan, top with the circle of marzipan and then pour on the remaining batter. Bake for 60-75 minutes, until a wooden skewer comes out clean.
    • Let cool in the pan for 20 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.

Assemble & decorate:

  • Brush the top of the cake with the apricot jam and place the marzipan circle on top of the cake. You can crimp the edges to create a ruffle pattern if you wish.
  • Divide the rest of the marzipan into 11 equal portions and roll each into a ball.
  • Brush the marzipan on the cake with egg wash, then place the balls evenly spaced around the edge of the circle. Brush the marzipan balls with more egg wash.
  • Turn the broiler on high, place the cake on a baking sheet and broil for 1 or 2 minutes until toasted, watching very carefully. Remove as soon as the marzipan starts to caramelize.

Serve:

Let cool before slicing and enjoy with a cup of tea.
Slices of Simnel Cake for Easter

How to Stop Fruit From Sinking to the Bottom?

All you have to do is give all your goodies (raisins, cherries, blueberries, currants, etc) a light coating of flour before adding them into your fruit cakes’ batters. It’s just that easy! And find out why this works in my article of How to Stop Fruit From Sinking to the Bottom of Cake!

A slice of Easter Simnel Cake loaded with brandy-soaked dried fruit and nutty marzipan.

How to Store Simnel Cake? Can I Freeze Easter Fruitcake?

  • The best way to store a Simnel Cake is at room temperature for up to 5 days.
  • Cakes freeze well so you can also wrap up your Simnel Cake and freeze it for up to 4 weeks.

FAQ

What’s the difference between maraschino cherries and Glacé Cherries (Candied Cherries)?

Maraschino cherries and Glacé Cherries are not the same.

  • Maraschino cherries are chemically preserved in brine solution to bleach the color then dyed and candied with sugary syrup and other components.
  • On the other hand, Glacé Cherries are fresh cherries that have been simmered in a thick sugar syrup to absorb the moisture until they are ‘candied’, without other chemicals. So, make Glacé Cherries instead!
  • Hence in comparison, maraschino cherries have a firmer texture and a more artificial taste while glacé cherries have a softer texture and a more natural, intense fruity flavor.

What’s the difference between Marzipan and Frangipane?

While Frangipane and Marzipan consist of similar ingredients, they have very different uses. (You can make both per my recipes!)

  • Frangipane is often used with baked goods, at the bottom of tarts and galettes, and is also like a liquid and quite loose.
  • Whereas Marzipan can be baked with or used in its raw form and is more like an almond Playdoh — which is perfect for decorating and forming into different shapes.

What’s the Difference Between Almond Flour, Almond Meal, and Ground Almonds?

Almond flour, almond meal and ground almonds are the same with just a minor difference.

  • Ground almonds, which you can grind yourself in a food processor or blender and use in this recipe (be sure to use frozen, either toasted or untoasted, almonds if you are doing this!), are simply almonds that with a flour-like texture. Ground almonds are also known as almond flour and almond meal.
  • Almond flour tends to be finer than almond meal.
  • Also, while most almond flours are blanched, which means their skins have been removed, an almond meal can be blanched or unblanched.

Marzipan on a homemade Simnel Cake

Gemma’s Pro Chef Tips:

  • Make your own Glacé Cherries using my recipe, you’ll be grand!
  • You can start soaking the fruit a day before you want to make the cake to allow the fruit to fully absorb the liquid.
  • Instead of strawberry jam or raspberry jam, it’s best to use apricot jam for a mild flavor.
  • For the most authentic taste, use mixed spices. But a similar pumpkin pie spice or just ground cinnamon will also work fine.
  • Marzipan will burn very quickly in the broiler so watch constantly until it’s done. You can also use a blowtorch with care! 
  • Allow the cake to cool completely before slicing to ensure clean, neat cuts.

IMPORTANT NOTE: This recipe was improved and updated on 3/21/2024, to include a NEW step-by-step tutorial video, answers to most frequently asked questions, and Pro Chef Tips. 

Watch The Recipe Video!

Easy Simnel Cake Recipe (Easter Fruitcake)

4.59 from 12 votes
Make this easy Simnel Cake Recipe and celebrate Easter with a sweet, nutty, and boozy Irish and British classic Easter fruitcake!
Author: Gemma Stafford
Servings: 14 people
Prep Time 1 hour 15 minutes
Cook Time 1 hour 15 minutes
Make this easy Simnel Cake Recipe and celebrate Easter with a sweet, nutty, and boozy Irish and British classic Easter fruitcake!
Author: Gemma Stafford
Servings: 14 people

Ingredients

  • 1 ¾ cups (8¾ oz/248 g) mixed dried fruit such as raisins, diced apricots and currants)
  • ¾ cup (3¾ oz/106 g) glace cherries*, halved
  • 3 tablespoons brandy
  • Zest and juice from 1 medium orange
  • Zest and juice from 1 lemon
  • 500 g (about 2 ¼ cups/18 oz) marzipan
  • granulated sugar for rolling out marzipan
  • 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons (9 oz/255 g) butter, softened
  • cup (4 oz/115 g) dark brown sugar
  • 4 large eggs, at room temperature
  • cups (6¼ oz/177 g) all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup (4 oz/115 g) ground almonds
  • 2 teaspoons mixed spice
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 3 tablespoons strained apricot jam
  • Egg wash

Instructions

  • In a small saucepan over medium-low heat, combine the mixed dried fruit, glace cherries, brandy, orange zest and juice and lemon zest and let come to a simmer. Remove from the heat, cover and set aside, stirring occasionally, until cooled to room temperature and the liquid has been absorbed. (This will take about 1 hour.)
  • Preheat the oven to 325°F (160°C) and butter and line the bottom of an 8-inch (20 cm) springform pan with two layers of parchment. Set aside.
  • On a surface sprinkled with granulated sugar, roll out ½ the marzipan to ¼-inch thick and cut out an 8-inch (20 cm) circle. Repeat with the remaining ½ to yield another 8-inch (20 cm) circle. Set these and the remaining marzipan aside.
  • In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment (or with a large bowl and a handheld electric mixer), beat the butter and brown sugar together on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes.
  • Add the eggs, one at a time. Scrape the bowl a few times to ensure even mixing.
  • In a medium bowl, combine the flour, almonds, mixed spice, baking powder and salt, then gradually add this to the butter mixture.
  • Fold in the cool dried fruit and any remaining liquid in the pot.
  • Pour half of the batter into the prepared springform pan, top with the circle of marzipan and then pour on the remaining batter.
  • Bake for 60-75 minutes, until a wooden skewer comes out clean. Let cool in the pan for 20 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.
  • Brush the top of the cake with the apricot jam and place the marzipan circle on top of the cake. You can crimp the edges to create a ruffle pattern if you wish.
  • Divide the rest of the marzipan into 11 equal portions and roll each into a ball.
  • Brush the marzipan on the cake with egg wash, then place the balls evenly spaced around the edge of the circle. Brush the marzipan balls with more egg wash.
  • Turn the broiler on high, place the cake on a baking sheet and broil for 1 or 2 minutes until toasted, watching very carefully. Remove as soon as the marzipan starts to caramelize.
  • Let cool before slicing and enjoy with a cup of tea. Store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 5 days. It also can be wrapped well and frozen for up to 4 weeks.

Recipe Notes

  • Make your own Glacé Cherries using my recipe, you'll be grand!
  • You can start soaking the fruit a day before you want to make the cake to allow the fruit to fully absorb the liquid.
  • Instead of strawberry jam or raspberry jam, it's best to use apricot jam for a mild flavor. 
  • For the most authentic taste, use mixed spices. But a similar pumpkin pie spice or just ground cinnamon will also work fine. 
  • Marzipan will burn very quickly in the broiler so watch constantly until it's done. You can also use a blowtorch with care! 
  • Allow the cake to cool completely before slicing to ensure clean, neat cuts.

 

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Jody
Jody
3 months ago

Why 2 layers of parchment paper?

Victoria
Victoria
3 months ago

What can one substitute for the Brandy? I have several people who don’t want any alcohol.

Toni
Toni
1 year ago

Can I substitute flour to gluten-free flour?

About Us

Meet Gemma

About Us

Meet Gemma

Hi Bold Bakers! I’m Gemma Stafford, a professional chef originally from Ireland, a cookbook author, and the creator of Bigger Bolder Baking. I want to help you bake with confidence anytime, anywhere with my trusted and tested recipes and baking tips. You may have seen one of my 500+ videos on YouTube & TikTok or as a guest judge on Nailed It! on Netflix or the Best Baker in America on Food Network. No matter your skills, my Bold Baking Team & I want to be your #1 go-to baking authority.

 

Weeknight Family Favorites Chapter from the Bigger Bolder Baking Every Day Cookbook