Sunday, 31 March 2013

Easter Baking Part 2 - Fruity Simnel Tray Bake

So along with the hot cross buns, I also made a tray bake heavily based on a recipe I found in April 2012's Good Food mag . Handily, it's on the website, so you can access the original recipe just there.

You see, along with Christmas and weddings, Easter represents another opportunity to embrace marzipan. Weddings don't come along very often these days - we've long passed the 'Four Weddings and a Funeral' stage when we seemed to be at a different wedding every weekend with the same crowd of people - and Easter, like Chirstmas, only comes along once a year, so the mazipan usage has to be maximised. There are other things I use marzipan for throughout the year - Nigella's easy almond cake is one of my all time favourites (although, come to think of it, I haven't made it recently. Better rectify that soon) - basically, butter and marzipan, 6 eggs and a little flour chucked in almost as an after thought. It is heavenly cake. I recommend it.


I liked the idea of this tray bake though, because we are out and about this weekend and having squares of cake to pack up in a picnic (I know, I shudder to use that word to describe what will in reality be us shivering in a huddle) appeals. Also, it uses a whole block of marzipan, some chunked in the batter, some grated on the top and some made into the 11 marzipan balls that represent the apostles (again) on top of the traditional simnel cake.

What you get is quite a squodgy, almondy fruit cake, topped with an almondy crumble, and finally drizzled with orange icing - and the marzipan balls. Not one, you'll have guessed, if you don't like almonds, but if you're a fan, this is one for you. 

I adapted the recipe quite a bit (unlike the Hot Cross Buns, which I followed slavishly). If you do use the Good Food original version, bear this in mind: they recommend a  20 by 30 cm tin. I used a slightly bigger tray bake tin - 23 by 30 - and it still made quite a deep thick cake. Also, by using 11 marzipan balls and dividing the cake into 12 with one piece without adornment, you get massive slabs of cake. Not that this is necessarily a bad thing, I'm just saying. Also, it might seem like you end up with wasting the zest of a lemon and an orange - I made this at the same time as some hot cross buns and used the zests to flavour the milk for the dough.

Fruity Simnel Tray Bake

110g each of currants, raisins, dates and apricots, chopped quite small
zest of 2 oranges
juice of 2 oranges and a lemon
250g unsalted butter cut into chunks (at room temp)
250g soft light brown sugar
4 large eggs
200g self raising flour
80g ground almonds
1 heaped tsp each of all spice and ground cinammon
a good grating of nutmeg
500g marzipan - 200g cut into small chunks, 200g grated, 100g divided into 11 and made into balls
100g plain flour
100g flaked almonds
3 tbsp golden syrup
85g icing sugar
juice of another orange

30 by 23 cm tray bake tin, buttered and lined

Soak the chopped fruit in the juice of the 2 oranges and lemon for at least 2 hours - overnight if you are organised.

Pre-heat the oven to 160C/140C fan.

Beat together 200g of the butter and 200g of the sugar till light and fluffy, then add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each one. Sift in the self raising flour, then mix in the ground almonds and spices, the orange zest, the soaked fruit (and any juice), and the marzipan. Stir it all in then pour into the tin, level and bake for 45 minutes.

Take the cake out and turn the oven up to 200C/180C fan. Make the topping by rubbing together the remaining 50g of butter and sugar along with the 100g plain flour (like a crumble topping). Add the grated marzipan, and stir in the golden syrup, taking care that the mixture doesn't clump - I found this nigh on impossible - I might just leave out the syrup next time. Sprinkle this over the cake and put it back in the oven for 12-15 minutes.

Once the cake is cooked, take it out of the oven, add the marzipan balls to the top, then leave to cool in the tin. Mix together the icing sugar and orange juice and drizzle over the cake, leaving the icing to set a little before slicing.

Happy Easter!


  1. Ooh, it looks so good and those little balls are adorable!

    Happy easter!

  2. I have never made a simnel cake but this looks very tempting. We would be more likely to eat it because it's less formal looking!


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