As Easter draws to a close … I have found myself reflecting on the significance of Easter. Do we actually know why we celebrate Easter? What is the significance of the Easter Bunny? Why do we gift Easter Eggs? Has it just become another commercialised day similar to Valentine’s Day and Christmas?
The significance of the Easter Egg is to represent the re-birth and resurrection of Christ. Centuries ago, Christians use to decorate birds’ egg usually in a red colour and gift them. This is to symbolise the blood that was shed by Jesus. The tradition spread throughout the world and Easter is now the most important festival in the Christian calendar.
But why do we eat Easter Eggs? Well, for a start everyone loves chocolate so there’s no real symbolic reason for that. However, the hollow eggs are said to symbolise Jesus’s empty tomb.
So what about the Easter Bunny? Did Jesus have a pet rabbit? Well, after a little digging I have found out that the Easter tradition of the bunny comes from the pagan festival, Eostre. This festival is dedicated to the goddess of fertility which is often represented as a rabbit. Hence the saying “… at it like rabbits”. And since rabbits usually give birth to big litters, it is apt to use them as the symbol for fertility.
Back to the Easter Simnel cake. This has become the traditional Easter cake. The earliest recorded simnel cake recipe dates back as far as the 13th century – but they were more like boiled bread in texture than fruit cake. This cake is traditionally eaten during the Easter period in some countries. The cake was given by servant girls to their mothers when they went home on Mothering Sunday.
The Simnel cake is a light fruit cake with a layer of marzipan in the middle and a layer of marzipan on top. The top layer is then decorated with a ring of eleven (sometimes twelve) marzipan balls. These balls are said to represent the apostles of Christ (not including Judas).
Here is my Easter Simnel cake … adapted slightly from the Mary Berry Baking Bible.
100g glace cherries (chopped)
225g unsalted butter (melted)
225g soft light brown sugar
4 large free-ranged eggs
225g self-raising flour
350g dried mixed fruit
Grated rind of one lemon
1 tsp ground mixed spice
Half a teaspoon of cinnamon powder
Half a teaspoon of ground ginger
For the filling and topping:
500g of golden marzipan
2 tbsp of apricot jam
1 large egg (beaten, for glaze)
Here’s how I did it …
First and foremost … I preheated my oven to Gas Mark 2 and greased and lined a deep 8″ round baking tin.
This is a really simple cake, almost like an “All In One” cake. All the ingredients are weighed out, the glace cherries are cut into quarters and the grated zest of a lemon is added … I put all this into a large mixing bowl.
A big bowl and a trusty old wooden spoon works wonders. The ingredients are mixed well until evenly combined.
I weighed out the mixture equally into two small bowls. My batter here weighs about 620g each.
With one half of the batter, I poured it into the baking tin and levelled it out using a cranked palette knife.
I took one third of the golden marzipan and rolled it out into a circle the size of the tin. It doesn’t have to be a perfect circle, but try and roll it out to about the diameter of the 8″ baking tin. I placed the marzipan on top of half the cake mixture. Using my fingers I gently pressed down the edges of the marzipan and pushed the marzipan into the gaps. Make sure the whole of the marzipan covers the tin.
The cake was then placed on the middle shelf of my oven and baked for around 2 and 20 minutes until it has risen well and cooked through. The cake should be firm and a nice dark brown colour.
Once baked, the cake was allowed to cool in the tin slightly before turning out and left to cool on a rack until completely cooled.
In a little bowl, I mixed one tablespoon of lemon curd with a drop of hot water and mixed well until the curd had loosened and had the consistency of a glaze (I only used lemon curd because I didn’t have any apricot jam to hand. It actually gave the cake a subtle lemon zing).
I brushed the top of the cake with the glaze, then placed the circle of marzipan on top. Using my fingers I crimped the edges.
Using the remaining marzipan, I divided it equally into eleven balls of equal sizes.
With a little beaten egg, I brushed the top of the marzipan circle and arranged the marzipan balls on top.
And there it is, my Easter Simnel cake. It is a rich and fruity cake, perfect with a cup of tea.
The cake was packed full of fruit and was not too sweet, lovely and moist… the raisins give it texture and the spices that come through are warming.
Hope you give this cake a go, let me know how it goes. Remember to leave a message in the comments section … and Happy Easter!
~ The Cake Lady xx