Searching for an Easter showstopper? Look no further. When you think of cakes at Easter, the obvious choice would be a Simnel cake. This 1920s version is huge unless you halve the quantities and will easily feed 16 people. Excellent for a family get together.
Original Recipe: 'Simnel Cake' (Book 4, 1928)
Speed: 3 hours | Serves: 16 (large 12" cake) or 8 (small 6" cake)
Use full quantities for large (12") cake and half the quantities for small (6") cake.
Almond Paste filling and decoration
226g icing sugar
226g ground almonds
1 dessertspoonful of lemon juice or rose water
For the sponge cake
340g plain flour
226g butter or margarine
226g caster sugar
113g crystallised ginger
113g candied citrus peel
4 eggs, separated
½ tsp. ground ginger
½ tsp. mixed spice
70ml cider or milk
1 tsp. baking powder
For further decoration
56g icing sugar
½ tbsp. tepid water
Glacé cherries or other similar decorations (optional)
Making the almond paste
1. Rub the icing sugar through a hair sieve and add the ground almonds.
2. Beat the egg and add the lemon juice to it. Add this to the sugar and ground almonds.
3. Work the mixture first with a wooden spoon and after with your hands, kneading until this is perfectly smooth. A little rose water may be worked in for flavouring, or all of the lemon juice may be used instead if preferred. 'The more it is kneaded the smoother and better it will be.'
4. Dust a pastry board with icing sugar and roll paste out ready to use.
Making the sponge
5. Pre-heat oven to 180°C fan (350°F/Gas Mark 4). Grease and line a large cake tin (12 inches in diameter).
6. Cream the butter and sugar until soft and white. Add the yolks of the eggs one at a time and beat well.
7. Add the raisins and sultanas, the peel and crystallised ginger. Mix in the spice and ground ginger, and then the cider or milk. Finally, stir in the flour.
8. Saving a small amount for later, beat the whites of the eggs until you are able to form stiff peaks and carefully fold this into the cake batter. Finally, stir in the baking powder last of all.
9. Put half of the mixture in the lined tin and cover with a layer of almond paste that is half an inch smaller than the tin. Add the rest of the cake mixture on top of this.
10. Bake for 1 ½ to 2 hours.
Decorating the cake
11. When the cake is quite cold, roll out the rest of the almond paste by hand into a long strip and lay this around the top of the cake, making a ridge. Mark the paste with a fork and press it down towards the centre.
12. Decorate with small balls of almond paste (traditionally 11), brushed with the remaining egg white.
13. Place in a hot oven for a few minutes to brown the edges of the paste lightly.
14. For the centre, mix the icing sugar with half a teaspoon of tepid water and pour this into the centre of the cake.
15. When the icing is dry, decorate 'according to fancy' with crystallised cherries or other fruit.
'These quantities makes a large cake. Half quantities will make a nice medium-sized one.'
Note: Using the above quantities, we made 2 small cakes (8 servings each), icing one and leaving the other without icing. If making a smaller cake as we did, bake for about 45 minutes.
Original Recipes for 'Simnel Cake' and 'Almond Paste'
'BOOK 4': Bestway Cookery Gift Book (Third Book) (1928)
By: Best Way
Publisher: Offices of The 'Best Way' Series (Fleetway House, Farringdon Street, London, E.C.4, England, U.K.)