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03/ 29/ 2016

MY MOTHER-IN-LAW'S FRIEND

The other day, my mother-in-law phoned me to ask about the recipe of an English cake. In fact, my mother-in-law’s friend saw a brief comment about an English cake in the newspaper, but without a recipe. So, as I lived in London for a period of time, I was summoned to discover the cake recipe. Eventually, I found out that it was the Simnel cake which is traditionally eaten at Easter and on Mothering Sunday. This is a rich fruity cake, filled and frosted with marzipan paste. So, you have to agree with me that it is impossible for this cake to have a nasty taste! I confess that I have never eaten it, but its ingredients are very similar to those of the Christmas pudding. I can talk about this cake because I did a course at Le Cordon Bleu and I learnt how to make it! So, in order to find the best recipe I tested two recipes and the difference among the ingredients was: brown sugar instead of honey and buttermilk instead of milk. I ask you guys: “What is the difference between using buttermilk instead of milk?” Well, buttermilk is acidified milk with lemon, which is very similar to yogurt and gives softness to the batter, and in my opinion, the recipe that I made with buttermilk tasted better than the other. The smell of the cake when it is baking is fantastic! Well, after I tasted the cake, I have to confess I came to the conclusion that this cake is totally different from the Christmas pudding! (hahaha!). This cake is very dry, so much so, that it will be a trick to cut some slices without crumbling but the marzipan provides moisture and flavour to the cake! This cake recipe is by Lorraine Elliott from the site Not Quite Nigella, with some modification.

 

SIMNEL CAKE

 

                Total time: 4 hours 40 minutes                         Serves: 10-12 slices

 

 

For the Marzipan:

Ingredients:

- 300 grams icing sugar

- 200 grams almond flour

- 3 tablespoons almond liquor

- 3 tablespoon milk

- A drop of almond essence

 

 

Method:

​1. Mix all ingredients in a bowl with your hands or in multiprocessor until you get a homogenous mixture;

 

​2. If the mixture gets dry, put more milk or butter. Cover with plastic film and reserve in the fridge. You can add some lemon or orange zester.

 

 

 

 

For the cake:

- 450 grams mix of dried fruits (sultanas, currants, cranberry, figs and apricot, chopped)

- 1/2 cup orange juice

- 1 cup whiskey or brandy or rum

- 180 grams unsalted butter, room temperature

- 150 grams honey

- 4 eggs

- 1 teaspoon cinnamon powder

- 1 teaspoon clove powder

- 1 teaspoon nutmeg

- 1 teaspoon fresh ginger, grated

-  zest of one lemon (or limone )

-  zest of one orange

- A pinch of salt

- 1/3 cup natural yogurt

- 340 grams plain flour, sifted

- ½ cup almond flakes (walnuts or hazelnuts or macadamia)

- 1 tablespoon dry yeast

- 1 tablespoon apricot or orange jam

 

 

 

Method:

​1. In a bowl, put dried fruits, orange juice, brandy and leave overnight for the fruits to soak up the liquid. Or heat up the orange juice with the brandy, pour it over the dried fruits and leave to cool, about one hour;

 

​2. Pre-heat the oven to 180°C. Grease and line a 22cm circular cake tin with parchment on the base and the sides;

 

​3. In a mixer, cream the butter with honey until pale and fluffy. Then, add the eggs, one at a time;

 

​4. Add cinnamon, clove, ginger, nutmeg, salt, lemon, orange zest and yogurt. When the mixture gets homogenous, put the flour little by little;

 

​5. Turn off the mixer, add the dried fruits with all liquid, almond flakes and gently mix everything with a spatula;

 

​6. Finally, add the dry yeast and mix well. If the batter is too runny, add more flour because the mixture should be consistent;

 

​7. Take about half of the marzipan and roll out on lightly icing sugared surface and cut a circle the size of the cake tin. Or it is possible to roll out the marzipan paste between two layers of parchment. It will be placed in the middle of the cake;

 

​8. Put half mixture of the cake into a greased and lined tin and cover with the circle of almond paste the size of your tin. Then, add the rest of the cake mixture over the marzipan and cover with aluminum foil. Bake for one hour;

 

​9. Then, remove the aluminum foil and bake for fifty minutes more. The cake is done when a wooden toothpick is inserted into the middle of the cake and it comes out clean. Remove from the oven and set aside to cool;

 

​10. Brush the top of the cake with jam, roll out a circle with part of the almond paste and cover the cake. Bake for a couple of minutes until the marzipan gets brown, but pay attention not to burn!

 

​11. By the weight of the tin, you will notice it has resulted in a heavy cake. You’d better serve generous slices because when you cut the cake, it crumbles easily. The taste is delicious!

 

 

Note: Instead of putting a layer of marzipan in the middle of the cake, it is possible to make some balls with the marzipan paste and add to the cake mixture. Put these marzipan balls at the end of the step 6 and mix with a spatula, but be careful not to break them. Put all mixture into the cake tin, cover with aluminum foil and bake. Finalize the cake with a marzipan circle on top. To make it more like the traditional cake, roll the trimmings of the marzipan into 11 roughly equal-sized balls and stick them around the edge of the cake with a little jam. Put back under the grill briefly to brown and cool before serving. These balls represent the apostles, to the exclusion of Judas, or it can be 12 balls with the inclusion of Jesus... Enjoy your cake with an aromatic cup of tea!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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