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Lesley Wild’s Easter Simnel Cake Recipe

20 March 2018

Chocolate may get the lion's share of the attention at Easter, but there are a few other classics that we think are just as delicious.

Take Simnel Cake, for example - a rich, fruity classic that's a marzipan lover's dream. And in this recipe from Lesley Wild, founder of Bettys Cookery School, we'll even teach you how to make your own marzipan from scratch.

Makes a 20cm diameter cake


  • 1kg (2lb 3oz) home-made marzipan (see recipe below) or shop bought white marzipan
  • 260g (9oz) butter
  • 260g (9oz) caster sugar
  • 4 large eggs
  • 350g (12oz) plain white flour
  • Pinch of salt
  • ¾ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • ¾ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 350g (12oz) raisins and 175g (6oz) sultanas, soaked in 50ml (2fl oz) sherry for several hours
  • 150g (5oz) whole mixed peel (lemon, orange and citron), finely chopped
  • 200g (7oz) naturally coloured glacé cherries

For the decoration

  • Remaining marzipan
  • 2 teaspoons apricot jam
  • 2 teaspoons water
  • 1 large egg, beaten


Soak the sultanas and raisins in the sherry for several hours.

Preheat the oven to gas mark 1½ (280˚F) (130˚C). Take roughly one third (9oz) of the home-made marzipan, then wrap the rest in foil and store in the fridge until needed to decorate the top of the cake. Sprinkle the work surface with icing sugar and roll out the marzipan until it is slightly larger than the base of a 9-inch diameter and 3½ inch deep loose-bottomed cake tin. Using the base of the tin as a guide, cut out a circle of marzipan. Set aside.

Line the sides and bottom of the cake with baking parchment.

Beat together the butter and the sugar in a large mixing bowl until pale and creamy. Add the eggs, one by one, mixing well.

Blend together the flour, salt and spices and add gradually to the mixture. Add the sherry, raisins and sultanas, followed by the peel. Gently stir in the cherries so they remain whole.

Spoon half the mixture into the cake tin and flatten. Place the circle of marzipan on top and then add the rest of the cake mixture to fill the cake tin.

Bake in the pre-heated oven for approximately 2½ – 3 hours. The cake will be ready when it is golden brown on top and firm to the touch. Pierce the centre with a thin skewer – it should come out clean.

When cool enough to handle, remove from the cake tin and leave to cool on a cooling rack. To store, wrap in tin foil and place in an airtight container in a cool place.

To decorate

Divide the remaining marzipan into two halves, 9 oz each. With one half make eleven round balls. Roll out the second half until you have a circle of marzipan large enough to cover the top of the cake. Using the base of the cake tin as a guide, cut out a circle of marzipan as before. Set aside.

Combine the apricot jam and water in a small pan and heat gently until the mixture becomes syrupy. Allow to cool slightly then brush over the surface of the cake.

Pre-heat the grill. Carefully lift the marzipan circle onto the top of the cake and press gently with a rolling pin to flatten the surface.

Create your own artistic patterns on the marzipan – I use a broad-bladed knife to make a criss-cross pattern.

Once you are happy with your design, brush the surface sparingly with the beaten egg and immediately place the cake under the grill. Watch carefully as the marzipan colours very quickly. When it has turned a pale, golden brown remove it immediately.

Now place your marzipan balls evenly around the edge of the cake, pressing them onto the toasted marzipan. Brush with the tops of the balls with beaten egg and place under the grill again. Remove when both cake and balls are a deep golden brown.

When cool, cover the sides as desired.

Homemade marzipan

Makes approximately 2lb-3oz


  • 250g (9oz) icing sugar
  • 250g (9oz) caster sugar
  • 500g (1lb-2oz) ground almonds
  • 2 dessert spoons sherry or rum
  • 2 x dessert spoons of orange flower water
  • 2 x dessert spoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • A few drops of vanilla extract
  • 2 medium eggs, lightly beaten


Mix all the dry ingredients together in a large mixing bowl. Add the sherry or rum, orange flower water, lemon juice and vanilla extract.

Gradually add the beaten eggs whilst working the ingredients together to form a stiff paste – you may find that you do not need all of the egg.

Lightly dust the work surface with some icing sugar, and knead the marzipan until smooth.

If not being used immediately, wrap in tin foil and store in the fridge for up to 2 weeks.

A Year of Family Recipes

You can also find a whole host of wonderful recipes written by Lesley in her book, A Year of Family Recipes, available to buy online and in our shops. And if you don’t have time to bake, our own Apostle Simnel Fruit Cake makes a truly caring Easter gift.

Posted in: RecipesCookery School