Simnel Cake

History of the Simnel cake traditionally eaten at Easter with an easy recipe:

Simnel Cake

It is traditionally eaten on Easter Day and in the olden Mediaeval days of the 17th century female servants would bake this fruit rich Easter cake to take home on their rare visits home to their mother's on Mothering Sunday which was the fourth Sunday during the Lent period.


The Christian fasting and repenting period of Lent ends on Easter Sunday and a Simnel cake helps to mark the end of the forty days of Lent and gives people a tasty treat and marks the celebration of Easter time. Some people still call the fourth Sunday during Lent Simnel Sunday.

The word Simnel comes from the Latin word Simila which means fine wheaten flour. It was traditionally made from this fine wheaten flour.

Simnel Cake Origin

Simnel Cake Photo

It is not only delicious but is a symbolic Easter cake and is decorated to signify aspects of Christianity. For example 11 marzipan balls or figures are places around the circular marzipan coated cake to mean the 11 disciples. Though there were 12 apostles of Jesus Christ, Judas Iscariot betrayed him and hung himself with remorse and is omitted. Some will have a larger figure or ball in the centre of the cake to signify Jesus.

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Simnel Cake History

Easter Cake

It tastes much like a traditional Christmas cake, but with marzipan instead of icing. The middle may have a layer of almond paste or marzipan. It is more popular in England, though many shops and bakeries in Scotland, Ireland and Wales are now selling decorated Simnel cakes. For example Sainsbury's and Tesco stock them for the weeks leading to Easter throughout the UK.


There is a Jewish festival at about this time of year called Pascha which is the Hebrew word for Passover. After the death of Jesus Christ Christians adopted this festive and called it Easter after the name of the Anglo-Saxon goddess of fertility and springtime which was Eostre.

Other names for Siminel Cake include Shrewsbury Simnel because bakers in this area were said to make the best Siminel Cakes.

Lambert Simnel

A myth as to the origins of the Simnel Cake is that Lambert Simnel who was a false claimant in 1487 to the Throne of England when King Henry VII ruled. He was only 10 years old and the King knew he was being used by others as a pretender so pardoned him and employed him as a spit-turner in the Royal kitchens. Legend has it that this is when he devised the recipe for Simnel cake. This seems to be an urban myth and he went on to become a royal falconer and died in 1534.

Easter Cake Photo

Recipe For Simnel Cake

Step by step instructions recipe for simnel cake:

110g of butter or margarine
3 beaten eggs and in a cup 1 beaten egg for the glaze
110g of soft brown sugar
150g of plain flour
Pinch of salt
350g of mixed raisins, currants and sultanas
55g of chopped mixed peel
Half a lemon grated rind
1 or 2 tablespoons of apricot jam

Optional Ingredients include a half a teaspoon of ground mixed spice.

These cooking instructions show you how to make almond paste (marzipan):


125g of caster sugar
125g of ground almonds
1 beaten egg
Half a teaspoon of almond essence

Baking Directions:

Pre heat the oven to 140C, 27fF or gas mark 1.

Place the sugar and ground almonds in a bowl and add enough beaten egg to give the mixture a fairly soft consistency.

Add the almond essence and knead for a minute. It should become smooth and pliable.

Roll out a third of the almond paste to form a circle of 18cm in diameter. Set aside the remainder which will be needed for the top.

Cream the butter and sugar until it becomes pale and fluffy.

Slowly beat in the eggs until it mixes in well and then sift in the flour, salt and the optional ingredients such as the spice.

Add the fruits, ie the dried fruit, peel and grated lemon rind. Stir into the mixture.

Grease and line an 18cm tin. Spoon out half of the Simnel cake mixture and smooth over the top. Cover with a layer of the almond paste and smooth again.

Add the remaining mixture and smooth the top. Leave a small dip in the centre to allow it to rise evenly.

Place in the pre heated oven for one hour and thirty minutes.

Remove from the oven and set aside on a rack to cool down.

How Many Balls On A Simnel Cake

Once it has cooled down pre heat the oven to 180C, 350F or gas mark 3. Half the almond paste and use one halve to make 11 small balls on a simnel cake or human figures if you are ambitious! The remainder should be rolled flat and formed into a circle for the top. Brush the top with the apricot jam so that it stays in place and to add to the flavour. Add the circle of paste and gently smooth down.

Any remaining can be used to make a ball or figure for the centre to represent Jesus Christ.

Brush all the areas of almond paste with a light layer of beaten egg.

Place in the preheated oven for about 10 minutes so that the almond paste turns a lovely light brown colour.

More Easter trivia questions.

More Recipes.

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