6 of the best simnel cake recipes for Easter

Simnel cake is a traditional Easter bake. The rich, spiced fruit cake is topped with a thick layer of marzipan and decorated with marzipan balls. This timeless springtime favourite is usually eaten on Easter Sunday, to mark the end of Lent.

If this spiced, fruit-packed cake sounds up your street, why not make one to share this Easter? Have a go at making your own simnel cake with one of our tried-and-tested recipes. Our best simnel cakes include a gluten-free bake, easy simnel loaf, classic simnel centrepiece and a stylish twist from a Bake Off champ…

6 of the best simnel cake recipes for Easter

What is a simnel cake and why is it eaten at Easter?

Simnel cake is a rich fruit cake topped with marzipan. It’s typically made with dried fruit, spices, almonds and candied peel. Orange blossom water or brandy are sometimes added to the cake batter. It’s also common to include a layer of marzipan through the middle of the cake.

Simnel cake is either finished with 11 marzipan spheres, or with simple Easter decorations like flowers, mini chocolate eggs or those yellow fluffy Easter chicks (find them online, in larger supermarkets or craft stores). Simnel cake is traditionally eaten on Easter Sunday to commemorate the end of Lent. This springtime favourite is also sometimes enjoyed on Mother’s Day.

Why does a simnel cake have 11 marizpan balls on top?

The 11 marzipan balls on top of a simnel cake represent 11 of the 12 Apostles, minus Judas Escariot. The absence of a 12th sphere symbolises Judas’ betrayal of Jesus. Simnel cake has been eaten in Britain for hundreds of years, but some food historians believe that the marzipan spheres are a more recent addition, dating to the 1970s.

6 of our best simnel cake recipes…

Classic simnel cake

If it’s traditional simnel cake you’re after, this recipe is the one. Bake Off’s Edd Kimber uses ground almonds to lighten the cake’s texture, and bakes it on a low heat before adding the classic finish: a thick layer of golden marzipan and 11 marzipan spheres.

A simnel cake on a cake stand

Sour cherry and chocolate simnel cake

Another cake, another Bake Off champ! This sour cherry and chocolate number is from John Whaite. The rich, dense chocolate cake is studded with both sharp, sour cherries and boozy cherries in kirsch (black forest gateau fans, rejoice!). It’s topped with glossy choc ganache and hazelnut marzipan.

A chocolate simmel cake

Mini simnel cakes

These cute mini simnel cakes are perfect as Easter gifts if you’re visiting family over the break. Or serve them on a tiered stand as part of an Easter-themed afternoon tea.

Two mini simnel cakes

Gluten-free simnel cake

Got guests coming who can’t eat gluten? You need this simnel cake recipe from gluten-free baking expert Becky Excell. The rich, dense cake is made with ground almonds and chock-a-block with juicy cherries and currants.

A gluten-free simnel cake with slices taken out

Simnel loaf cake

This simple loaf cake is perfect if you want a cut and come again bake to serve family and friends popping in over the Easter weekend. It’s delicious topped with a slick of apricot jam, or add the traditional layer of marzipan and finish with edible flowers.

A simnel cake loaf

Whisky and pistachio simnel cake

A contemporary spin on a classic simnel. The light fruit cake is laced with whisky, then topped with homemade pistachio marzipan. Make the fruit cake up to a week ahead, saving you precious time on Easter Sunday.

A whisky simnel cake topped with pistachio marzipan

Love those simnel cake flavours? Try them in this incredible homemade Easter egg. Or, take a look through all our Easter baking ideas.

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