Pear and apricot simnel cake
- April 2013
- Serves 16
- Takes 30 minutes to make, 3-3½ hours to cook, plus soaking
This fruity version of the traditional Easter simnel cake is made with apricots, pears and sultanas, and topped with nutty homemade marzipan.
Or, for a boozier take on Easter tradition, try this whisky-laced simnel cake topped with pistachio marzipan.
- 37.1g (9.8g saturated)
- 72.3g (67.2g sugars)
- 2 tbsp clear honey
- 5 tbsp brandy
- 200g dried apricots, chopped
- 150g dried pears, chopped
- 225g unsalted butter, softened, plus extra for greasing
- 225g sultanas
- 50g chopped mixed peel
- Zest and juice of 1 lemon
- 225g caster sugar
- 100g ground almonds
- 4 medium free-range eggs
- 125g plain flour
- 1 tsp mixed spice
- ½ tsp salt
- 100g blanched almonds
- Apricot jam to glaze
For the marzipan
- 450g ground almonds
- 225g caster sugar
- 225g icing sugar, plus extra to dust
- 4 tbsp brandy
- Juice of 1 lemon
- 2 medium free-range eggs, beaten
- Put the honey and brandy into a saucepan over a low heat and stir until the honey dissolves. Put the dried apricots and pears into ?a medium bowl, then pour in the melted honey mixture. Stir, then set aside to soak for 1-2 hours.
- Preheat the oven to 180°C/fan 160°C/gas 4. Grease and double line the base and sides of a deep 20cm cake tin with baking paper. Wrap a double layer of baking paper around the outside of the tin so it comes 3cm above the top of the tin, then secure with string. Add the sultanas and mixed peel to the soaked fruit.
- Put the butter, lemon zest and caster sugar into a mixing bowl, then use an electric hand mixer to beat until the mixture is light and fluffy. Beat in the 100g ground almonds.
- In a separate mixing bowl, whisk the 4 eggs until they increase by about 50 per cent in volume and are pale and thick. Add the beaten eggs to the butter mixture, a little at a time, beating after each addition. Sift over the flour, mixed spice and salt, then fold in with a wooden spoon. Add the lemon juice, soaked fruit and blanched almonds, then fold again.
- Spoon the mixture into the prepared cake tin and smooth the top, creating a slight dip in the centre to allow the cake to rise. Bake for 1½ hours.
- Turn the heat down to 140°C/fan 120°C/gas 1 and bake for a further 1½-2 hours. Cover with foil if the top starts to brown too quickly. The cake is cooked when a skewer pushed into the middle comes out clean. Let the cake cool completely in the tin, then turn out onto a serving plate.
- Meanwhile, make the marzipan. Mix the ground almonds and sugars together in a medium bowl. Mix the remaining marzipan ingredients together in a jug, then gradually pour the mixture into the dry ingredients, stirring, until the mixture comes together and is soft and pliable (you may not need to use all the wet mixture). Knead briefly in the bowl, then chill, wrapped in cling film, for at least 30 minutes.
- Lightly dust a work surface with icing sugar, then roll out two thirds of the marzipan to 4mm thick. Use the base of your cake tin as a guide to cut a disc. Melt the jam in a bowl with a little boiling water, then brush it over the top of the cake. Top with the marzipan disc, then crimp the edges using a wooden spoon handle and your fore and middle fingers.
- Use the remaining marzipan to make 11 balls (about 25-30g each), then stick them around the edge of the cake with a little melted apricot jam. If you like, sprinkle the balls with cinnamon or put the cake under a high grill to brown the marzipan a little before serving.
Leftover marzipan can be kept, wrapped in cling film in the fridge, for up to a week for nibbling on when you crave something sweet.
Note: the marzipan contains raw egg.
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