The long Easter weekend is merely four days away, it's time to start prepping and getting those shopping lists together...
Our favourite tea time treat for the entire family to enjoy over the four days is an Easter Simnel Cake; a light fruit cake with spices and draped with a light almond paste (rather than marzipan).Ingredients
For the almond paste
• 250g caster sugar
• 250g ground almonds
• 2 eggs beaten
• 1 tsp almond essence
For the cake
• 175g butter
• 175g brown sugar
• 3 eggs beaten
• 175g plain flour
• Pinch salt
• ½ tsp ground mixed spice
• 350g mixed raisins, currants and sultanas
• 55g chopped mixed peel
• ½ grated lemon zest
• 1-2 tbsp apricot jam
• 1 egg, beaten for glazing
-For the almond paste, place the sugar and ground almonds in a bowl. Add enough beaten egg and mix to a soft consistency.
-Add the almond essence and knead for one minute until the paste is smooth.
-Roll out a third of the almond paste to make a circle 18cm/7in in diameter and reserve the remainder for the cake topping.
-Preheat oven to 140C/275F/Gas 1. Grease and line a 18cm/7in cake tin.
-For the cake, cream the butter and sugar together until pale and fluffy. Gradually beat in the eggs until well incorporated and then sift in the flour, salt and mixed spice a little at a time. Finally, add the mixed dried fruit, peel and grated lemon zest and stir into the mixture.
-Put half the mixture into a greased and lined 18cm/7in cake tin. Smooth the top and cover with the circle of almond paste. Add the rest of the cake mixture and smooth the top leaving a slight dip in the centre to allow for the cake to rise. Bake in the preheated oven for 1¾ hours. Test by inserting a skewer in the middle - if it comes out clean, it is ready. Once baked, remove from the oven and set aside to cool on a wire rack.
-Brush the top of the cooled cake with the apricot jam. Divide the remainder of the almond paste in half; roll out a circle to cover the top of the cake with one half and form 10 small balls with the other half.
-Place the circle of paste on the jam glaze and set the balls round the edge. Brush the cake topping with a little beaten egg.
-Preheat the grill to high. Place the cake onto a baking tray and grill for 1-2 minutes, or until the top of the marzipan begins to brown.