About this recipe:I have tried making simnel cake a few times and it has come out heavy in the past. This recipe uses more eggs and rather than having the marzipan as a layer through the middle, the cake has chunks of marzipan dotted through the cake itself. Having made it for Mothering Sunday, it will not last through to Easter as it has proved very popular.
To make the marzipan: place the caster sugar and ground almonds in a bowl, then add the 2 lightly beaten eggs and mix thoroughly. Add the almond essence and knead for a minute or two until it becomes smooth and soft. Divide the marzipan into 3 roughly equal portions.
Sieve the plain flour, mixed spice, cinnamon, cloves and sea salt together into a mixing bowl.
Preheat the oven to 140 C / Gas 1. Prepare an 18cm and quite tall cake tin, by lightly oiling it all over, then lining it with baking parchment.
Mix the raisins, sultanas and currants together in a big mixing bowl either with a spoon or your hands. Mix in the candied mixed peel.
Cream the butter and soft brown sugar together until light and fluffy in a decent sized mixing bowl using a hand-held electric whisk. Add the 3 lightly beaten eggs and orange extract until well mixed together. Then add the flour mixture and mix together thoroughly.
Take one of the pieces of marzipan and break into small chunks. Add these to the cake mix and gently fold into the cake batter, trying to keep them as intact as possible. Spoon the simnel cake mixture into the prepared cake tin.
Bake in the centre of the preheated oven and cook for 1 1/2 hours.
Remove from the oven and leave to cool in the tin. After 15 minutes turn out and place on wire rack to cool down.
When cooled down, brush the top of the cake with the apricot jam. Next, dust a rolling surface and a rolling pin with icing sugar (otherwise it sticks to everything), then roll out one of the pieces of marzipan. Place this rolled marzipan over the top of the cake, cutting off the edges.
With the final third of marzipan, split it into 11 equal pieces and roll into balls and place these around the edge of the cake. Finally, glaze the marzipan with the beaten egg that you should still have.
Put the cake under a hot grill and brown the top of the cake lightly, then leave to cool.
I mix through 1 tablespoon of the flour mix into the mixed fruit, which makes it easier to mix together and will stop the fruit dropping to the bottom of the cake in the oven.