For the Simnel Cake
kg mixed dried fruit
200 g glace cherries (halved)
100 ml dark rum or brandy
150 g butter (at room temperature and cut in to pieces, plus a little extra for greasing)
150 g Tate & Lyle Light Muscovado Sugar
4 large eggs (beaten)
200 g plain flour
1/4 tsp salt
2 tsp ground mixed spice
75 g ground almonds
Finely grated zest and juice of 1 lemon
Finely grated zest and juice of 1 small orange
For the decoration
250 g ground almonds
250 g sieved Tate & Lyle Icing Sugar (plus extra for rolling)
1 large egg (separated)
1 tsp lemon juice
2 tbsp sieved apricot jam (warmed in a pan or microwave for a few seconds)
1 Put the dried fruit and glace cherries into a large mixing bowl. Pour over boiling water to cover, then soak for 5 minutes. Drain thoroughly through a colander. Tip the fruit back into the bowl and stir in the dark rum or brandy. Cover and leave in a cool place for up to 2 days, though at least overnight.
2 Position an oven shelf in the centre of the oven, with space for the cake. Preheat the oven to 150°C, Fan oven 130°C, Gas Mark 2. Grease and line a 20cm round cake tin with baking paper.
3 In a very large mixing bowl, beat together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, using a hand-held electric mixer or wooden spoon. Gradually add the beaten eggs, beating well between each addition.
4 Sift the flour, salt and ground mixed spice into the mixing bowl. Use a large metal spoon to fold the ingredients together – ditch the wooden spoon and avoid beating the mixture at this stage – you need to treat it gently!
5 Add the ground almonds with the grated zest and juice from the lemon and orange. Remember to take care when you grate the zest from citrus fruit – you just want the coloured part. If you grate into the white pith you will be adding bitterness, rather than flavour.
6 Give the soaked dried fruit a stir, then tip it into the cake mixture, along with any residual liquid. Stir it in thoroughly.
7 Tip the mixture into the cake tin and level the top. Bake for 2 hours. Test that the cake is cooked by inserting a fine skewer into the centre – it should come out clean. Stand the cake on a wire rack and leave it to cool in the tin. When cold, remove from the tin and wrap in baking paper. Store in an airtight tin, or decorate immediately.
8 For the almond paste, mix the almonds and icing sugar together. Add the egg white and lemon juice, mix to a stiff paste, and knead until smooth. Roll out half this almond paste on a surface dusted with icing sugar and trim to a 20cm circle. Brush the surface of the cake with warm apricot jam and position the almond paste on top. Score a criss-cross pattern over the surface with a skewer.
9 Roll the remaining paste into 11 equal-sized balls and position them around the cake. Grill lightly, or use a cook’s blowtorch to lightly brown the surface. Tie ribbon around the cake, to decorate, then serve.
Recipe courtesy of Tate & Lyle