All the delicious flavour of a classic simnel cake in traybake form! This Easy Simnel Cake Traybake is perfect for Mother’s Day or Easter. Reinventing this traditional British Easter cake as a traybake makes it easy to transport and cut – so ideal for Easier bakesales, parties, gatherings etc.
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What is a simnel cake?
A simnel cake is a classic British cake, traditionally eaten on Mothering Sunday or at Easter time.
Usually a simnel cake is a round cake, made with two layers of fruitcake, sandwiched together with a layer of marzipan (almond paste). The cake is then topped with a second layer of marzipan and 11 lightly toasted marzipan balls, said to represent Jesus’ disciples (minus Judas!).
The history of the simnel cake
As with so many classic recipes, there are many conflicting stories of how the simnel cake first came about!
However, the general consensus seems to be that, in years gone by, girls in domestic service would bake a simnel cake to take home to their mothers on Mothering Sunday (also known as Simnel Sunday!).
These days, baking a simnel cake for Mother’s Day is less common (though I definitely think this is a tradition that should be resurrected – hint, hint to my kids!), but instead the simnel cake has become more of an Easter tradition.
Simnel cakes are typically eaten throughout the pre-Easter period, and especially on Easter Sunday.
Easy Simnel Cake Traybake – an Easter classic reinvented!
I have taken all the flavours and traditional decoration of a classic simnel cake and turned it into a traybake which serves 20. Perfect for Easter bakesales, parties, gatherings etc.
Instead of the middle layer of marzipan, I cut up marzipan into small cubes and stir them into the cake mixture. This makes for lovely little unexpected ‘pops’ of marzipan as you eat this cake!
Instead of the classic marzipan topping, I’ve gone for a quicker, easier and much more fun orange juice and icing sugar frosting – applied graffiti style – and a simple scattering of flaked almonds for a lovely crunch.
Is seemed a shame to only put 11 marzipan balls on my traybake version (that would mean 9 people didn’t get one!) – so my Easy Simnel Cake Traybake features 20 marzipan balls!
The overall effect is visually stunning – but it is secretly super easy to do – even if you are not usually very good at cake decorating.
A great Easter bake to make with kids
OK, so I’ll admit my Easy Simnel Cake Traybake is probably not going to be quite as popular among kids as all the various chocolate / mini egg / creme egg bakes that are around at this time of year, but this cake is still super fun to make with kids.
The cake itself is easy to make no matter what age you are – it’s mostly a bit of stirring and egg-cracking. But it’s the decoration that’s going to appeal most here. Kids of all ages will have fun rolling balls of marzipan, splattering the icing graffiti style and scattering the flaked almonds liberally!
How to toast the marzipan balls for the top of the simnel cake
By far the easiest way to toast the marzipan balls for the top of the simnel cake is to place them all on a grill rack and pop them under a hot grill (broiler) for a few seconds. They really only take a few seconds, so you need to watch them like a hawk to make sure you pull them out when they are a nice brown colour and not burnt.
Once your balls are lightly toasted, you can then stick them on to the top of the cake using a little of the icing.
If you prefer, you can use a blowtorch to toast your marzipan balls. But I don’t recommend you put the whole cake under the grill (as some simnel cake recipes suggest) as you are likely to make all the lovely orange juice frosting melt and soak into the cake – not to mention you might also accidentally over-toast your flaked almonds!
Of course, it’s not essential to toast your marzipan balls, if you prefer not too – but my method is so easy and it really does make a lovely addition to the overall effect, for very little effort!
Golden marzipan or natural marzipan for simnel cake?
To be perfectly honest, either is fine!
Personally, I prefer the lovely yellow colour of the golden marzipan – which really reminds me of Easter and spring in general.
But if you prefer natural coloured marzipan, or can’t get hold of the golden kind, that’s totally fine – it tastes just the same.
How long can you keep simnel cake for?
The un-iced simnel cake will keep for up to 1 month in an airtight container.
Once you have added the icing, flaked almonds and toasted marzipan balls, I don’t recommend keeping it for more than a week – though this cake is so delicious, I doubt it will last even that long!
Can you freeze simnel cake?
Absolutely! You can freeze the un-iced cake for up to 3 months, so long as it is well wrapped.
Allow your cake to cool completely, then wrap it first in clingfilm (plastic wrap), then a layer of foil.
To defrost, simply remove it from the freezer and leave it at room temperature overnight. So long as you wrapped it well, your simnel cake will be as good as the day you made it.
Then all you have to do is add the frosting and decorations and you are good to go!
When to serve simnel cake?
A simnel cake can be enjoyed whenever you fancy!
However, it is traditional to serve simnel cake on Mothering Sunday, Easter Day and in the runup to Easter.
It would make a great dessert to serve after this Easy Peasy Easter Menu!
Equipment I use to make this Easy Simnel Cake Traybake
I use really basic equipment to make this cake (and all my cakes!) – just a couple of bowls, a wooden spoon (well actually it’s a silicone spoon!) and a 33 by 23cm (13 by 9ins) cake pan. However, I just wanted quickly share with you my new super cool traybake cake pan* – it’s just like a regular cake pan, except it also comes with a lid, making it easy to transport your traybake to bakesales and parties etc. as well as keeping the cake super fresh!
I just cook and cool my cake as normal, leaving the cake on the baking paper while it’s cooling. Then, when it’s completely cool, I use the baking paper to lift the cake back into the cake pan and pop the lid on.
Even better, when you’ve finished, you can turn over the lid so it stacks and stores easily!
How to line your cake pan the easy peasy way!
I have a super easy way to quickly and easily line cake pans. Simply cut a piece of baking paper the width of your cake pan and quite a lot longer than the length. Then cut a piece of baking paper the length of your cake pan and quite a lot longer than the width.
Next, grease the base and sides of your cake pan with butter (I use an offcut of the baking paper to spread the butter). Then place one of your pre-cut pieces of baking paper across the base of your pan and up two of the sides (you should cut it long enough so it covers the base and two sides and sticks up above the sides a bit).
Grease the base of your pan again (it help the paper stick), then place the other piece of baking paper the opposite way so that it covers the base and the other two sides and sticks up above sides a bit too.
Finally grease the base and sides again, just for good measure (in theory, cake shouldn’t stick to baking paper – in practice, an extra layer of butter really does help the cake come off the paper better!)
Not only is the cake pan now beautifully lined (without any complicated maths or measuring!), but the overhanging baking paper will serve as sort of ‘handles’ to help you lift the cake out of the tin and onto the cooling rack – so no more tipping the cake up-side down and back again!
If you like this Easy Simnel Cake Traybake…
…you are going to love:
Easy Simnel Cake Traybake
For the cake…
- 500 g mixed dried fruit (I buy a pre-mixed pack that contains raisins, sultanas, currants and mixed peel)
- 2 oranges zest and juice
- 225 g butter softened
- 225 g light soft brown sugar
- 4 large eggs (ideally at room temperature)
- 225 g self-raising flour
- 75 g ground almonds (almond flour)
- 2 teaspoons cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon mixed spice
- 200 g golden marzipan cut into 1cm cubes (optional)
For the icing…
- 100 g icing sugar (confectioner’s sugar)
- 1 orange – just the juice (you won’t need it all!)
- 25 g toasted flaked almonds (you can buy them already toasted!)
- 300 g golden marzipan rolled into 20 balls
You will also need…
To make the simnel cake…
- First, place all the dried fruit in a large bowl and squeeze over the juice of the 2 oranges (make sure you zest the oranges first as zesting a squeezed orange is super hard!). Stir together with your hands to help the dried fruit absorb the orange juice.
- Next, grease and line a 33 by 23cm (13 by 9ins) cake pan (see tips above) and preheat your oven to 160C / 140C fan / gas mark 3 / 325F.
- Now beat together the softened butter and light brown sugar.
- Add the 4 eggs, one at a time, thoroughly mixing in each egg before adding the next.
- Next, gently fold in the flour, almonds, cinnamon and mixed spice.
- Then add the dried fruit and any remaining soaking liquid, plus the orange zest.
- Finally, VERY GENTLY stir in the marzipan cubes, so as not to squish them too much.
- Tip the cake mixture into your prepared traybake tin and place in the oven for 1 hour, or until the cake is golden brown on top and just starting to come away from the sides. If you poke a skewer into the centre of the cake, it should come away clean – though do be careful, as if you get a bit of marzipan it looks a lot like uncooked cake mixture, when in fact it isn’t – so test a few times, just to make sure.
- When the cake is cooked, use the baking paper to lift the cake out onto a wire rack and allow to cool completely before decorating.
- Place the icing sugar in a small bowl and add just enough orange juice (from the 3rd orange) to make a thick, but still pourable glacé icing.
- Drizzle the icing over the cake graffiti style – diagonally one way and then the opposite way. Keep back a little of the icing as you will need it to stick the marzipan balls onto the cake.
- Next, scatter over the flaked almonds.
- Roll the remaining marzipan into 20 roughly equal sized balls (tip – weigh them to get the right size – they should weigh roughly 15g (½ oz) each).
- Heat your grill (broiler) up to its highest temperature, and place the shelf on its highest setting (i.e. as near the heat as possible).
- Place your marzipan balls on a grill rack and place under the grill for a few seconds, until they go brown. Watch the balls like a hawk as they brown super-fast!
- Use the remaining icing to stick the marzipan balls to the top of the simnel cake in a grid pattern – 4 by 5 (4 along the shortest side and 5 along the longest section).
- Finally cut the cake into 20 pieces, ensuring everyone gets a marzipan ball!
- Suitable for freezing (undecorated cake only - see tips above)
- Nutrition information is approximate and meant as a guideline only.
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*This blog post contains affiliate links, this means if you click on a link and go on to buy the product I recommend, I will get a small commission, but you will not be charged a penny more – thanks in advance!