All the delicious flavours of a traditional Simnel Cake in an easy to make cupcake size, these Mini Simnel Cakes are also gluten free and have an exciting marzipan surprise inside!
The impressive looking simnel cake, with its layers of fruitcake and marzipan, topped with lightly toasted marzipan balls has become synonymous with Easter, but did you know it was traditionally NOT an Easter treat at all, but a Mother’s Day cake?
Yep, that’s right – it used to be that young girls in domestic service would bake a simnel cake to take back home as a gift for their Mothers on Mothering Sunday, when they were traditionally given the day off.
Today though, this cake is very much seen as an Easter cake, topped with 11 marzipan balls to represent the 11 disciples (the original 12, minus Judas). Some simnel cakes also feature another ball of marzipan in the centre to represent Jesus.
But instead of making a big simnel cake this year, I thought it would be fun to make Mini Simnel Cakes – all the delicious flavours of a traditional big simnel cake in an easy to make format. These cupcake size simnel cakes could easily be made with children or for an Easter bake sale AND they have a rather fun surprise inside…a little ball of marzipan.
Of course if you wanted to, you could decorate these simnel cupcakes with a layer of marzipan (cut out with a pastry cutter) and then pop a ball of marzipan on top. But I thought it would be rather fun to hide the marzipan inside instead – and it’s super easy to do. Just fill the cupcake case half way up with cake mix, add a small ball of marzipan, and then cover with more cake mix.
These cute little cupcakes are also rather special as they are gluten free! Following on from the #FreeFromPancakes challenge last month, this month I have been challenged by the wonderful Free From Gang to create an Easter treat that is free from at least one allergen as part of the #FreeFromEaster challenge. You can find out more about the other #FreeFromEaster treats and Free From Gang bloggers at the end of this post.
To make these yummy Mini Simnel Cakes gluten free, I used the rather fabulous Free From Fairy Self Raising Flour. Vicki, who blogs at The Free From Fairy, originally developed this flour for her daughter, who was diagnosed with coeliac disease just before her third birthday. Vicki was concerned that her daughter was consuming a lot of rice in her diet (gluten free flours tend to contain rice flour). This was a particular concern as she had read lots of reports of rice containing low levels of arsenic. Not necessarily a problem if you occasionally consume rice, but if you are eating rice in some guise or other for breakfast, lunch and dinner every day, it becomes more of an issue.
Vicki, a scientist by background, turned her kitchen into a science lab, determined to create a flour that not only didn’t contain rice, but was also wholesome and nutritious and which worked as well as regular flour. A tall order, but she did it…and some!
Vicki’s flour is amazing – made from a blend of teff, sorghum and buckwheat flours, it is a source of protein and fibre and works an absolute treat in these Mini Simnel Cakes. It works exactly like regular flour, you can literally substitute it directly in a recipe and one blend does everything (she has a plain flour for all your plain flour needs and a self raising flour for anything that needs self raising flour).
I was interested to see how Vicki’s gluten free flour compared to normal gluten-containing flour, so I made two batches of these simnel cakes, one with regular self raising flour and one with Vicki’s gluten free self raising flour and the comparison was quite interesting.
Texture-wise both bakes were very similar, the ones made with gluten free flour were maybe just a tad more crumbly (but nowhere near as crumbly as other gluten free flours I’ve come across) and taste-wise the gluten free cakes actually tasted better – I was expecting them to taste a bit healthy and wholemeal, but they didn’t at all – they had an extra richness and something I can only describe as extra yumminess – I was seriously impressed!
Of course if you don’t have a gluten allergy, you can absolutely make these little simnel cupcakes with regular flour too. It works well both ways (but I really recommend using Vicki’s flour anyway for that extra flavour dimension!!).
If you want to get your hands on these fab gluten free flours Vicki sells them on her website – you can buy Free From Fairy Flour here.
Mini Simnel Cakes (Gluten Free)
- 200 g butter softened
- 200 g light soft brown sugar
- 4 eggs
- 200 g gluten free self raising flour (I used Free From Fairy)
- 2 teaspoons cinnamon
- 75 g ground almonds
- 250 g dried mixed fruit and peel (I used Tesco)
- Juice and zest of 1 orange
- 120 g Marzipan rolled into 24 little balls
- Preheat your oven to 180C / 160C fan/ gas mark 4 / 350F.
- Beat the sugar and butter together.
- Add the eggs one at a time and stir to combine.
- Fold in the flour gently, then add the cinnamon, almonds, dried mixed fruit, orange juice and zest and stir to mix everything together, ensuring the dried mixed fruit is well distributed.
- Place cupcake cases in a cupcake tray and put 1 tablespoon of mixture in each case. Roll the marzipan into 24 roughly equal balls and place one in each cupcake case.
- Cover the marzipan balls with 1 teaspoon of the remaining cake mixture.
- Place in your preheated oven for 15 minutes, or until golden on top.
- Remove from the oven and, when cool enough to touch, transfer to a wire rack to cool completely – or eat whilst warm!
Pin Mini Simnel Cakes for later
And here’s what the rest of the fabulous Free From Gang have been making…
Chocolate Marshmallow Crispie Squares – Nathalie at The Intolerant Gourmand
Berry Breakfast Easter Nests – Emma at Free From Farmhouse
Vegan Apple, Date & Walnut Hot Cross Buns – Midge at The Peachicks Bakery
Quick Chocolate Cream Nests – Rebecca at Glutarama
Easter Rocky Road – Nova at Cherished By Me
Hot Cross Bun Chocolate Rolls – Vicki at The Free From Fairy
No Bake Creme Egg Biscuit Cake – Kate at Gluten Free Alchemist
Mini Eggs White Chocolate Fudge – Grace at Eats Amazing
And coming soon, exciting #FreeFromEaster treats from…
Laura at Dairy Free Kids
Mel at Le Coin De Mel
And if you like my Mini Simnel Cakes then do come back on Tuesday, when I will be sharing another #FreeFromEaster treat!
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