Simnel cake for Easter Sunday
This cake made with dried fruits, nuts and spices is a traditional Irish Easter dessert. Vegan, gluten free, oil free.
I can’t believe it’s almost Easter! Only 3 days to go! Yeah, I know this year it won’t be like any other Easter Sunday. No egg hunts, no joyful parties. But it’s still Easter!
Now let me tell you something. I am not a religious person. And, I do not celebrate “Easter” Easter. Easter, to me, is actually celebration of spring. Celebration of new life, new bounty, new vibrancy. Yes, I celebrate these! And to be honest, I am always up for celebrating a reason to make good food! So, yes again, I am making some good food for ‘Easter’!
Initially, I thought of quite an elaborate menu. Beer battered asparagus with blueberry dipping sauce, spring vegetables pasta and what not! But sadly, I am not at a very good position with my groceries! With the state wide stay at home order and limited trips to grocery stores (and farmer’s markets) I have to whip up something with what I already have in my pantry and fridge! So, bye bye to the full dinner menu!
But we could still make a celebratory dessert! Hey, a dessert is the sweetest part of the festivity, right? Right! And that’s why I came up with the idea of an Easter cake. No, it doesn’t have to be a carrot cake! Nuh-uh! What I suggest ladies and gentlemen for you, is a simnel cake.
Simnel cakes are traditionally served in Ireland on Easter. You can call it a lighter cousin of a fruit cake. It is usually decorated with eleven marzipan balls to represent the eleven disciples of Christ (omitting Judas). Easter like enough, huh?
I had to make it vegan though. And gluten free. So, I took inspiration from the beautiful blog Rhihan’s Recipes (https://www.rhiansrecipes.com/). I used Rhihan’s recipe for lemon blueberry cake (https://www.rhiansrecipes.com/gluten-free-vegan-lemon-blueberry-cake/) as a template for the base cake and modified it to make my own version of the sponge. My sincere thanks to Rhihan for her excellent formulae and methods!
For the marzipan, I followed the recipe from the blog Elavegan (https://elavegan.com/homemade-marzipan-recipe/). I salute Michaela for this easy as a pie technique!
Finally, I’d like you to know, though this is an oil free cake, it’s not your light and healthy kind of dessert. This is one indulgent cake baby! But hey, Easter doesn’t come every month!
Okay, enough of this chitchat. Let’s make the cake now! Shall we?
About the dish :
Course – Dessert
Servings – 8
Difficulty level – Medium to easy
Recipe type – Vegan, gluten free, oil free.
Does it keep – Kept in an air-tight box, it keeps in the refrigerator for 2 days.
What you need :
Dry ingredients :
1+1/4 cup gluten free all purpose flour blend (I use Bob’s redmill)
1+1/4 cup almond flour
2+1/4 teaspoons baking powder
¼ teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon ground clove
¼ teaspoon nutmeg (I grate it freshly)
1/3 teaspoon ground allspice
1 tablespoon orange zest
½ cup dry cranberries
½ cup raisins
1 cup chopped pecan, toasted
Wet ingredients :
1/2 cup apple sauce
¼ cup orange juice
½ cup maple syrup
½ cup + 2 tablespoons plant milk (soy/oat/almond, anything will work)
1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
Marzipan for decoration :
1+1/4 cup fine ground almonds or almond meal
1 cup powdered sugar
½ teaspoon rose water
¼ teaspoon almond extract
1 to 1.5 Tablespoons water.
Jam glaze :
1/4 cup apricot jam
1.5 tablespoons water
What you do :
1. Pre-heat oven to 350◦ F/177◦ C/ gas mark 4.
2. Grease two 5 inches or one 7 inches round cake pan. A springform pan of the same diameter works fine too.
3. Now in a bowl mix all the wet ingredients.
4. In a bigger mixing bowl mix the dry ingredients.
5. Add the liquid mixture slowly to the dry mixture and whisk to mix well. The batter will be on the thicker side.
6. Pour into the greased cake pan(s) and bake for 25 – 30 min. You’ll know your cake is done when a toothpick inserted into it comes out clean and not sticky.
7. Cool the cakes in the pan for 2-3 minutes then put them on a wire rack and cool until comes to room temperature.
8. While the cake is cooling make your marzipan. Add the almond meal and powder sugar to the bowl of a food processor and pulse a few times to make sure there are no lumps.
9. Now add the extracts. Add water 1-2 teaspoons at a time and keep pulsing until it forms a dough. Make sure you don’t add too much water or the dough will be too sticky. If it gets too sticky somehow, add a little more almond meal. If you don’t have a food processor, it can be made by hand too. Just break the lumps and stir in the liquids until the dough is formed.
10. Now knead your marzipan for 1-2 minutes or until it is pliable.
11. Divide the dough into two portions, one slightly larger than the other.
12. Sprinkle some powdered sugar on a surface and roll the larger portion of the marzipan into a disk 5 – 7 inches in diameter (depending on your cake size).
13. From the smaller portion of marzipan, make eleven small rounds / balls.
14. Now make the jam glaze. Simply mix the jam and water and microwave for 20 seconds.
15. Now it’s time for the decoration. If you have made two five inches cakes you need to assemble them first. Just brush some jam glaze on one cake and using it as a glue, put the other one on top of it. You don’t need this step if you used one 7 inches pan.
16. Brush some more glaze on top of the cake and put the marzipan disk on top of it.
17. Now using the jam glaze as a glue again, put the 11 ‘disciples’ along the periphery of the cake.
18. Brush the top of the marzipan decorations with a little bit of plant milk and broil the whole thing for 2 -3 minutes or until slightly browned. We’re looking for a light char here. Not the smores marshmallow kind of burn!
19. Serve warm or at room temperature.
Modifications you can make :
Use any other dry fruits you like. Dried blueberries, apricot, golden raisins and currants work just as good.
You can also use dried citrus peel. Just make sure you keep the amount of the total dry fruits and peels to 1 cup.
Instead of pecans, you can use chopped walnuts or even mixture of several types of nuts.
Store bought marzipan can be used instead of homemade.
For the jam glaze you can use orange marmalade or fig jam.
Nutritional info (per serving) :
Calories – 400 Cal
Carbohydrate – 73 g
Protein – 6 g
Fat – 16 g
Saturated fat – 3 g
Sugar – 42 g
Sodium – 17 mg
Dietary fiber – 8 g
Pat on the back for you have (sim)nailed the cake my friend! Now, cut yourself a piece of this heavenly thing, pour a cup of coffee (or your favorite tea) and savor the bliss. It doesn’t matter if you are celebrating Easter or spring…. or life itself! If you come to think of it, there are 10 million reasons to celebrate every moment of every day! Really!
Do you have any question? Any thoughts after you’ve made it? I’d just love to hear from you. Feel free to comment below.