Monday, 17 April 2017

Easter Celebration: a Modern-Style Simnel Cake (Wheat Free)

It is Easter! And to celebrate the occasion, I'm back to my usual tricks: layer cake! Almond, raspberry, and lemon edition.

Yesterday, on Easter Sunday, my family gathered for dinner: with my parents, siblings, and our respective companions, there were nine of us all together. There was a lot of food.

Traditionally, the cake eaten at such Easter Sunday gatherings is simnel cake, a rich fruit cake with a layer of marzipan in the middle, topped off with apricot glaze and eleven marzipan balls to symbolise the Apostles without Judas Iscariot.

However, fruit cake and marzipan are heavy eating, associated more with the cold winter months than with the coming of spring. As such, I thought I'd shake things up a bit with some springtime flavours, but keeping the almond and marzipan theme of the traditional simnel cake.

Three layers of almondy sponge cake, sandwiched with raspberry jam and lemon curd. On the top of the cake, I made marzipan shapes to symbolise the Apostles. Of course, one space is empty to show Judas Iscariot's absence. The symbols are:

Andrew: saltire, ie. an X-shaped cross
Nathanael (Bartholomew): knife 
James the Elder: key 
James the Youngersaw 
John: eagle 
Judas: sword 
Matthew (Levi): angel 
Peter (Simon Peter): fish 
Philip: column 
Simon the Zealot: boat 
Thomas: spear

Without further ado, let's get started!

For one three layer 8 inch (20 centimetre) cake
  • Three 8 inch (20 centimetre) sandwich cakes, domes cut off, either vanilla or almond flavour
  • 1 pound (455 grammes) vanilla buttercream icing
  • 5 tablespoons (75 millilitres) raspberry jam
  • 5 tablespoons (75 millilitres) lemon curd
  • Pink and yellow food colouring
  • Marzipan, for modelling


First, design the symbols.
  • The day before you make the cake, make the marzipan decorations. Roll the marzipan to about an ⅛ inch (3 millimetres) thick, and make each one for the Apostles about 1½ inches (4 centimetres) in size. Roll some more to a quarter inch (5 millimetres) in thickness, and make Jesus' cross 3 inches (8 centimetres) in size. Allow the shapes to dry completely, exposed to air.

Then, assemble the cake

  • Divide the buttercream into two portions. Add a tablespoon of raspberry jam to one and colour it pink, and then add a tablespoon lemon curd to the other half and colour it yellow.
  • Spread a little buttercream on a serving plate, and fix the bottom layer of cake. Put some of the buttercream into a piping bag fitted with a half-inch (1 centimetre) star or round tip, and pipe a dam around the edge. Spread the jam, saving a tablespoon (15 millilitres), on the cake, inside the dam.
  • Take the next layer, and spread a very thin layer of buttercream on the bottom. Place on top of the raspberry layer, pressing a little to fix it. Again, pipe a dam around this layer, and spread with the lemon curd, again saving a tablespoon (15 millilitres).
  • Take the top layer, and spread a thin layer of buttercream to the top of the cake. Place on the cake upside down, so the flat bottom is facing up.
  • Ice the top of the cake with yellow icing, and then decorate the sides in a two colour gradient, like in the pictures. Put the excess you scrape off in the gradient icing into a piping bag, trying not to mix the colours too much.
  • Pipe a bottom and top border on the cake: pipe 12 rosettes on the top around the edge, and one in the middle.
  • Place one Apostle symbol on each of the rosettes, leaving one empty deliberately to symbolise Judas Iscariot's absence.
  • Allow to set for at least 2 hours before serving.

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