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Guest spot : Easter Simnel cake recipe from The Mildred Mittens Manufactory

Mildred's Simnel CakesAs well as providing a deluxe B&B service for hedgehogs Mildred is a talented, adventurous and generous cook. She shares her recipes. When I decided to bake a Simnel cake this year, I knew exactly who to turn to. This is an excellent cake and well worth making.

Danny didn’t grow up with a tradition of Easter Simnel cakes, although they are baked in some regions of Ireland. So I’d imagine that it’s mainly in the north. He rushed to his computer in the Rat Room to read the article on Mildred’s village website, charting the history and tradition of Simnel cakes. A few minutes later he came down to the kitchen looking a bit crumpled.
“It was a good article but why do all your celebration cakes contain marzipan. I hate the stuff.”

Thinking that he had only tried the shop packs, I have made him my own marzipan and the earth didn’t move for this gentle Irishman. Marzipan and desiccated coconut are No No ingredients on Danny’s Island. Selfishly this is good news as I can enjoy the cakes over an extended period. If Danny likes something it vanishes in a blink. I think he might be related to Desperate Dan (are you old enough to remember the Beano and DD’s penchant for Cow Pie?)

I loved my mum’s cake. We didn’t have the eleven apostles that are represented on Mildred’s cake. There was a layer of marzipan in the centre of the cake and a little nest on the top filled with sugar coated chocolate eggs. The result was a gorgeous, slightly gooey cake with the prospect of a tiny chocolate egg. I also remember stealing an extra egg or two. They were always replaced by the morning.

One year Mildred baked 63 of her cakes to raise money for the church restoration fund. Now she is not quite so flamboyant, just baking a handful of cakes for friends and family.

Guest spot : Easter Simnel cake recipe from The Mildred Mittens Manufactory

Cake Ingredients:

  • 1lb Butter at room temperature
  • 1lb Castor sugar
  • 5 large eggs
  • 8oz Currants
  • 8oz Sultanas
  • 8oz Raisins
  • 4oz Glace cherries
  • 4oz Mixed peel
  • 3 Tablespoons sweet sherry
  • Juice and peel of 1 Lemon
  • 14oz Plain flour
  • 4oz Ground almonds
  • 1 teaspoon mixed spice

Method:

Oven temperature: 160 Degrees Centigrade

  1. Line 2 deep 7 inch cakes OR 3 deep 5.5 inch cake tin with non stick greaseproof paper.
  2. Begin by placing all the dried fruit, including the peel and roughly chopped cherries, in a bowl. Marinade the fruit by pouring over the sweet sherry and the juice and peel of the lemon. I like to leave this all in a covered bowl at least overnight but it doesn’t matter if you don’t remember! These can be used fresh so to speak.
  3. Next, stir together the plain flour, ground almonds and mixed spice in another bowl.
  4. Stir the 5 eggs in a jug together with ONE desert spoonful of cold water.
  5. In a large mixing bowl cream together the butter and sugar until pale, light and fluffy. That bit is very important and so worth taking your time over!
  6. Then, add the eggs a little at a time, beating well. If the mixture starts to curdle add a few tablespoons of flour.
  7. Stir in the flour / ground almond mixture followed finally by the mixed fruit. Make sure the fruit is evenly distributed throughout the mixture.
  8. Divide the mixture equally between two 7 inch tins OR three 5.5 inch tins. These sizes of tins create nice deep cakes.
  9. Place the tins onto a baking sheet and wrap each tin with a strip of brown paper, tying it into place with brown string. This helps to stop the sides of the cake from burning.
  10. Cook the cakes in the middle of your oven for 2 hours 15 minutes. Check the cakes after ONE hour. If they are browning it means the oven is a little too hot. In this case, cover the cakes with a circle of greaseproof paper and lower the oven slightly and then check again before the two hours is up and test with a skewer. The skewer should be clean when removed from the cake. You want the cakes to be golden and cooked in the middle.
  11. Remove from the oven and leave to cool slightly on a wire tray before removing from the tins and allow to cool completely. When cold transfer to an airtight tin for storage.

I like to ‘feed’ my cakes a couple of times before decorating – just brush 2 or 3 tablespoons of sherry over the top and sides of each cake.

The cakes are best left to mature for around 2 weeks before eating – they will keep happily for at least 6 weeks.

A day or two before Easter (or Mothering Sunday) divide the marzipan into 3 equal portions for the 3 small cakes (or 2 portions if you made the cakes in the larger tins).

From each portion make 11 marzipan balls (take even chunks of marzipan and roll between your hands until they are smooth and round) to represent the 11 Apostles. I make mine around the size of a small walnut. Then knead the remainder of the paste and shape into a ball which then needs rolling out to roughly the size of your cake top. Brush the tops of the cakes with Apricot Jam then affix the circles of paste. Lightly roll the paste on top of the cake to make a nice flat surface, tidying the edges as you roll. Brush a light quantity of the jam around the top edge of the cake and affix the Apostles evenly, pressing gently so they keep in place. Finally, lightly toast the marzipan with either a cooks blow torch, you could test a bit first to get the hang of it . . . or by placing the cake under a pre heated grill – do not take your eyes off the cake though as they burn very easily!

Almond paste recipe for 2 x 7 inch cakes, or 3 x 5.5 inch cakes:

Ingredients:

  • 9oz Ground almonds
  • 4oz Caster sugar
  • 4oz Icing sugar
  • 3 medium size egg yolks
  • 1 Tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 Tablespoon sweet sherry
  • 3 Drops almond essence

Method:

  1. Place the egg yolks into a jug and stir in the sherry, lemon juice and almond essence.
  2. Place the dry ingredients into a mixing bowl, stir and then add the egg mixture slowly. Mix until a paste is formed – this works well in a mixer on slow speed.
  3. Store refrigerated in a sealed plastic bag.

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10 Comments

  1. Willie More

    Hi Mildred, I’ve been trying to trace you. I hope this gets to you.

    Do you remember the old man some years ago who wanted to make proper Marmalade instead of orange dipping sauce? Well, this is he – Willie, the patient Scotsman. You took me under your wing and slowly I eventually learned. We ran out of Seville oranges and I continued practising with your multi-fruits recipe – my family became addicted to that preserve. I have never forgotten your kindness. You were one of the most exciting things to have happened in my retirement.

    Yesterday I made the best marmalade ever. I now use half sevilles and half blood oranges, plus a pink grapefruit and a lemon. The flavour is to die for.

    I just wanted to say ‘thank you’ again – you’ve made an old man very happy.

  2. Have just phoned OH in Asda to get the ingredients for your cake, going to make it with 4 kids and assorted pals on Sunday – thanks for spurring me on!

  3. Fiona Nevile

    So pleased!

  4. nusantara recipe

    good recipe, i like this

  5. Fiona Nevile

    Hi Mildred

    Even though D and I don’t attend our local church I appreciate it being there and enjoy watching the church community grow visibly – the line of parked cars outside the church on a Sunday. Years ago it was one or two and now it’ a decent stretch.

    We also enjoy raising money for the church restoration fund! We run the drinks stall each year.

    Hi Kate(uk)

    You and Danny would be the perfect match!

  6. Kate(uk)

    Dessicated coconut= yuk,yuk,yuk.And as for Bounty bars…aaaaargh!

  7. Mildred

    AW, Sally and Fi – thank you very much! The whole village has worked hard to raise funds for the Church Restoration Project, with just about every peson taking part in some event or other. It also has a busy Village Hall programme of events. And the Produce Show has been running since the early 1960’s! There are several older residents who have lived here all their lives!

    We have a wonderful neighbour, a kind lady who is always ready to help, and we often say, ‘Every village should have a MARY’!

  8. Fiona Nevile

    Hi Ian

    Thanks for dropping by. So you are another desiccated coconut hater. Do you want to join D’s club?!

    I’m planning to try Mildred’s cake and marzipan recipe. Perhaps a glamorous Irishman might discover the delights of marzipan!

    Hi Sally

    Spot on. I’d love a Mildred next door in Cheveley!

    The Internet is great as Mildred is in every village, throughout the world, when someone logs on.

  9. I’ve just followed your link to learn about the history of simnel cakes and stopped by at the charming village of Appleby.

    Very picturesque, but what struck me most was the fantastic sense of community.

    Every village should have a Mildred – cakes or no cakes. Congratulations.

  10. Mildred

    Hi Fi,
    Ian, Mildred’s chief tester/taster here. I just wanted to add my signature to Danny’s list of pet hates.
    I can well remember my juvenile hot cheeked shame of disgracing myself at a tea party hosted by an elderly Aunt, when I sprayed a bite from my first (and last) coconut macaroon over the assembled guests. How on earth desiccated coconut can be classified as “edible” is still beyond me. Marzipan was also a distinct “ugh”; all cloying and sugary and dry and horrid etc. So it was with my best supportive, fixed smile and a helping of trepidation (large), that I tried a slice (small)of Mildred’s Simnel cake. I was fully anticipating making a descreet excuse and heading for the bathroom, but just a minute, what was this? The marzipan was soft, very tasty and not too sweet – I actually liked it!
    Another excellent example of how we are often conditioned into accepting mass produced food as “the real thing”. I just sincerley hope Mildred never gets around to making Macaroons!!!

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