A very secular Simnel Cake

Simnel Cake is probably the most traditional of the Easter cakes. It has its origins in the same tradition as the Twelfth Night cake, which started off marking Epiphany (January 6th or the twelfth night after Christmas) but which eventually migrated back to December 25th and became our modern Christmas Cake. I’d even go so far as to say these were among the first properly sweet and celebratory cakes, in British history at least. The Simnel Cake has a few distinguishing features of its own: a layer of marzipan through the middle, no white icing, and twelve marzipan balls which symbolise Christ’s Apostles.

Mine was a little different and it was rather a bittersweet bake. I made it for the funeral of one of The Scientist’s friends, who died unexpectedly a few weeks ago, and at an appallingly young age. He was also a gamer, and part of the circle I regularly bake for, so a cake seemed an appropriate gift to help the others wind down after a hard day, and remember their friend. And so the marzipan balls became marzipan dice – with a gap for their missing compatriot.

I think this is the first time I’ve made a Simnel Cake, and I used this recipe from Mary Berry. She also suggests putting crystallised flowers on the top, which is an alternative tradition marking the flowering of spring. It was a nice easy bake, though I realised afterwards I had forgotten to add the glace cherries. It’s a good thing I have plans for a cherry cake…

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