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Posted by James McIntosh Sunday, 20th April 2014
Christmas seems a long time ago, winter is over and as the old saying goes 'March has come in like a lion and out like a lamb'. It's now that time of year when we can all look forward to some family time again and a lovely dinner to spend precious family moments together. I always like Easter, the weather is better, the days are starting to get lighter for longer, and the gloom of winter is past and a little time off work. Kids are off school, teachers are getting their well deserved break and for the rest of us it’s the first bank holiday of the year. In reality in my house, Easter Monday is DIY day. I'm not very good at DIY and it's never finished on Easter Monday!
In previous posts I've written about how to make a great Easter Sunday dinner, a traditional turkey or lamb roast. It's also celebrated with hot cross buns and Simnel cake. Remembering that there are only 11 balls of marzipan on top of the Simnel cake to represent Jesus' disciples as Judas has betrayed Jesus so is no longer represented on the cake. As I travel across the world with food, I find lots of recipes that talk about culture, history and religion. Easter is a key point in the Christian calendar and is all about the crucifixion and resurrection of Christ. A time of great triumph and celebration. But for those who follow Lent, it’s a time to indulge back into chocolate / a glass of wine or whatever you gave up (I was never any good at giving things up for Lent).
A Simnel cake is a light fruit cake with spices (the foods historically not eaten during Lent) and signifies life and a time of freedom. It has 2 layers of marzipan, one in the middle and another on top. It has been historic in the UK since 1226 with 3 main varieties becoming famous, those of Bury in Greater Manchester, Devizes in Wiltshire and Shrewsbury in Shropshire. It's the Shrewsbury Simnel cake that we all know and eat today. This is a great cake to make for Easter with your kids, get them to help with the weighing and mixing and then rolling the balls of marzipan. Once cooked and decorated its traditional to grill the cake a little too brown the top of the marzipan, and what better way than to use the Rangemaster browning element in the multi-function oven.
Makes 8 slices
- 560g ready made marzipan (divided into 3)
- 450g dried mixed fruit
- 80g candied peel, chopped
- 225g plain flour
- 1 tsp ground cinnamon
- 1 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
- 175g butter
- 175g caster sugar
- 3 large eggs, lightly beaten
- 2 tbsp apricot jam, melted
- Line a 18cm / 7" cake tin with greaseproof paper. Take 1/3 of the marzipan and roll it into a round the size of the cake tin. Do the same again with another 1/3. Set both pieces aside with the remaining marzipan.
- Mix the dried fruit and peel in a large mixing bowl with the flour and spices.
- In another large bowl cream the butter and sugar together using an electric mixer until light and fluffy until the mixture drops off the end of the beaters to the count of 2. Add the egg in 3 batches, mixing together well between each addition to prevent curdling. Fold the flour and fruit mixture into the creamed mixture in 3 batches, folding carefully.
- Place half of the mixture into the prepared tin, smooth over and place one of the rolled out marzipan circles on top. Place the remaining cake mixture on top. Bake for 1 hour at 170C centre shelf / 160C fan oven / Gas Mark 4. Then reduce the temperature to 140C centre shelf / 130C fan oven / Gas Mark 2 and bake for another hour and a half until golden brown. Check by placing a skewer into the middle of the cake, if it comes out clean it is ready. If not, cook for a little longer. Remove from the oven, remove from the tin and allow to cool on a wire rack.
- Heat the browning element in the Rangemaster Multi-function oven to maximum.
- When the cake is cold, brush the top of the cake with the apricot jam and place the second marzipan circle on top. Divide the remaining marzipan into 11 equal pieces and roll each into a little ball. Place around the edge of the cake and put into the Rangemaster oven for about 5-10 minutes until the top is lightly browned, watching carefully. Allow to cool and decorate the middle of the cake with mini chocolate eggs or a little Easter chick.