Simnel Cake

Round Simnel CakeSimnel cake is a traditional light fruit cake with two layers of almond paste or marzipan, one in the middle and one on top, that is toasted, and eaten during Easter.

It was originally made for the middle Sunday of Lent, known as Laetare Sunday, when the forty day fast would be relaxed. Laetare Sunday was also known as Mothering Sunday, Sunday of the Five Loaves, and Simnel Sunday.

Square Simnel CakeThe meaning of the word ‘simnel’ is unclear though there is a 1226 reference to ‘bread made into a simnel’, which is understood to mean the finest white bread, from the Latin simila, meaning pure, wheaten flour, a cake that was intended to please.

Simnel Cake IConventionally eleven marzipan balls are used to decorate the cake, with a story that the balls represent the twelve apostles, minus Judas.

This tradition developed late in the Victorian era, altering the mid Victorian tradition of decorating the cakes with preserved fruits and flowers.

The cake is made from best white flour, sugar, butter, eggs, fragrant spices, dried fruits, zest and candied peel.

Novelty Simnel ImageSimnel cakes have been known since at least medieval times, when young girls in service would make one to be taken home to their mothers on their day off.

More recently they have become a Mothering Sunday or Easter tradition.

Popular legend attributes the invention of the Simnel cake to Lambert Simnel, however, references to the cake were recorded some 200 years before his Novelty Simnel Cakebirth.

Different towns throughout the UK have their own recipes and shapes of the Simnel cake, including Bury, Devizes and Shrewsbury but it is the Shrewsbury version that became most popular and better known.

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