Try our traditional simnel cake recipe, then check out more Easter cake recipes, such as this showstopping white chocolate Easter cake.

We've also got plenty more impressive Easter dessert ideas to try, including an indulgent Easter cheesecake, Easter cupcakes, Easter biscuits and Easter rocky road.

What is simnel cake?

Traditionally simnel cake is a light and moist fruit cake with a layer of marzipan or almond paste running through the middle and on top. This cake is traditionally served on Mothering Sunday (now more commonly known as Mother's Day) but more recently is associated with the Easter holidays, particularly Easter Sunday. The cake is topped with eleven marzipan balls to represent the eleven disciples of Jesus Christ (excluding Judas).

What is the topping of a simnel cake made from?

The topping of the simnel cake is made from marzipan or almond paste which you can either make at home or buy pre-made (buy the golden marzipan, the more yellow the paste the more traditional it will look). The remaining marzipan or almond paste is made into 11 equal balls and torched or grilled lightly.

Simnel cake recipe


  • 500g golden marzipan
  • 2-3 tbsp apricot jam


  • 150g sultanas
  • 150g currants
  • 75g glacé cherries, roughly chopped
  • 50g mixed peel
  • 75ml rum
  • 200g unsalted butter, softened, plus extra for the tin
  • 200g soft light brown sugar
  • 3 large eggs
  • 75g golden syrup
  • 200g self-raising flour, sifted
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 100g ground almonds
  • 1 tsp mixed spice
  • 1 orange, zested


  • STEP 1

    Tip the dried fruits, cherries, mixed peel and rum into a bowl and soak for 2 hours or overnight, if you like.

  • STEP 2

    Heat the oven to 170C/fan 150C/gas 3. Butter and line the bottom of a deep, round 20cm cake tin with baking paper. Beat together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the eggs one by one followed by the golden syrup.

  • STEP 3

    In a separate bowl, mix together the flour, baking powder, ground almonds and mixed spice. Use a large metal spoon to gently fold the flour mixture into the butter mixture followed by the soaked dried fruit, any soaking liquid and orange zest.

  • STEP 4

    Add ½ of the cake batter to the prepared cake tin, smooth the surface and put aside.

  • STEP 5

    Roll out 1/3 of the marzipan and cut out an 18cm circle. Gently put this on top of the cake batter in the tin, spread the rest of the cake batter on top and smooth out again.

  • STEP 6

    Bake in the oven for 1 hour 30 minutes or until dark golden, springy to the touch and slightly shrinking away from the sides of the tin (add foil over the top if it starts to brown too much). A skewer pushed into the centre will come out clean when it’s ready. Cool in the tin for 10 minutes before removing to a wire rack to cool completely.

  • STEP 7

    While the cake cools, cut off enough marzipan to form 11 small, equal-sized balls. Roll out the rest of the marzipan and cut out a 20cm circle, leaving enough to hang over the sides of the cake. Brush the apricot jam on the top of the cooled cake and put the marzipan circle on top. Use fingers to crimp the edges around the cake. Top with
    the marzipan balls.

  • STEP 8

    To finish, blowtorch the marzipan until starting to bubble and brown (you can do this under a grill if you don’t have a blow torch).


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