These little simnel cupcakes are perfect for an Easter treat. With their double layer of marzipan and mixed dried fruit encased in a flavoursome lemony sponge, these little bakes are incredibly delicious.
Simnel cakes have been made for centuries around Easter time here in the UK. Wikipedia tells us that in relatively recent times they were made for the middle Sunday of Lent when the fast would be relaxed and daughters working in service would be granted the day off to visit their mother (mothering Sunday) often having made a simnel cake to take with them. It’s unclear where the word ‘simnel’ comes from but Wikipedia suggests that it is derived from the latin ‘similia’ meaning ‘fine flour’.
As we know, Simnel cake is a delicious light fruit cake containing two layers of marzipan; one hidden within the batter and baked in the cake, and the other adorning the top. They are often decorated with 11 marzipan balls which are said to represent the disciples with the exclusion of Judas. Sometimes a twelfth larger ball is placed in the centre to represent Jesus.
Being a household of just 8 legs, 4 of which belong to our friendly feline friend, Mr E & I didn’t fancy making a large cake for it to linger and potentially spoil so we decided to quickly whip up a small batch of simnel cupcakes. Being cupcake sized means this bake clearly spends far less time in the oven than a traditional simnel cake, but it also means that you can make as many as you like; be it just a few for your own household or several to share with family and friends at an Easter celebration.
These little cakes are quick and easy to make, being made using the creaming in method. I added a generous amount of lemon yoghurt (I used French set) to the mixture which not only supported the lemon flavour of the zest, but also added extra moisture to the mini cakes. The dried fruit mixture I used included glace cherries, pineapple, cranberries and apricots which worked beautifully alongside the usual sultanas, raisins, currants and candied peel. Though if you fancy making these, do use whatever dried fruit you have to hand.
To decorate our simnel cupcakes, I decided to use the scalloped edge of our biscuit cutters rather than a neat circle, I thought they looked prettier this way. To keep things simple I applied just one marzipan ball to the top of the cupcake, though if you prefer each cake could still be decorated with the traditional 11 balls by just making each one a wee bit smaller and positioning them around the edge.
The lemon flavour gave the bake an extra freshness and worked well with the marzipan. Mr E, who is sadly marzipan-phobic, echoed this by having a second cupcake after demolishing the first!
Whether you choose to call these little bakes simnel cupcakes, simnel mini cakes or simnel cakelets, they are certainly perfect for an Easter treat. With their double layer of marzipan and mixed fruit encased in a flavoursome lemony sponge, these little dudes are incredibly delicious.
So let’s get to it and bake!
These little bakes are a delicious twist on the classic Easter Simnel cake.
Servings: 8 cakes
For the cup cakes
- 40 g marzipan
- 70 g butter softened
- 70 glight muscovado sugar
- 1 Lemon zest only
- 1 large egg beaten
- 70 g lemon yoghurt or plain natural yoghurt
- 100 g mixed dried fruits
- 90 g self-raising flour
- 140 g marzipan
- 1 heaped tsp Apricot Jam
- Icing Sugar
HOW TO MAKE THEM:
- Preheat the oven to 190℃ (170℃ fan)/375°F/gas mark 5. Place the paper cupcake cases into the muffin tray.
- Prepare the marzipan layer. Divide the 40g marzipan into 8 equal pieces. Roll each pieces into a ball between the palms of your hands. Gently flatten the balls to make a relatively thick disc. The discs needs to be smaller in diameter than your cupcake cases so that the marzipan is hidden within the sponge during the bake. Set aside.
- Prepare the dried fruit. Once your dried fruit is weighed break up any clumps. If your fruit contains whole glace cherries, cut these into smaller pieces and add a teaspoon of the weighed flour. Distribute the flour amongst the fruit (particularly the cherries) to prevent them from sticking together.
- Make the sponge. Place the softened butter and sugar into a good sized bowl and beat together with a wooden spoon or electric beaters until pale and fluffy. Add the lemon zest and beat again to combine. Gradually add the beaten egg a little at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in the yoghurt. Add the dried mixed fruit and stir to combine. Sieve the flour into the bowl. Using a spatula or large metal spoon fold this in gently.
- Fill the cupcake cases. Use a teaspoon to partially fill the cupcake cases so that they are about 2cm full. Flatten the mixture in the cup case a little. Lay the marzipan disc on top of the batter. Top with some more batter. You’re aiming for the cases to be half to two-thirds full.
- Bake. Place the muffin tray in the preheated oven and bake for about 20 – 25 minutes. You may need to rotate the tray after 15 minutes of baking. Remove the tray from the oven once the cupcakes are fully baked, with a deep golden top and a sponge which springs back when touched. Carefully remove each cupcake from the baking tray hollow and place on a cooling tray.
- Meanwhile, prepare the decoration. Place a heaped spoonful of apricot jam into a small bowl. Add two or three drops of water to the jam and mix to loosen it. Set aside. Dust the work surface with a little icing sugar. Manipulate the marzipan a little in your hands to soften it. Place the marzipan onto the icing sugar and roll out to about 2-3mm thick, avoid getting icing sugar on the upper surface of the marzipan. Use the biscuit cutter to cut 8 discs. Set them aside. With the offcuts of marzipan roll 8 small balls. Set aside.
- Decorate. Once the cupcakes have fully cooled, use the back of the teaspoon to spread a little jam onto the underside of the marzipan disc. Place the disc jam side down onto the cupcake. Apply gentle pressure with your fingertips to secure the disc in place. Use the back of the spoon to apply a small amount of jam to the base of the marzipan ball and affix to the centre of the cupcake. Repeat with the remaining simnel cupcakes.
- Electric Hand Held Beater
- Muffin Sized Paper Cases
- Muffin Baking Tray
- Rolling Pin
- Round Biscuit Cutter 58mm (2.25″)
Airtight container for 3 or 4 days.
Freeze up to 3 months
a)Both french set and traditional yoghurt work equally well in this bake, though if using a french set I’d suggest weighing it into a cup and stirring it through to loosen before adding to the batter mixture.
b) If you don’t have a biscuit cutter to the size you need, simply use the base of a small glass as a stencil to cut around.
c) The cupcakes will hold 11 marzipan balls positioned traditionally around the edge by making each one fairly small.
d) If you like, you could toast the decorated cupcakes under a pre-heated grill (or with a cook’s blow torch) for a minute or two. Though if using the grill do keep a sharp eye on them to prevent them from burning.
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