Hello, folks! Happy Easter – it’s not a festival that I tend to mark much, apart from generic delight at having a few days off work and a hope that the sun will shine, but this year I decided to mark it with cake. Much as Easter is a little similar to Christmas in many ways, but without the pressure and/or fun of presents, this is basically a Christmas cake but without the long time spend waiting for the booze to settle in during the long dark days of winter. This is a lighter, cheerier, springy-er version all round. I do like the fact that it has marzipan in the middle!
So, what’s been going on since I last blogged? Well, I handed in the posh bound copies of my thesis, as pictured above, and I had confirmation through that the OU were happy to confer upon me the title of Dr back in December! I will do the full graduation ceremony thing but not until quite late this year, just because of when the dates for my local ceremony have been set. (October 28th, I must think of a suitable cake to bake!)
So, now what? After ten years of PhD, I managed less than a month before signing up for another OU course, but this one is much more fun – photography! It’s only a short, 10 week introduction but I’m loving it so far. Some of the photos above are ones I’ve used in my assignments. I’m never going to be an expert but I enjoy the process of hunting down images that make me smile.
And, of course, getting back to baking after a long, long pause. Because this cake reminded me of Christmas, I put my December 2015 playlist on while I was baking (all hail Spotify and my obsessive habit of making a playlist for every month!) and, well, I’ve not listened to that playlist since December rolled away and I had other songs to listen to. So, while I was stirring the batter, it was a bit of a shock to be reminded that in amongst my festive tracks, I’d added one of the songs that was due to appear on David Bowie’s ‘new’ album, and when it started playing it stopped me in my tracks. ‘Lazarus’. A song about someone rising from the dead, listened to at Easter, sung by someone who died just a few days after I added that track to my playlist. For a moment, all the colour went out of the day and I went very, very cold. I thought I’d shaken off the shock and upset from that death, but music can be amazing at making things come back and bite. What a loss.
It’s been a long, cold winter and I’ve not been very good at being happy. Wish I knew how to do better at that, but I don’t. Still, here’s a cake for a day where we’re forecast thunder but at the moment it’s sunny and bright. Eventually the sun comes out.
Simnel Cake (based on St. Mary’s recipe here)
- 100g/4oz glacé cherries
- 225g/8oz butter, softened
- 225g/8oz light muscovado sugar
- 4 large eggs
- 225g/8oz self-raising flour
- 225g/8oz sultanas
- 100g/4oz currants
- 50g/2oz chopped crystallised ginger
- 2 lemons, grated zest only
- 2 tsp ground mixed spice
For the filling and topping
- 1-2 tbsp apricot jam, warmed
- 1 wodge of marzipan, courtesy of Grandma Lay’s recipe
Preheat the oven to 150C/280F/Gas 2. Grease and line a 20cm/ 8in cake tin.
- Prepare the marzipan according to the recipe above.
Cut the ginger into large chunks.
Place the ginger in a bowl with the butter, sugar, eggs, self-raising flour, sultanas, currants, candied peel, lemon zest and mixed spice and beat well until thoroughly mixed. Pour half the mixture into the prepared tin.
Take one-third of the marzipan and roll it out to a circle the size of the tin and then place on top of the cake mixture. Spoon the remaining cake mixture on top and level the surface.
Bake in the pre-heated oven for about 2½ hours, or until well risen, evenly brown and firm to the touch. Cover with aluminium foil after one hour if the top is browning too quickly. Leave to cool in the tin for 10 minutes then turn out, peel off the parchment and finish cooling on a wire rack.
When the cake is cool, brush the top with a little warmed apricot jam and roll out half the remaining marzipan to fit the top. Press firmly on the top and crimp the edges to decorate. Mark a criss-cross pattern on the marzipan with a sharp knife. Form the remaining marzipan into 11 balls.
Brush the marzipan with beaten egg and arrange the marzipan balls around the edge of the cake. Brush the tops of the balls with beaten egg and then carefully place the cake under a hot grill until the top is lightly toasted.