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A light, buttery fruit cake with a double dose of home-made almond paste for your Easter table
Out come the tins again for the Easter baking. When I was growing up, a Simnel cake always featured on our Easter table. My grandmother was so addicted to almonds that she would split the Simnel cake in half and add an extra layer of almond paste. Perhaps there should be an Almond Addicts Anonymous?
I still use my grandmother’s recipe, although I have modified it slightly. It’s a delicious light fruit cake with a layer of luscious almond paste baked into the middle where it melts into the body of the cake. Another layer of almond paste is laid on top and it is decorated with 11 marzipan balls that are said to represent the true disciples of Jesus.
If you prefer, you could make little marzipan rabbits like those on the cake photographed here. I found the instructions to make them on the website wikihow.com/Make-a-Marzipan-Bunny. They are quite easy to construct, although in my case I have to attribute the creation of most of them to my very artistic mother. You might need additional almond paste for these little fellows.
650g mixed fruit, to include sultanas, raisins, currants, a handful of mixed peel and some cherries
Grated rind of 1 lemon
60mls of sherry
20mls of orange flower water (available from supermarkets or health food shops)
250g butter, at room temperature
250g caster sugar
Tiny drop of almond essence, about ¼tsp
350g plain flour
A pinch of mixed spice
½tsp of baking powder
150g caster sugar
150g icing sugar
300g ground almonds
1 tbsp sherry
1 egg and 1 egg yolk (reserve the white)
A tiny drop of almond essence, about ¼tsp
You will need a 23cm (9in) cake tin.
Soak the fruit with the lemon rind, sherry and orange flower water for an hour or so, allowing the fruit to soften and the flavours to macerate. The addition of the orange flower water, with its citrus floral aroma, contributes a gentle, fresh flavour.
Next, make the almond paste by mixing the sugars and ground almonds together in a mixing bowl. In a separate bowl whisk the eggs and remaining ingredients.
Add this to the dry mixture and mix until a smooth paste is formed.
Line the base and sides of the baking tin with baking parchment.
Sieve together the flour, mixed spice and baking powder.
Beat the butter and sugar together until pale and fluffy, then add the eggs, one at a time, alternating with the flour until it is all incorporated. Carefully fold in the fruit.
Put half of the mixture into the pre-prepared tin.
Roll a little over a third of the almond paste into a round shape, a little smaller than the cake tin diameter, and place it on top of the cake mixture in the tin.
Top with the rest of the cake mixture.
Bake in a pre-heated oven at 135 degrees/gas 1, for two and a half hours. Check with a skewer to see if is cooked; it may need an extra 30 minutes or so.
Allow the cake to cool in the tin and then transfer it to a wire tray.
Lightly brush the top of the cake with the reserved egg white. Make 11 little balls with the marzipan (bigger than marbles and smaller than walnuts). Roll out the remaining almond paste into a circle the same size as the cake and place it on top of the cake. Crimp the edges. Fix the marzipan balls to the top of the cake using a little egg white.
Brush the top of the cake with a little beaten egg and place it under a hot grill for one to two minutes until it is lightly toasted.
Your cake is now ready to serve or can be stored.
More recipes from Eunice Power are available on www.eunicepower.com
Room reservations can be made on www.powersfield.com - hope to see you in Dungarvan during the year.
Eunice Power is a professional chef with over twenty years experience in the hospitality business. She runs Powersfield House in Dungarvan County Waterford, which is our B&B of the Year for 2012 and also the winner of the Best B&B Breakfast. Her philosophy is to use fresh, seasonal, locally produced food, sourced organically where possible.
Eunice has a successful outside catering company, writes about food (she is the author of an excellent cookery book written for local company Waterford Stanley) and teaches at Paul Flynn’s Tannery Cooking School, where her enthusiasm and zest for a life filled with good food are given free rein."