I’m in Simnel overdrive. Cakes and cookies made, ice cream on the way.
Before I start I must ask – have you ever had Simnel cake? Until last week I thought everyone had; but then I made some Simnel cupcakes (super yummy) for work and I was shocked how few people had heard of it. In our house Simnel cake is as important as a fruit cake at Christmas and hot cross buns throughout Lent. But clearly that’s not the case for many people. Luckily they were a success, even becoming one colleague’s new favourite cake. (She certainly knows how to encourage more baking out of me!)
So if Simnel cake is new to you too it’s a light fruit cake spiced with cinnamon and nutmeg which has a layer of marzipan running through the middle and is topped with a round of marzipan and eleven marzipan balls to represent the disciples, less Judus. It was traditionally made on Mothering Sunday but has slowly edged it’s way back to become a staple of the English Easter. It’s delicious!
If you like marzipan you’ll love Simnel cake. And hopefully you’ll love these too.
I set about making these when I realised just how long it had been since I baked a batch of cookies. Far far too long.
Inspired by the classic cake these Simnel cookies are chewy with crisp edges laden with the same spices and fruit as you find in the cake with the same surprise centre of golden marzipan; personally I think they are rather yummy!
Making them is very easy and could happily be done with just a mixing bowl and wooden spoon. The butter and sugars are beaten together for a few minutes, egg added, followed by the flour and spices to turn the mixture into a dough which can then be spooned out into little heaps. The dough can turn quite sticky by this point so once spooned out and before the marzipan is added I pop the cookie dough heaps into the fridge to firm up. Once they have hardened a little it’s much easier to wrap the dough around the marzipan; I do this by squishing the disc into my dough pushing the cookie dough around to cover the marzipan before rolling into a ball. I think it sounds much harder than it is- it’s really rather straight forward when it’s in front of you. These are then cooled once more before baking for 12mins and eating…
Makes 14, 3.5″ cookies
100g dark brown sugar
50g caster sugar
1 egg, beaten, at room temperature
155g plain flour
1 heaped tsp mixed spice
1/4tsp nutmeg (about 1/6th of a whole nutmeg)
1/2tsp bicarbonate of soda
100g mixed fruit
- Beat together the sugars and the butter for a few mins until it has turned lighter. Slowly add the egg, beating between additions. Stir in the flour, spices and bicarbonate of soda to form a dough. Add the dried fruit and mixed until evenly distributed
- Line a few trays with baking paper
- Spoon the dough out into approximately 14 balls (a heaped dessert spoon full) and placed on the lined trays. Pop in the fridge for 15mins to harden slightly
- Whilst the dough is hardening portion the marzipan so you have a piece for each cookie. Roll each portion into a ball and squash into a disc. Remove the dough from the fridge, gently push a marzipan disc into each and wrap the dough over to seal it inside. Roll into balls and place back on the trays, making sure to leave room for them to spread to approximately 3.5″ each. Pop back in the fridge for another 20mins
- Preheat the oven to 170C
- Bake the cookies for twelve mins; the edges should be set but the middle still a little soft. Allow the cookies to cool for a few mins on the tray and then slide the baking paper off onto a cooling rack. If they are quite soft I leave them on the baking paper so they don’t fall through the holes of the rack but as they firm up slide them off directly onto the rack. I baked mine in two batches as my oddly sized trays wouldn’t all fit in at the same time.
These should keep in an airtight container for around a week.