Simnel Cake Recipe for Mothering Sunday and Easter

simnel cake

Simnel Cake was originally made for the fourth Sunday in Lent when the forty-day fast would be relaxed. It is known as the Refreshment Sunday of Lent, Mothering Sunday or Simnel Sunday – named after the cake. It was the day that children working away in service traditionally returned to their Mother Church and saw their families. (Over the years Mothering Sunday has become a celebration of real mothers rather than the Mother Church, the largest church in the diocese). These days Simnel Cake is also enjoyed on Easter Day.

Experienced cake maker Ruth Jordan from Priscilla’s Cafe in East Garston recommends this lovely Simnel Cake recipe by Mary Berry. Ruth says you can add some cocoa powder for extra richness or if you are not keen on fruit cake you can make a light chocolate sponge instead and decorate with chocolate eggs. There is traditionally a circle of 11 eggs on the cake representing the disciples (minus Judas) with a twelfth egg in the middle representing Jesus.


175 g soft butter or margarine, plus extra for greasing
175 g light muscovado sugar
3 eggs
175 g self-raising flour
175 g sultanas
90 g currants
90 g glacé cherries, quartered, rinsed, and dried
30 g candied peel, roughly chopped
Grated zest of 1 large lemon
1 tsp. ground mixed spice

For the decoration:

500 g almond paste
2 tbsp. apricot jam
1 egg white

Deep 18 cm (7 in) round loose-bottomed cake tin


  1. Roll out one-third of the almond paste.
  2. Using the base of the cake tin as a guide, cut out an 18 centimetre round.
  3. Grease the cake tin and line the bottom and side with greaseproof paper.
  4. Combine all the cake ingredients in a bowl. Beat well until thoroughly blended. Spoon half of the cake mixture into the prepared tin and smooth the surface. Top with the round of almond paste.
  5. Spoon the remaining cake mixture on top and level the surface.
  6. Bake in a preheated oven at 150°C/gas mark 2 for two and a quarter hours or until golden brown and firm to the touch.
  7. Cover the top of the cake with greaseproof paper if it is browning too quickly. Leave to cool for 10 minutes, then remove from the tin, and leave to cool completely.
  8. Warm the jam and use to brush the top of the cake.
  9. To decorate the cake, roll out half of the remaining almond paste and use the tin to cut out an 18 centimetre round. Put on top of the jam and crimp the edges. Roll the remaining almond paste into 11 even-sized balls. Place around the edge of the cake, attaching them with egg white.
  10. Brush the tops of the balls and the almond paste with egg white. Place under a hot grill for one to two minutes, until the balls are golden.



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