Catholic Recipe: Bury Simnel Cake
There are differing views about the origin of Mothering Sunday. Some say that the custom originated in honoring the 'Mother Church' and parishioners travelled to the main church or the cathedral to worship on this day. The other view is that it was a holiday to allow young girls and boys in service at big houses and farms to visit their mothers. This came six months after the main hiring fairs in October. Often the girls were allowed by their employer to make a special cake to take home. This was called Simnel cake and would sometimes be kept by the mother for the Easter celebrations.
The origin of the Simnel cake is recorded in a Shropshire legend. The story is told of Simon and Nell who both wanted to make a cake to give to their mother. Unfortunately they could not agree how to cook the cake. Simon wanted to boil it and Nell wanted to bake it. In the end they decided to do both and produced a rather solid indigestible cake. They probably argued about the name as well and settled on Sim-Nel, and so we have the Simnel cake!
There are several different kinds of Simnel cake. The Devizes Simnel is made in the shape of a star but the Bury Simnel is a flat spiced cake. The best known of all is the Shrewsbury Simnel with a central layer of marzipan in a rich fruit cake.
1. Rub the butter and lard into the flour and add the sugar, spices, chopped peel and currants.
2. Add the egg and mix into a very stiff dough, adding some of the milk if necessary.
3. Form the dough into a round flat cake and put it on to a greased baking tray. Decorate with the nuts and cherries.
4. Bake in oven at 400 degrees for 30 minutes or until golden brown.
5. Cool on a cooling tray and serve.Recipe Source: Feasting for Festivals by Jan Wilson, Lion Publishing Corporation, Batavia, Illinois, 1990