Catholic Culture Podcasts
Catholic Culture Podcasts

Catholic Recipe: Simnel Cake IV


  • 2 generous cups best-quality sultanas
  • 1 1/2 generous cups best-quality currants
  • 1 1/2 cups best-quality raisins
  • 1/2 cup natural glace cherries, washed and chopped
  • 1/2 cup best-quality candied peel
  • scant 1/2 cup whole almonds, skinned
  • generous 1/2 cup ground almonds
  • zest of 1 lemon
  • zest of 1 orange
  • generous 1/4 cup Irish whiskey
  • 2 sticks butter
  • 1 1/2 cups pale soft brown sugar
  • 6 eggs, beaten
  • 2 1/4 cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon mixed spice
  • 1 large or 2 small Bramley Seedling apples, grated Almond paste
  • 4 cups ground almonds
  • 2 cups caster sugar
  • 2 small eggs
  • 1/4 cup Irish whiskey
  • a drop of almond essence


Yield: 1 cake

Prep Time: 5 1/2 hours

Difficulty:  ★★★☆

Cost:  ★★★☆

For Ages: 15+

Origin: Ireland


Food Categories (2)


Similar Recipes (5)


Linked Activities (1)


Feasts (4)


Seasons (1)

This traditional Easter cake was introduced to Ireland centuries ago by English settlers. It has a layer of almond paste baked into the centre and a thick layer of almond icing on top and is decorated with eleven little marzipan balls, representing eleven of the twelve apostles - Judas is missing because he betrayed Jesus.

This is also the traditional cake baked for Mothering Sunday, or the Third Sunday in Lent, Laetare Sunday.

On November 9, the church celebrates the dedication of the Lateran Basilica, called “mother and head of all the churches of the city and the world.” Since this is the "mother church" this is also a day for simnel cake.


1. Line the base and sides of a 9 inch round, or a 20.5 cm/8 inch square tin with brown paper and greaseproof paper.

2. Mix the dried fruit, nuts, ground almonds and orange and lemon zest. Add the whiskey and leave for 1 hour to macerate.

3. Meanwhile make the almond paste. Sieve the sugar and mix with the ground almonds. Beat the eggs, add the whiskey and 1 drop of pure almond essence, then add to the other ingredients and mix to a stiff paste (you may not need all the egg).

4. Sprinkle the work top with icing (confectioner's) sugar, turn out the almond paste and work lightly until smooth. Set aside.

5. Cream the butter until very soft, add the sugar and beat until light and fluffy.

6. Add the eggs bit by bit, beating well between each addition so that the mixture doesn't curdle.

7. Mix the spice with the flour and fold in gently.

8. Combine the grated apple and the fruit and stir gently but thoroughly into the cake mixture (don't beat again or you will toughen the cake.)

9. Put half of the cake mixture into the prepared tin.

10. Roll out half the almond paste into a 21.5 cm/8 1/2 inch round, place this on top of the cake mixture in the tin and cover with the remaining mixture. Make a slight hollow in the centre and dip your hand in water and pat it over the surface of the cake: this will ensure that the top is smooth when cooked.

11. Bake in a preheated 325 degree oven for one hour, then reduce the heat to 300 degrees and bake for a further two hours, or until the cake is cooked (a skewer inserted in the centre should come out perfectly clean). Leave to cool in the tin.

12. Next day remove the cake from the tin. Do not remove the lining paper but wrap in some extra greaseproof paper and tinfoil until required.

13. When you are ready to ice the cake, roll two-thirds of the remaining almond paste into a 9 inch round. Brush the cake with a little lightly beaten egg white and top with the paste.

14. Roll the remaining almond paste into eleven balls about the size of a large walnut. Score the top of the cake in 1 1/2 inch squares and brush with beaten egg or egg yolk. Stick the 'apostles' around the outer edge of the top and brush with beaten egg. Toast under a grill in a preheated 425 degree oven, for 15-20 minutes or until slightly golden. (Protect the sides with tin foil.)

15. Decorate with an Easter chicken.

Note: This cake is usually only iced on top but we enjoy the toasted almond paste so much that we like to cover the sides also!

Recipe Source: Festive Food of Ireland, The by Darina Allen, Kyle Cathie Limited, 1992