Simnel Cake with Pistachio Marzipan

Lotte Duncan's splendid cake has a deliciously different pistachio marzipan
By Lotte Duncan
Simnel Cake with Pistachio Marzipan
  • Rating:
  • Serves: Makes 1 x 18cm cake
  • Cook Time: 1 hour 30 minutes
  • Prep Time: 30 minutes
  • Effort: medium


For the pistachio marzipan

  • 125 g caster sugar
  • 125 g blanched, skinned ground pistachio nuts
  • 50 g ground almonds
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1/2 tsp orange flower water

For the simnel cake

  • 100 g butter
  • 100 g brown sugar
  • 3 eggs, beaten
  • 150 g plain flour
  • pinches salt
  • 1/2 tsp mixed spice
  • 350 g raisins and sultanas, mixed
  • 50 g dried cherries, chopped
  • 1-2 tbsp apricot jam
  • 1 egg, beaten for glazing


1. To make the pistachio paste; place the sugar, ground pistachios and almonds in a bowl. Add enough beaten egg to give a fairly soft paste. Add the orange flower water and knead for about 1 minute until the paste is smooth and pliable.

2. Roll out a third of the pistachio paste to an 18cm diameter circle, Reserve the remainder of the paste for topping the cake.

3. Preheat the oven to 140C/gas 1, and grease and line an 18cm round cake tin.

4. To make the simnel cake; cream the butter and sugar together until pale and fluffy.

5. Gradually beat in the eggs and then sift in the flour, salt and spices, a little at a time. Gently fold in the dried fruits and mix well.

6. Spoon half the mixture into a greased and lined 18cm round cake tin. Smooth the top and cover with the circle of pistachio paste.

7. Spoon in the rest of the cake mixture and smooth the top, leaving a slight dip in the centre to allow the cake to rise.

8. Bake for 1 hour 30 minutes. Cool in the tin for a few minutes then turn out onto a wire rack to finish cooling.

9. Increase the oven temperature to180C/gas 4.

10. Brush the top of the cooled cake with the apricot jam.

11. Divide the remainder of the pistachio paste into two. Roll out one half into a circle large enough to cover the top of the cake.

12. Roll the rest of the paste into 11 small balls - these represent the apostles (excluding Judas!). Place the circle of paste on the jam covered cake.

13. Place the balls round the edge of the cake. Brush the pistachio marzipan and the balls with a little beaten egg. Return the cake to the preheated oven for about 10 minutes until the pistachio paste is browned.

14. Decorate with coloured chocolate eggs and fluffy chicks.

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