Video: Cook the perfect Easter Simnel Cake, with Bettys

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IT’S EASTER time and what better way to celebrate this time of year than with a delicious Simnel Cake.

The traditional cake is baked with a marzipan topping that represents the Christian story of Easter and The Yorkshire Post was invited by one of the region’s leading cookery schools to film a masterclass in how to make a Simnel Cake that will delight your family and friends.

Betty's simnel cake

Betty's simnel cake

Click on the video button to watch a top chef from Bettys Cookery School in Harrogate prepare and bake a Simnel Cake.

TRY IT YOURSELF:

Ingredients

Makes a 20cm diameter cake

1kg home-made marzipan (recipe below)

260g butter

260g caster sugar

4 large eggs

350g plain white flour

pinch of salt

¾ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

¾ teaspoon ground cinnamon

350g raisins

175g sultanas

150g whole mixed peel (lemon, orange and citron), finely chopped

200g naturally coloured glacé cherries

For the decoration: remaining marzipan

2 teaspoons apricot jam

2 teaspoons water

1 egg, beaten soaked in 50ml sherry for several hours

Method

1. Preheat the oven to 145ºC (gas mark 1½). Take roughly one third of the home-made marzipan, then wrap the rest in foil and store in the fridge until needed to decorate the cake. Sprinkle the work surface with icing sugar and roll out the marzipan until it is slightly larger than the base of a 20cm diameter x 8cm deep loose-bottomed cake tin. Using the base of the cake tin as a guide, cut out a circle of marzipan. Set aside.

2. Line the sides and bottom of the cake tin with baking parchment.

3. Beat together the butter and the sugar in a large mixing bowl until pale and creamy. Add the eggs, one by one, mixing in well.

4. Blend together the flour, salt and spices and add gradually to the mixture. Add the sherry, raisins and sultanas, followed by the peel. Gently stir in the cherries so that they remain whole.

5. Spoon half the mixture into the cake tin and flatten. Place the circle of marzipan on top and then add the rest of the cake mixture to fill the cake tin.

6. Bake in the preheated oven for approximately 2½ hours. The cake will be ready when it is golden brown on top and firm to the touch. Pierce the centre with a thin skewer – it should come out clean.

7. When cool enough to handle, remove from the cake tin and leave to cool on a cooling rack. To store, wrap in tin

foil and place in an airtight container in a cool place.

To decorate

1. Divide the remaining marzipan into two halves. With one half make eleven round balls. Roll out the second half until you have a circle of marzipan large enough to cover the top of the cake. Using the base of the cake tin as a guide, cut out a circle of marzipan as before. Set aside.

2. Combine the apricot jam and water in a small pan and heat gently until the mixture becomes syrupy. Allow to cool slightly then brush over the surface of the cake.

3. Preheat the grill. Carefully lift the marzipan onto the top of the cake and press gently with the rolling pin to flatten the surface.

4. Create your own artistic patterns on the marzipan – I use a broad-bladed knife to make a criss-cross pattern.

5. Once you are happy with your design, brush the surface sparingly with the beaten egg and immediately place the cake under the grill. Watch carefully as the marzipan colours very quickly. When it has turned a pale, golden brown remove it immediately.

6. Now place your marzipan balls evenly around the edge of the cake, pressing them onto the toasted marzipan. Brush the tops of the balls with beaten egg and place under the grill again. Remove when both cake and balls are a deep golden brown.

7. When cool, cover the sides of the cake as desired.

Marzipan ingredients

Makes approximately 1kg

250g icing sugar

250g caster sugar

500g ground almonds

2 dessertspoons sherry or rum

2 teaspoons orange flower water

2 dessertspoons freshly squeezed lemon juice

a few drops of vanilla extract

2 medium eggs, lightly beaten

Method

1. Mix all the dry ingredients together in a large mixing bowl. Add the sherry or rum, orange flower water, lemon juice and vanilla extract.

2. Gradually add the beaten eggs whilst working the ingredients together to form a stiff paste – you may find you do not need to add all of the egg.

3. Lightly dust the work surface with icing sugar, and knead the marzipan until smooth.

4. If not being used immediately, wrap in tin foil and store in the fridge for up to 2 weeks.

• Recipe from A Year of Family Recipes by Lesley Wild, founder of Bettys Cookery School. Available at the six Bettys Cafe Tea Rooms or online at www.bettys.co.uk, priced £25

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