Vegan and Gluten-Free Deliciousness….
According to Wikipedia, Simnel Cake is a fruit cake with two layers of marzipan, one in the middle and one on top. It’s traditionally made at Easter time. No-one seems to be quite sure what ‘simnel’ means. Simnel cakes have been known since medieval times. Different regions had their own version of Simnel Cake, and here’s a vegan and gluten-free one to add to the list.
I’ve flavoured mine with orange, cinnamon and ginger, and I’ve added grated carrot to help keep it moist and fragrant.
I bought ready-made, vegan, white marzipan, but feel free to make your own almond paste.
I hope you enjoy.
- 300 gms. gluten-free flour suitable for cakes. (I used 200gms. white GF. self-raising flour, and 100gms. coconut flour. If you prefer, please use your own favourite blend of gluten-free flour that’s good for baking!).
- 1 tsp. cinnamon powder.
- I tsp. ginger powder.
- 5-6 tsps. baking powder (baking soda) : If using self-raising flour add only 5 tsps. baking powder. Otherwise add 6 tsps.
- 175 gms. vegan spread : suitable for baking.
- 175 gms. sugar: I used light raw muscovado.
- 150 ml. aquafaba (chickpea juice)
- 250 gms. carrots: peeled, washed, trimmed and grated fairly finely.
- 350 gms. dried mixed fruit: e.g. sultanas, rasins, currants.
- Zest and juice of 1 large organic orange (I used a lovely blood orange).
- 100 – 130 ml. non-dairy milk. (I used almond milk).
- 500 gms. marzipan.
- 2 tbs. jam ( e.g. apricot jam): mixed with 1 tbs. water.
- Whole almonds for decoration. (Optional).
- Take 50gms. of the flour, and mix with the dried fruit to coat the fruit. Cook’s Note: This helps stop the fruit from sinking to the bottom of the cake during baking.
- Thoroughly combine the rest of the dry ingredients together and set aside.
- In a large bowl, place the unbeaten aquafaba, the vegan spread, and the sugar.
- Using an electric whisk, whisk them together until smooth, light and creamy. This should take about 3 mins.
- Add grated carrot to the blended mix, and stir in with a wooden spoon, to combine.
- Add the orange zest and orange juice. Stir to combine.
- Stir in 100 ml. non-dairy milk.
- Carefully fold the dry ingredients into the cake mix. Combine thoroughly.
- Finally add the flour-coated dried fruit.
- Add a little more milk (20-30ml) if necessary.
- The mix should be neither too wet nor too dry: (see pics.).
Construct the cake ready for baking:
- Take a round cake tin : approx. 21cm. diameter X 7 cm deep. (I used a spring-form tin).
- Divide the marzipan into 3 pieces: 2 x 200gms. plus 1 x 100gms.
- Roll out one piece 200gms. into a circle the same diameter as your cake tin. Use the cake tin as a template to cut exactly the right size.
- Repeat with the second 200 gm. piece of marzipan and then set aside for decoration.
- Lightly grease the interior of the cake tin and then coat lightly with 1 tbs. flour. Place the flour in the greased tin and then shake until the flour is evenly distributed around the tin.
- Place half the cake mixture in the tin, and smooth out evenly to the sides, using the flat side of a butter knife.
- Place the first circle of marzipan over the cake mix.
- Add the rest of the cake mixture, and again smooth evenly to the edge of the tin. Try to avoid compacting the mix.
- Place the cake tin on a baking sheet.
- Cut out a large piece of grease=proof paper, enough to shroud the cake without touching the top of the cake.
- Cut a hole approx. 2 cm. square in the centre of the grease-proof paper. (See pics.).
- Place the baking sheet with the cake in a pre-heated oven Gas Mk 4 / 180C.
- Bake for 45 mins.
- Remove the grease-proof paper and bake the cake uncovered for a further 15 mins.
- Test the cake by plunging a thin skewer vertically into the centre of the cake. The skewer will come out clean when the cake is done.
- Remove the cake from the oven and allow the cake to cool completely before removing the cake from the tin.
- Remove the cake from the tin, and place on a cooling rack.
Decorate the cake:
- Take the final 100gms. marzipan and get creative with you decorations.
- Cook’s note: traditionally, a Simnel Cake was decorated with 12 balls of marzipan representing the 12 apostles.
- I made 8 flowers plus a large one for the middle, using pastry cutters. I used two different sizes to make double layered flowers.
- When the cake is completely cool, brush the cake top surface with the prepared jam/water mix.
- Lay the second circle of marzipan over the cake, so it covers the edges of the cake. Decorate the edges… I made a wavy edge by gently pressing the curves between two fingers.
- Brushing the underside of your decorations lightly with jam/water mix, arrange them on the marzipan circle.
- Arrange almonds (also brushed with jam), if using. Press them gently into the marzipan.
- Place the cake back on the baking sheet.
- Toast the surface of the marzipan under the grill : making sure the marzipan is not too close to the heat. Keep a very watchful eye to avoid burning, and turn the cake as necessary until evenly toasted. (See pics.).
Allow the toasted marzipan to cool before serving.