It’s nearly Easter! The enemy holiday of dieters!
Easter is great. It’s almost like a mini Christmas. Getting together with family to share food and have a good time. And the chocolate! Oh, so much chocolate.
Well, being on a diet this year, I’m *trying* to avoid eating too much chocolate. I had originally planned this week’s blog to be an old favourite bake, but the base is a chocolate cupcake, and I made some of those at the weekend! So, I thought, what can I make that’s both Easter-y and not chocolate-y? I hit up Google and Pinterest for ideas, and most of them were decoration ideas rather than actual bake ideas. And then I stumbled across this little gem on the Lakeland website – not the first place I would have thought to look, but what a great recipe!
The recipe was designed for their mini sandwich tins, one of which I currently do not own, so I improvised and used my muffin tins. It means the sides aren’t straight, but the overall effect is still cute – like Simnel cupcakes. Adorable.
This was a pretty big adventure in baking for me, as I have never made either marzipan or any kind of fruit cake before, unless you count these carrot cakes! I almost didn’t bother and was ready to buy a block of ready made, but then I manned up and decided to give it a go. I was wary about using raw egg in the marzipan (because the top wouldn’t get completely cooked and I’m funny about some raw foods…), but after a bit of investigating, I found that most recipes for marzipan just use the whites. I found some sachets of dried egg white powder in my local supermarket and decided to give those a try! I still wasn’t completely convinced, as when I made it up, there was a strange smell coming from them. But after another Google, I found that this was pretty standard for dried egg white, so took a deep breath and chucked it in. Once mixed with the almonds and sugar there is no smell or taste so I call it a win. I added a little extra water a bit at a time as it was still dry, and actually ended up putting a bit too much in, so ended up with quite a sticky marzipan. So, tip of the day is persevere with your mixing rather than getting impatient! It won’t ruin it but it will make it supremely difficult to roll and cut out if it’s too wet!
As far as taste goes, these are scrummy! A delightful balance of sweet marzipan and rich fruit. The outside is just ever so slightly crunchy-chewy, and the middle is soft and gorgeous where the marzipan has almost-but-not-quite melted into the cake. Mmm. And much better for you than chocolate. Well, marginally better for you. I mean, there’s fruit in them, so that’s good…right?
Mini Simnel Cakes
Makes 12 mini cakes
- 250g caster sugar
- 250g ground almonds
- 2 eggs, beaten (or just egg whites, or dried egg white powder)
- 1 tsp almond essence
- 110g butter
- 110g soft brown sugar
- 3 eggs, beaten
- 150g plain flour
- Pinch of salt
- Half a tsp ground mixed spice
- 350g mixed raisins, sultanas and currants
- 55g chopped mixed peel
- Zest of half a lemon
- 2 tbsp apricot jam
- For the the marzipan, mix the sugar and almonds together and add enough beaten egg to achieve a fairly soft consistency. Add the almond essence and knead until paste is smooth – if the mix seems dry, add a little water, but not too much. It’s best to do it by hand to feel the how wet the marzipan is. Roll out a third of the paste and cut out 12 x 6cm circles, or if using a muffin tin, 5cm circles, and reserve the rest for the tops and the marzipan decoration.
- Preheat the oven to 140°C. Grease a mini sandwich tin, or line a muffin tin with cases or silicone moulds
- Cream the butter and sugar together until fluffy then gradually beat in the eggs until well mixed. Sift in the flour, salt and mixed spice. Add the dried fruit, peel and lemon zest and mix thoroughly
- Place half the mixture into the holes of the tin, smooth the tops and cover with the marzipan circles. Add the remaining mixture and smooth the tops, leaving a slight dip in the middle of each to allow for rising
- Bake for 45 minutes then allow to cool completely on a wire rack.
- Turn the oven up to 180°C. Once cool, brush the top of the cakes with the apricot jam. Roll out half the remaining marzipan and cut out 12 x 6cm circles, place on top of the cakes and crimp the edges. Roll the remaining marzipan into balls or any other decoration for each cake and place on top of the cakes around the edges. Put back in the oven for about 6 minutes or until the marzipan begins to brown – mine took about 10 in the end.
You can find the original recipe I have used here.