Mini Easter simnel cakes flavoured with earl grey tea and sweetened with dried fruit. A perfect Easter treat to bake for your family. Easily adapted to be dairy free and vegan.
Simnel cake is a delicious fruit cake which is often baked at Easter time. My version is flavoured with earl grey tea and made in mini loaf tins*. I’ve cut out some of the sugar by using date purée instead of sugar to sweeten these – plus of course the dried fruit. If you don’t use marzipan then these are completely naturally sweetened.
These were a huge success with my kids – they all loved them, although Miss R, 6, preferred the version without marzipan. They’re also a great lunchbox addition – but remember that marzipan contains nuts so leave it out if your school is nut free. I’d cut them in half for young children as they’re fairly filling.
What is the history of the simnel cake?
Simnel cakes have become synonymous with Easter. Made with spices and dried fruit they’re lighter than a Christmas cake but just as delicious. They often contain marzipan, or almond paste, both in the middle of the cake and on the top. Usually made as one big cake it’s traditional to add 11 marzipan balls to the top. These represent the 12 apostles, minus Judas.
When first made in the medieval times this Easter cake would have been boiled first and then baked. There’s rather an entertaining story about why this was the case – to do with a couple called Simon and Nelly who could not agree on the method to make the cake so decided to do both. Nowadays it’s usually just baked. It’s often said that simnel cakes used to be made by working girls to take home for Mothering Sunday but it seems that there’s some uncertainty about whether this was really the case or not. Read more about the history of the simnel cake on Wikipedia.
Here’s how to make mini earl grey Easter simnel cakes
These healthy Easter cakes can be served without the marzipan topping if you prefer.
Mini Easter simnel cakes
- 350 g mixed dried fruits or raisins
- Soaked in 400ml earl grey tea
- 100 g dates soaked
- 150 g butter or non dairy spread
- 4 eggs or chia eggs 4 tbsp ground chia seeds mixed with 16 tbsp water
- 200 g spelt flour
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 1 tsp ground cinnamon
- 1 tsp mixed spice
- Zest of one orange
- 250 g marzipan optional
The night before you want to make these cakes soak the dried fruits in the hot tea.
Preheat the oven to 160°C fan/180°C/gas mark 5.
Grease a 12 hole mini loaf tin. Mine has removable bottoms but you may wish to use liners or greaseproof paper if yours doesn’t.
Drain and roughly chop your dates and blend them to a purée using a small food processor.
Beat the butter with an electric mixer or a wooden spoon until smooth and creamy.
Beat in the date purée, followed by the chia eggs.
Fold in the flour, baking powder and spices.
Finally gently mix in the orange zest and dried fruit mixture.
If you are using the marzipan half fill the loaf tins with the cake mixture, grate a little marzipan on top of each and then fill to the top with cake mixture.
If you're not using marzipan then simply fill to the top with cake mixture.
Bake for 45 mins or until firm to the touch and cooked through.
Allow to cool on a wire rack.
If using marzipan, brush the tops of the cakes with a little melted apricot jam. Roll out the marzipan and cut 12 rectangles out (the removable bases from my loaf tins were perfect for this). Place on top of each cake and score a pattern using a sharp knife if you wish. Roll little balls with any remaining marzipan and stick to the top of each cake using a tiny drop of apricot jam.
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