Eggstravaganza Simnel cake


Step - final

Great British Bake-off contestant Cathryn Dresser’s Easter Simnel cake recipe on This Morning inspired me to get baking. I’ve swapped some of the ingredients to match up with what my Britalian kitchen cupboards had to offer. Hopefully my ‘alternative decorations’ will make the family smile and the camomile won’t send them to sleep!

Side note: Making the most of this baking ‘me time’, I discovered an Italian online radio station. Very motivational – you’ll be dancing with your mixing bowl guaranteed! This is what I got when I tuned in:

Visit for more Italiano supremo musico!

Back to the cake…

step 1

Serves: 10

Prep: 30 mins (plus soaking and cooling time)

Cook: 1hr 30 mins

1 good quality camomile teabag
175g soft unsalted butter
175g soft dark brown sugar
3 free range eggs, lightly beaten (clean and keep the broken shell of one egg to decorate)
175g self-raising flour
Pinch of salt
1tsp mixed spice
1tsp cinnamon
150g sultana and cinnamon apple baking additions by Sainsbury’s
250g mixed dried fruit
Grated zest of half an orange and 1/2 a lemon
500g marzipan, a little icing sugar to dust the worktops for rolling
Peach food colouring
2tbsp apricot jam
1tbsp brandy
250g ivory ready to roll icing
2tbsp mixed cake decorations, small sweets and chocolates

You will also need:

1 loose-bottomed 7in cake tin

1 Pop the teabag in 500ml of freshly boiled water once brewed, remove the teabag. Put all the dried fruit in a bowl and pour the tea over and leave to soak for about an hour.

Step 2

2 Pre-heat the oven to 150C. Use the base of the cake tin to make a cardboard template for cutting out the marzipan. Grease and line the tin.

3 Cream the butter and sugar until smooth and pale. Slowly add the beaten egg. Mix in the flour, salt, cinnamon and mixed spice. Fold through the soaked fruit (drained of any excess liquid) and zests.

4 Pour half the mixture into the prepared tin and smooth. Knead the colouring into the marzipan (See Britalian Tip). Knead 1/3 of the marzipan roll out and cut out a circle. Lay this in the tin and pour the rest of the mixture on top, smooth it out and leave a small dip to allow for it to rise in the centre.

step - disk 2

5 Bake in the oven for about 1hr 30mins until a skewer comes out clean. Turn out and allow to cool.

6 Brush the top with apricot jam. Knead 1/2 the remaining marzipan and cut out another disc to lay on top. Brush with the brandy. Knead the ready to roll ivory icing and cut another disc to lay on top of the marzipan – this time use a sharp knife to cut a zig-zag pattern as you cut round the template. Divide the rest of the marzipan into 11 and roll into egg shapes.

step eggs

7 It’s all in the detail. Pick 3 eggs and give them an ultra realistic touch, insert cocktail sticks into the base of each, then push into half a potato to keep them steady, brush with beaten egg, then blow torch to create a speckled effect.

step - blow torch

8 Place all the eggs around the cake, use a little cooled boiled water at the base to help them stick if needed, place the egg shell in the middle and spoon in the cake decorations and chocolates. Finally decorate with Easter chicks.

step- close up

Britalian Tip

step - blob

Re: step 4: This is where it nearly all went wrong. Disappointed with the au-naturale colour of the marzipan ie. biscuit rather than my late Nan’s day-glow yellow. I thought, why not add some food colouring, not put off by the fact I didn’t have any yellow (used it all up on the biscuits in Food News #2), I thought I would try peach (yes I have peach – that’s another story), rather than looking all lovely and pastel-Easter-esque, I ended up with what looked like a blob of skin….or could it be egg shell?! Brainwave hits! If you prefer a more classic decoration see link below.

For Cathryn’s original recipe visit

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