Thursday, April 15, 2010

Simnel Cake

Simnel cake is a British fruit cake that is served at Easter.

Traditionally it should have 11 marzipan balls placed around the rim to symbolise the apostles (Judas excluded)

As I'm not religious, but do love cake, I replaced the apostles with Pac-Man chasing ghosts. I then realised I could give it the pun-tacular title of a Pâques-Man cake (Pâques is French for Easter) and giggled for longer than was necessary at my own joke.

The cake is tasty and light, the marzipan layer in the middle really lifts it above mere fruitcake.


175g butter
175g soft brown sugar
3 eggs, beaten
175g plain flour
pinch salt
½ tsp ground mixed spice
400g mixed fruit (raisins, currants, sultanas and mixed peel)
2 tbsp apricot jam
1 packet of yellow marzipan
1 free-range egg, beaten for glazing

Preheat oven to 140C. Grease and line a 18cm cake tin.

In a large mixing bowl, cream the butter and sugar together until pale and fluffy.

Gradually beat in the eggs until well incorporated and then sift in the flour, salt and mixed spice a little at a time.

Finally, add the mixed dried fruit and stir into the mixture.

Put half the mixture into the prepared cake tin.

Take a third of your marzipan and roll it out into a circle 18cm in diameter. Lay this circle on top of the cake batter in the cake tin.

Add the rest of the cake mixture and smooth the top.

Bake in the preheated oven for 1¾ hours or until a skewer inserted in the middle of the cake comes away cleanly.

Remove from the oven and set aside to cool on a wire rack.

Brush the top of the cooled cake with the apricot jam.

Divide the remainder of the marzipan in half; roll out another circle to cover the top of the cake with one half and use the remaining marzipan to decorate your cake, either with balls or Paque-man.

Place the circle of marzipan on the jam glaze and set the decorations round the edge. Brush the cake topping with a little beaten egg.

Preheat the grill to high. Place the cake onto a baking tray and grill until the top of the marzipan begins to toast.

You can also use a blow-torch to toast the marzipan if you are lucky enough to have one!

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Chocolate Cake with Olive Oil and Sea Salt

This cake is amazing. Moist, chocolatey, with a hint of the olive oil and sea salt that just brings it to another level and makes it a very indulgent, adult cake.


200g dark chocolate (70% cocoa)
175g unsalted butter
4 eggs
150g caster sugar
60g plain flour
1½ tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp sea salt
3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

For the ganache -

400ml double cream
200g dark chocolate (70% cocoa)

Preheat the oven to 200C.

Grease and line a 19 cm round springform cake tin with parchment paper.

Melt the chocolate and butter together in saucepan on a low heat, stirring constantly until completely melted.

In a large bowl, beat the sugar and eggs until pale and fluffy. Add in the flour, a tablespoonful at a time, along with the baking powder and sea salt.

Fold in the melted chocolate and butter mixture and the olive oil until no streaks of flour are visible.

Bake cake for 30-40 minutes, or until a skewer inserted in the middle comes away cleanly. Cool on a wire rack before removing from the cake tin.

While the cake is cooking you can prepare the ganache.

Place the cream in a saucepan and heat it just to a simmer, don't let the cream boil. Then, remove from heat and add the chocolate but don't stir it until the chocolate has melted. It will help the chocolate melt if you break it up into pieces first.

Place in the fridge for an hour or so to cool and thicken.

When the cake and the ganache have cooled, cut the cake horizontally so you have two equal discs.

Put half of the ganache on the bottom half, spreading carefully with a palette knife to make it even, and place the other half cake on top.

Put the rest of the ganache on top of the cake and spread evenly down the cake’s top and sides.

Keep the cake in the fridge, taking it out about an hour before you want to serve it.