It is Mothering Sunday next weekend here in the UK. This is not the same as Mother's Day in other parts of the world as it is a holiday in Lent when in times gone by, apprentices and servants were allowed a Sunday off to visit their mothers and to attend church with their families. Nowadays it is a secular day when mothers can sit at home or be taken out for a lovely lunch!
It was traditional to present a Simnel cake to mothers on Mothering Sunday. Nowadays, simnel cakes are usually made as an Easter celebration.
4oz butter or margarine
4oz soft brown sugar
3 eggs, beaten
5oz plain flour
pinch of salt
½ tsp ground mixed spice (optional)
12oz mixed raisins, currants and sultanas
2oz chopped mixed peel
½ lemon, grated rind only
1-2 tbsp apricot jam
1 egg, beaten for glazing
For the almond paste (marzipan)
125g/4oz caster sugar
125g/4oz ground almonds
1 egg, beaten
½ tsp almond essence
Either use this recipe, or cheat and buy ready made marzipan!
Almond paste - place the sugar and ground almonds in a bowl. Add enough beaten egg to give a fairly soft consistency. Add the almond essence and knead for a minute until the paste is smooth and pliable. Roll out a third of the almond paste to make a circle 18cm/7in in diameter and reserve the remainder for topping of the cake.
Preheat oven to 140C/275F/ Gas 1.
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 spice (if using) a little at a time. Finally, add the dried fruit, peel and grated lemon rind and mix into the mixture well.
Put half the mixture in a greased and lined 18cm/7in cake tin. Smooth the top and cover with the circle of almond paste. Add the rest of the cake mixture and smooth the top leaving a slight dip in the centre to allow for the cake to rise. Bake in the preheated oven for 1½ hours. Once baked, remove from the oven and leave to cool.
When you are ready to decorate the cake, preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas 3.
Brush the top of the cooled cake with the apricot jam. Divide the remainder of the almond paste into two; roll out a circle to cover the top of the cake with one half and form 11 small balls with the other half.
Place the circle of paste on the jam and set the balls round the edge. Brush all the top with a little beaten egg.
Return the cake to the preheated oven for about 10 minutes or long enough for the almond paste to brown.