March 10, 2013

Simnel cake with candied Primroses

Winter is officially over.  I wish someone would tell the Yorkshire weather!  Despite the cold, the rain and this morning’s snow our garden is being brightened by beautiful Primroses Primula vulgaris.  So we thought we should enjoy eating a few too.


We do not recommend that you harvest primroses from the wild, they really are too scarce and in some places protected by the law, but picked from your own garden these delicate yellow blooms can be used in sorts of culinary ways.  Here we have used them candied to add colour and decoration to a Simnel cake.

The Simnel cake has been around for centuries, and was originally eaten on the middle Sunday of lent (refreshment Sunday) when fasting was relaxed briefly, later the cake was often baked by young girls in service to take home for their mothers on Mothering Sunday and also often at Easter.

In the late Victorian era it became the norm to decorate the top of the cake with 11 marzipan balls to represent the apostles (minus Judas) but before this the cake was more likely to be adorned with candied fruit and flowers.

Here is Rose’s version with Primroses.

For the flowers

Primrose flowers

1 egg white

1 tblsp cold water

caster sugar

Mix the egg white and water thoroughly and the paint a thin layer on to each flower. Toss the flowers in caster sugar and lay them on baking parchment. Dry them in an airing cupboard or similar warm place. When they are completely dry you can store the flowers in an airtight container for a couple of weeks.

For the marzipan

350g ground almonds.

250g Icing sugar.

1 tblsp lemon juice.

3 egg yolks, beaten.

Mix together the almonds and sugar, stir in the lemon juice then the egg yolks a little at a time. Now knead the mixture into a stiff paste. Wrap it in cling film and allow to rest while you start the cake.

For the cake.

250g plain flour.

1/2 tsp salt.

2 tsp baking powder.

1 tsp mixed spice.

200g soft butter.

200g light brown sugar.

3 eggs.

juice of 1 lemon and 1/2 and orange.

200g raisins, 200g crrants, 200g sultanas.

100g mixed chopped peel.

zest of 1 lemon and 1 orange.

Cream together the butter and sugar until pale and fluffy, then beat in the eggs a bit at a time. Sift the flour, salt, baking powder and mixed spice together and slowly fold into the butter/sugar/egg mix along with the citrus juices.

Now fold in all the dry fruit and zest and mix until you have a well blended mix.

Butter and line a tall 20cm cake tin and add half the mix.  Roll out half the marzipan to a circle that fits snugly into the tin. Lay this on top of the mix and then add the remaining mix on top.

Bake at 150 degrees C (gas mark 2) for 2-2 1/2 hours until the top of the cake is brown and a skewer push into the cak comes out clean.

Remove from the oven and leave to cool in the tin. When cool, turn out and brush the top with jam. Roll out the rest of the marzipan into a neat circle and place it onto the cake.  The marzipan is traditionally glazed under a hot grill or blow lamp.

Decorate with your candied Primroses.

Simnel cake with candied Primrose

Simnel cake

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