Tag Archives: Holidays

Nigella Lawson? I Don’t Think So – Nightmare Easter Simnel Cake

Nigella Caricature – Kindly Provided By Ian Baker – http://www.ianbakercartoons.co.uk & http://www.221artstore.co.uk

I decided I was going to do some baking over the Easter holiday.

Working full-time means that from time to time I have feelings of guilt over the lack of home-baked treats provided for the family.   Whenever I have time off; I try to emulate, albeit a rather poor version of Nigella Lawson and bake things.

So; I decided to make an Easter Simnel Cake.  The first hurdle was trying to actually remember  the name of this Easter delicacy and after several hours spent trawling the net and being presented with a never-ending list of recipes for chocolate egg nests and hot cross bunnies; I finally found the recipe I was looking for.

This traditional recipe called for a lot of work and from the onset I had a feeling of trepidation.    The main one being the need to make ones own Almond paste (Marzipan).  Apparently shop bought, has too much sugar in it and will melt during cooking; I was reliably informed via the recipe, that by making my own, this would not happen.  I should just point out, just in case you are not aware; that Simnel cake has a layer of marzipan running through the middle.

Well, I did exactly as the recipe directed;  by placing about half of Asia and Africa’s supply of almonds and a specified amount of Tate & Lyle into a bowl and although the almond paste looked and smelt like marzipan, it did not taste like marzipan.

Never being one to give up and  no matter the lingering harbinger of doom,  I just deposited half a bottle of almond essence into the mixture and hoped for the best.  Unfortunately the paste was a bit too pliable after this, even though the other amounts used were to the letter,  so to counteract this, I left the lump of pseudo marzipan by the central heating boiler to dry out.  This seemed to work quite well actually.

The ingredient to cake mixture conversion proceeded without any complications and the result was a yummy looking concoction of fruit, eggs, flour and spices ready to go into the cake tin.  This of course raised my spirits somewhat.

I transferred half the cake mixture from food processor to cake tin; placed my previously rolled out layer of  dried out almond paste, courtesy of the central heating boiler, on the top and then the rest of the cake mixture on top of the almond paste.   By this time, although feeling a little frazzled, my mood had changed from apprehensive to very optimistic.

I put the cake in the oven, cooked it for what seemed like half a year on a very low heat as instructed; and whilst waiting, stuffed my face with easter eggs and happily envisioned the amazed expressions on the faces of my family when presented with the results of my culinary genius.

The recipe suggested that I insert a clean knife into the cake from time to time; to test whether the cake was cooked and ready to remove from the oven, so I did.  Unfortunately each time I did so, the knife, when removed still had uncooked residue adhering to it, almost three hours later.

So, I left it for another half an hour and finally took it out.   The cake looked and smelt stunning, unfortunately at this point I didn’t.  How exactly does Nigella still manage to look like a goddess, even after the stress of cooking one has  to ask?   When I, even though wearing a particularly eyecatchingly elegant pair of Jasper Conran Pyjamas, looked like a deranged and disheveled, flour splattered bag lady?

After letting my portrayal of culinary magnificence cool for a while, I placed yet another previously rolled out layer of  dried out almond paste, courtesy of the central heating boiler on top of the cake, followed by eleven balls of left over almond paste to represent the apostles, minus Judas.  Although isn’t leaving Judas out just a tad unfair, as if the new testament is to be believed, then Judas only did that, which was previously organised/predestined by God (Jesus) anyway?

A finished Simnel Cake should look something like this….

Talking about predestined, it was predestined that my Simnel cake was going to look more like ones depicted version of a hopelessly drunken Nigella’s unfinished Christmas cake, rather than the spectacular comestible I had envisioned.

The almond paste in the middle of the cake did melt; there was no sign of it upon cutting.

When slices were presented to the family for tasting, I was informed that it was ‘moist’.  That’s it, moist!

It’s no wonder the blasted thing was ‘moist’ with all that melted marzipan inside it.

I defy anyone to tell me that their Simnel Cake always has a distinctive layer of golden almond paste running through the middle of it, without them having surreptitiously sliced the cake in half, thrown a rolled out layer of previously bought shop marzipan on one half and then squeezed the two sections of cake back together again.

I also defy anyone to tell me that after baking a Simnel cake, they managed to look as dapper and well-groomed  as Nigella.

My next challenge will be Christmas Stollen.  I told you… I don’t give up easily.

Update:  04/04/2012 – I just realised that the Url for Nigella’s recipe has now changed; the new Url is displayed below.  Happy Easter and Happy Cooking.


Note:  At the time of writing this blog post (2010) I did not use Nigella’s recipe.  In 2011 I did and it is a great recipe.

Tip: Nigella’s recipe calls for a blow torch to brown the marzipan cake top; the grill works just as well if you don’t have a blow torch , but be careful; watch it like a hawk, as brown can turn to burnt very quickly (sigh).  Nigella also uses shop bought Marzipan!