Simnel Cupcakes, a delicious twist on the classic Easter cake recipe, but so much quicker and easier to make. A light sponge packed with dried fruit and hidden marzipan eggs, and topped with a layer of marzipan and marzipan balls- this really is the ultimate Spring treat. Perfect for Mother's Day too.
A traditional spring dessert
If the classic Simnel Cake takes hours to bake, these pretty little cupcakes are out of the oven in only 25 minutes. They are so easy to make, it's just a matter of creaming the butter and sugar together, then adding the rest of the ingredients - it can't possibly get any easier.
But what is a Simnel Cake, you may ask? The cake has been around for quite a bit, being associated with Spring in general. Easter and Mother's Day are the 2 most important family celebrations around this time of the year, so it makes sense for this cake to appear on the menu.
The cake has a light fruit sponge, a layer of marzipan in the middle and another one in top. It is traditionally decorated with 11 marzipan balls, symbolising the discipes of Jesus, minus Judas.
The cake itself is quite similar with the Christmas Cake, which also uses mixed dried fruit and has the same kind of texture. The only difference is that the Christmas dessert uses alcohol, where the Spring one doesn't.
- flour - I used self-raising flour, but plain or all purpose flour could also work
- butter - at room temperature
- light brown sugar - it gives colour and a slight caramelisation to the sponge
- spices - mixed spice and cinnamon
- orange juice - either freshly-squeezed juice or store-bought
- eggs - at room temperature
- mixed dried fruit
- golden martizan - ready-made is just fine
- apricot jam - for glazing the muffins, it helps stick the marzipan to the muffins much better
Step-by-step photos and instructions
Making these cupcakes (or call them simnel muffins, it's up to you) really is a piece of cake. If you don't want to use that much marzipan, you can leave the hidden eggs out, and just top them for that signature touch.
- mix the dried fruit with the orange juice, and simmer them for 2-3 minutes for the fruit to absorb the juice
- in a bowl, beat the soften butter and sugar together
- add the eggs one by one beating well after each addition
- in go the flour, mixed dried fruit and mixed spice
- use a spatula to mix everything well
- line a muffin tin with 10 muffin cases, quarter fill each muffin case with batter, add one marzipan egg in the middle, then top with more batter
- bake in the preheated oven at 180 degrees Celsius (350 Fahrenheit) for 25 minutes until the top is golden and firm to touch, and a skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean
- leave to cool, then brush each cupcake with warm apricot jam
- roll 3 quarters of the remaining marzipan, and cut out 10 circles, then use the rest to form 10 balls
- top each cupcake with one marzipan circle and one ball
My recipe has been adapted from Lemon Simnel Cupcakes recipe by Waitrose. Their recipe uses lemon juice and zest instead of orange, and the spices are left out. It really goes to show how easy it is to make the recipe your own and tweak it to your own taste.
The addition of marzipan eggs in the middle of each cupcake was inspired by my Cadbury Creme Egg Cupcakes which use chocolate eggs in the middle for a more indulgent touch. And what a treat they are!
If you want to leave the mixed spice out, that's absolutely fine, the cupcakes still have a lovely taste. If you don't have apricot jam, this can be swapped for any other jam you have around, but we do need some, otherwise the marzipan might not stick to the cupcakes properly.
Browning the top is again optional, if you don't have time/can't be bothered with the grilling part, that's absolutely fine, it has more of an aesthetic role here. And here we have some proper scrumptious dessert to celebrate Spring the way it should. Do give them a go, you will love them!
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- 150 g butter
- 150 g self-rising flour
- 150 g light brown sugar
- 2 eggs
- 175 g mixed dried fruit
- juice from 2 oranges
- ½ teaspoon mixed spice
- 2 tablespoon apricot jam
- 500 g yellow marzipan
- Mix the dried fruit with the orange juice, and simmer on a medium heat for 2-3 minutes for the fruit to soak up some of the juice.
- Remove from the heat and set aside.
- In a large bowl, add the soften butter with the sugar, and use a hand mixer to beat well to get a creamy texture.
- Add the eggs one by one, mixing well after each addition.
- In go the dried fruit and the juice that has not been absorbed, sifted flour and mixed spice.
- Use a spatula to mix everything into a batter.
- Line a muffin tin with muffin/cupcake cases - the batter was enough for 10 cupcakes.
- Cut a quarter of the marzipan out and roll 10 small balls/eggs.
- Quarter fill each case with batter, add the marzipan ball, then cover with more batter.
- Bake in the preheated oven at 180 degrees Celsius (350 Fahrenheit) for 25 minutes until golden and firm to touch, and a skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean.
- Leave to cool completely.
- Warm up the apricot jam to make it easier to spread.
- Brush each cupcake top with jam.
- Use a quarter of the remaining marzipan to form other 10 balls, the rest can be rolled to a ¼ cm thickness.
- Use a cookie cutter or a cup to cut out 10 circles.
- Top each cupcake with a marzipan circle and a ball.
- Place under the grill for a minute or so for the top to brown lightly.
- If you'd like to see the ingredients listed in cups and ounces, please check the US Customary Link.
- Also, the amount of ingredients changes depending on the servings, so click on the number listed to change it to the number you prefer.