Chocolate and almond simnel cake


  • Serves 12 people

Traditional simnel cake contains no chocolate, and is decorated with eleven balls of marzipan to represent the twelve Apostles minus the traitor Judas. But what's Easter without chocolate? We've added some to the cake batter, and finished with a rich chocolate glaze. The marzipan balls have been replaced with almonds.

  • 380 gm marzipan
  • For dusting: pure icing sugar
  • 110 gm softened butter
  • 110 gm (½ cup) brown sugar
  • 1 vanilla bean, scraped seeds only
  • 3 eggs
  • 150 gm (1 cup) plain flour
  • 1 tsp each ground cinnamon and finely grated nutmeg
  • 100 gm dark chocolate (65% cocoa solids), coarsely chopped
  • 100 gm each dried cherries and muscatels
  • 50 gm currants
  • 50 gm candied orange peel, coarsely chopped
  • To decorate: natural almonds
  • For dusting: Dutch-process cocoa
  • Chocolate glaze
  • 90 ml pouring cream
  • 125 gm dark chocolate (65% cocoa solids), coarsely chopped
  • 20 gm butter
01   Knead marzipan on a surface lightly dusted with icing sugar until smooth and pliable (1 minute), then halve and roll out each piece to 4mm-thick. Cut an 18cm-diameter circle from each, place on a tray lined with baking paper and set aside.
02   Preheat oven to 140C. Beat butter, sugar and vanilla seeds in an electric mixer until pale and creamy (3-4 minutes), then add eggs one at a time, beating well and scraping down sides of bowl after each addition. Sift in flour, spices and a pinch of salt, fold to combine, then add chocolate, dried fruit and candied peel. Stir to combine, then spoon half the batter into a buttered and floured 18cm-diameter cake tin. Smooth top, place one marzipan circle on top, then spoon over remaining cake batter. Smooth top, make an indentation in centre (to prevent cake from doming), bake until an inserted skewer withdraws clean (1-1¼ hours). Cool in tin, then turn out onto a wire rack.
03   Place remaining marzipan circle on top of cake, set aside.
04   For chocolate glaze, bring cream just to the boil in a small saucepan over medium-high heat, add chocolate, remove from heat, stir until smooth, stir in butter to combine. Pour over cake, allowing chocolate to spill down sides. Arrange almonds on top, stand until set (1-1½ hours). Dust with cocoa and serve, cut into wedges. Cake will keep, stored in an airtight container, for 3 days, but is best glazed on the day of making.
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