My hand injury is still recovering so the beekeeping sous chef has been responsible for conjuring up outstanding flapjacks for friends who have dropped in for tea since we could meeting the garden. Even though most of us have done very little for months, it is amazing how much talking is still needed to bring each other up-to-date. And how good to hear others laughing.
This is our Easter Spring cake: a cross between a Christmas cum Simnel recipe that I had started at least two months before the injury. Although there are lots of ingredients, it actually takes longer to weigh out than mix.
The dried fruit had been soaking in brandy for a month and the strained residue was later injected into the finished cake (syringe, needle and all).
The sous chef’s home-produced honey replaced the usual sugar, with a little extra flour to offset its 17% water content. This made a lighter and more flavoursome cake.
To stop the cake drying out, I gave up on the traditional Simnel top layer of marzipan plus 11 apostle balls. Instead, and completely optional, the cake was covered top-to-toe with more marzipan. The sous chef made and lovingly applied the final finishing touches of royal icing plus festive birds and bees. (He has to get all the praise as he posts these pieces for me!). The cake is so unctuous and moist that it nearly needs serving with a spoon.
Enough brandy to cover the dried fruit.
16oz self-raising flour
1 teaspoon grated nutmeg
2 teaspoons mixed spice
Half teaspoon salt
2oz candied peel, chopped.
250g glace cherries.
2oz soft dried apricots, chopped.
2oz dried apple flakes, chopped (optional).
2oz dried dates, stoned and chopped.
Zest and juice of 1 orange.
Zest and juice of 1 lemon.
3oz whole almonds chopped
3oz Brazil nuts, chopped.
500g pack marzipan.
Soak the currants, raisins and sultanas in brandy – ideally for a month but a week would do.
Drain and set aside the strained brandy.
Cream the butter and honey until light and fluffy.
Whisk in each egg with a teaspoonful of flour.
Fold in the flour and the remaining cake ingredients.
Fill a cake tin halfway and top with a layer of marzipan, pressed out to fit the tin. Fill the tin on top of the marzipan.
Cook Gas 1, 140C for 2 hours 15 minutes, reduce heat for a further 45 minutes. Internal cake temperature should reach at least 96C.
This quantity was bigger than my cake tin. I put the extra into a loaf tin and cooked at the same time on the oven second shelf for 2 hours 15 minutes.
Optional: once cake has cooled and been removed from tin, inject with strained brandy over a week. Brush with warmed apricot jam and cover with marzipan (around 750g) and allow to dry for a few days. Cover with royal icing and allow to dry. Decorate with whatever grabs your imagination.
Please don’t forget the live on-line bake-in on Monday 12 April at 1030.