Vaughan's Kitchen Simnel Cake with flowers

Devizes Simnel Cake (our version)

This lovely rich, spiced fruit cake dates back a long, long way. Each town would have their own recipe and traditional shape of cake.

In the past Devizes was one of three towns in the country that was famous for a special simnel cake recipe - it was always star shaped.

The Shrewsbury recipe became the favourite one and is closest to our modern Easter cake. However, we felt it was time to recreate the Devizes Simnel Cake, with a modern twist.

Apparently it should be boiled and then baked (there's a story behind that) but we have taken the idea and just boiled the fruit, making it juicy and moist. The water has been replaced with Wadworth's 6X -  you can't get more 'Devizes' than that!  The original recipe (kept in library of Wiltshire Heritage Museum) uses lots of lemon peel, so we have tried to replicate that zesty flavour by finishing it with a lemon syrup.

Originally a simnel cake was a gift on Mothering Sunday which was  when young women in service had the day off to go and see their mothers or attend the 'mother church'.  We are used to seeing a cake with marzipan in the middle and on top with 11 or twelve balls of marzipan representing the disciples of Jesus (Judas may or may not be missing).  This cake is easier to make and looks really nice decorated with crystallised spring flowers (see separate recipe).


Ingredients

250mls Wadworth's 6X

900g mixed dried fruit, with or without candied peel (according to your preference)

200g unrefined granulated sugar

150g butter

250g self raising flour

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg

1/2 teaspoon ground cloves

zest from 4 lemons

2 eggs


Method

  1. Put 6X, butter, sugar and dried fruit in a saucepan and boil for 10 minutes on a moderate heat.
  2. Whilst leaving this mixture to cool, put flour, spices and lemon zest into a bowl and mix well.
  3. Beat the eggs.
  4. Line a 9" cake tin with baking parchment.
  5. Preheat the oven to 150C/140 Fan/Gas Mark 2.
  6. Stir fruit mix into dry ingredients and then add beaten eggs.
  7. Pour mixture into cake tine and bake for 90 minutes in the preheated oven.
  8. The length of cooking time will vary according to the type of baking tin you use and the depth of the cake mixture.  You can test to whether it is done by inserting a skewer into the middle.  If it comes out clean, the cake is ready.

To finish

Put all the juice from the lemons plus 4 tablespoons sugar in a saucepan.  Heat gently until the sugar has dissolved and then boil rapidly for 5 mins.  Use to glaze the cake and add to the lemony flavour.