why do we eat simnel cake at easter

Simnel cake: what it is and what s the story behind it? Glyn Hughes takes a look back at two thousand years of this curious English springtime cake, and the legends that go with it. Springtime is when the world comes back to life. In the ancient Anglo-Saxon tradition, it is when, the Goddess of Spring, returned to the earth. And how else would you welcome an old friend back, but with a nice cake? The name simnel probably comes from the ancient Roman simila, meaning fine flour (as does
). Simple, everyday, cakes of simnel bread have been known in England at least since the 13th Century, and are always described as being boiled as well as baked. We don t know quite what they tasted like, but we do know that, around the time of Queen Elizabeth I, fancy simnel cakes came to be associated with springtime they turn up in celebrations of Mothering Sunday, Easter, or the day-off from the religious fast of Lent known as Refreshment Sunday.


Different regions used to have different versions. I ve listed several versions you can choose from below. The Devizes Simnel Cake was made with currants and lemon peel, coloured golden with saffron and always made in a star shape, boiled, baked and glazed. The still have an original recipe. , famous in its day, was also a light fruit cake with saffron, boiled and baked. But this one was round, with marzipan in the centre and decorated on top with a circle of points. Most famous of all is the named after the town in Lancashire. A rich fruit cake made with nuts, cherries and peel, iced on top and always decorated with eleven sugar balls. Why eleven? Well, they might represent Christ s eleven Good Apostles. But, as with most Simnel traditions, who knows?


If you like tall tales, they don t come much taller than this 1810 story from Wiltshire. Long ago there lived an honest old couple, boasting the names of Simon and Nelly, who, one Easter, found their household with a surplus piece of dough. They argued and fought over what to do with it Simon wanted to boil it, and Nelly to bake it. In the end, they compromised and did both so that their invention became known as the cake of Simon and Nelly Sim-Nel, or Simnel! Try, chock-a-block with marzipan and fruit, and cheekily drenched in brandy. But nobody is going to stop you creating your own simnel tradition. Perhaps a reliable? Maybe, or even one of those. As long as it welcomes springtime, you can make it just how you like. This is a classic loveFOOD article View All ( {{ vm. comments. length }} ) By the eighteenth century, however, it had become an Easter treat to celebrate the end of the 40 days of Lent.


The cake has a layer of marzipan or almond paste baked into the middle while on the top it is usually decorated with eleven marzipan balls placed around the edge, representing the apostles. Judas, as is appropriate for an Easter tradition, does not merit his own marzipan ball. Bob Smith, who helps run More Food, based in Chichester, which supplies Waitrose with their thousands of Simnel cakes, said: "It's got a richer flavour than a Christmas fruit cake; it's more fruity. But it is not as heavy and stodgy you don't get that clinging to the top of the mouth sensation. "I think more and more people are interested in eating traditional food. It's great that they are discovering all these lovely old-fashioned cakes. "

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