Modern Simnel Cake

Modern Simnel Cake

Simnel Cakes go way back, all the way to medival times in fact. They were actually made for Mother’s Day, but nowadays they are considered an Easter cake. The marzipan balls on top represent the apostles (minus Judas) and there are supposed to be 11 of them. I put 12 on this Modern Simnel Cake, partly because of my lack of religious knowledge and partly because I like things to be even! I wanted to make the Simnel cake a bit more up to date, so this Modern Simnel Cake is made in two layers, with a filling of almond buttercream and the sponge is a little lighter with less fruit.

The sponge of the Modern Simnel Cake is lovely and light with just enough fruit in my opinion, and the sweet almond buttercream is the perfect accompaniment. It’s great for a hungry group of family and friends at Easter and any marzipan lovers in your life will adore this cake!

How to make Modern Simnel Cake…

To make the sponge I mixed together butter and light brown sugar until fluffy, then I stirred in the lemon zest.

I whisked in eggs, milk, plain flour, baking powder and mixed spice. Then I folded in mixed fruit and some glace cherries.

I divided the mixture between the tins and baked them for 45 minutes.

To make the almond buttercream I whisked the butter and icing sugar together, then I added almond extract and whisked until smooth.

I levelled off the sponges and piped some almond buttercream over the bottom sponge.

Then I added the second sponge and spread a little apricot jam in the centre. I covered it with a circle of marzipan and I also rolled 12 marzipan balls.

Using a kitchen blowtorch, I browed the marzipan balls and the marzipan circle. Then I piped almond buttercream around the edge of the cake and added the marzipan balls on top.

Modern Simnel Cake

How long does the Modern Simnel Cake last for and can you freeze it?

The cake will keep in an airtight container for 3 days in a cool place. You can freeze the sponges either alone, or decorated (but do not freeze the marzipan). Once the sponges are fully cool, wrap them well with cling film or put them in an airtight container with some baking paper between them. You can freeze the buttercream on it’s own in a tub, or you can decorate the cake and freeze it fully assembled.

To do this and avoid damage to the decoration, freeze it either in an airtight container. Or let it freeze solid on a cake board or plate, then wrap in cling film. Remove the cling film when you take it out to defrost it, if you don’t it could damage the decoration as it defrosts and softens. You can also freeze slices of the cake, again well wrapped in cling film or in airtight containers.

Can this cake be made in different size cake tins?

If you would like to make this cake in different size tins, please check my Conversion Guide to find out how to adjust the recipe.

Can this recipe be made into cupcakes?

I have a very similar cupcake version of this recipe called Easter Simnel Cupcakes, check them out for a recipe and instructions.

Modern Simnel Cake

Tips for making the Modern Simnel Cake:

  • Make sure to brown the marzipan before you add the buttercream on top of the cake, as the heat from the blow torch will cause the buttercream to melt.
  • If you don’t have a kitchen blow torch you can brown the marzipan under the grill. Place the marzipan on some baking paper or foil and keep a very close eye on it as it can burn very easily.
  • My dried fruit was a mix of sultanas, currants and mixed peel.
  • You don’t have to add the glace cherries if you’re not a fan.
  • You can switch out the lemon zest for orange zest instead if you prefer, or omit the citrus zest entirely.
Modern Simnel Cake

Recommended equipment & ingredients*

8″ cake tinsMixing bowlsCooling rack
Kitchen scalesElectric hand mixerRound cake tin liners
Piping bagsWilton 8B Piping nozzleZester
Almond extractMixed spiceGlace cherries
Kitchen blowtorchRolling pinSilicone mat

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More Simnel recipes…

Easter Simnel Cupcakes
Simnel Spiced Easter Cheesecake (No Bake)Easter Simnel Cupcakes
Modern Simnel Cake

Modern Simnel Cake

Light fruit cake, almond buttercream and marzipan topping
5 from 8 votes
Print Pin Rate
Course: Dessert
Cuisine: British
Keyword: Cake
Prep Time: 45 minutes
Cook Time: 45 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour 30 minutes
Servings: 12
Author: thebakingexplorer


For the sponge

  • 350 g Butter or baking spread
  • 325 g Light brown sugar
  • 1 Lemon zest only
  • 4 Eggs large
  • 150 ml Milk
  • 350 g Plain flour
  • 3 tsp Baking powder
  • 2 tsp Mixed spice
  • 250 g Dried fruit
  • 125 g Glace cherries

For the buttercream

  • 400 g Icing sugar
  • 200 g Butter or baking spread
  • 1 1/2 tsp Almond extract

For decoration

  • 285 g Golden marzipan
  • 1 tbsp Apricot jam


  • Pre-heat your oven to 150C Fan/170C/350F/Gas Mark 4 and grease and line two 8" cake tins
  • Make the sponge by mixing the butter and light brown sugar in a large bowl with a spoon until fluffy, or mix using an electric mixer
  • Add the eggs, lemon zest and milk, and whisk until fully incorporated
  • Add the plain flour, baking powder and mixed spice, and whisk in until you can't see any flour anymore
  • Toss the fruit and cherries in a little flour, then gently stir them into the batter
  • Divide the mixture between the cake tins, use scales for accuracy
  • Bake for 45 minutes until golden brown and a skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean. Leave them to fully cool either in the tins or remove from the tin and place on cooling racks
  • To make the buttercream mix the butter and icing sugar together. Once it starts to come together add the almond extract and mix until smooth. I use my electric hand whisk to do this but you can also do it by hand
  • If the cakes have domed on top, level them off with a cake leveller or a serrated knife
  • Put one of the sponges on your serving plate and pipe or spread buttercream all over the sponge, I used a Wilton 8B nozzle to pipe it on
  • Roll up 12 marzipan balls weighing 15g each, then roll the rest of the marzipan out using icing sugar so it doesn't stick to your surface. Use a small plate to cut out a disc shape that's smaller than the cake
  • Add the final sponge layer and brush the apricot jam over the top to help the marzipan stick
  • Place the marzipan disc on top of the cake
  • Use a cook's blowtorch to scorch the marzipan in the centre and the top of each marzipan ball
  • Pipe more buttercream around the edge of the cake, then add the marzipan balls on top
  • Store leftovers in an airtight container in a cool place and eat within 3 days
Made this recipe?Share on Instagram with me @TheBakingExplorer or tag #thebakingexplorer!


Mixed spice is a British spice blend containing Cinnamon, Coriander Seed, Nutmeg, Clove, Pimento, Ginger. If you can’t get hold of it, use a Pumpkin Spice mix instead


Calories: 903kcal | Carbohydrates: 118g | Protein: 9g | Fat: 46g | Saturated Fat: 25g | Trans Fat: 2g | Cholesterol: 154mg | Sodium: 479mg | Potassium: 338mg | Fiber: 4g | Sugar: 85g | Vitamin A: 1256IU | Vitamin C: 5mg | Calcium: 172mg | Iron: 3mg

If you like this, check out more of my Cake recipes!

Or you might like my Easter recipes!

Modern Simnel Cake
Modern Simnel Cake

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8 comments / Add your comment below

    1. Hi, yes you could do this as one cake and slice into two. I can't confirm exactly how long it would take to cook as it depends on your oven, but keep the temperature on 150C and check on it after 45 mins, use a skewer to see if it's done in the middle and give it longer if not. Hope it goes well!

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