Simnel Cake (Serves 12)

  • 225g butter, softened, plus extra to grease
  • 225g self-raising flour
  • 2tsp ground mixed spice
  • 400g mixed dried fruit
  • 150g light muscovado sugar
  • 50g golden syrup
  • Finely grated zest of 2 lemons
  • 4 medium eggs, lightly beaten
  • Icing sugar, to dust
  • 250g marzipan
  • 2tbsp apricot jam

Preheat oven to 170C/150C fan/gas 3. Grease a 19cm round cake or springform tin with butter and line with baking parchment.

In a large bowl, stir together the flour, mixed spice and dried fruit until combined. Put the butter, muscovado sugar, syrup and lemon zest into a separate large bowl and beat together using a hand-held electric whisk until pale and fluffy (about three minutes).

Gradually beat in the eggs, whisking well after each addition. Add flour mixture and fold in with a large metal spoon.

Empty the mixture into the prepared tin and bake. Cover with foil after one hour of cooking, then cook for a further 25 minutes, or until the cake is risen and springy to the touch. A skewer inserted into the centre should come out clean, but don't be tempted to test too early or the cake may sink. Leave to cool completely in the tin.

Take the cake out of the tin, peel off the parchment and transfer to a serving plate. To decorate, dust the work surface with icing sugar and roll out two-thirds of the marzipan until large enough for a 19cm circle (cut around base of cake tin).

Heat the jam with one teaspoon of water in a small pan over a medium heat until runny. Brush the top of the cake with some jam, then lay the marzipan circle on top and gently press down to stick. Using a small knife, score lines on top of the marzipan to make a diamond pattern. Crimp the edge of the marzipan using the thumb and forefinger of one hand, and the index finger of the other.

Roll the remaining marzipan into 11 equal-sized balls. Brush the underside of each with a little jam or water and stick to the top of the cake. If you like, you can use a blowtorch to lightly brown the marzipan balls.