Easter is a BIG deal in my house, and I mean big. My mum has no problem saying to anyone that to her “Easter is more important than Christmas.” If you hadn’t already guessed, my family are Christians, C of E to be precise, so there are a lot of traditions that I automatically associate with this time of year - including Easter Eggs of course!
Palm Sunday, Maundy Thursday, and Good Friday all involve church-related traditions and in my house you know it’s holy week as my mum is blazing Jesus Christ Superstar from the CD player 24/7!
(For those of you that don’t know it was an Andrew Lloyd Webber musical about Jesus and the run up to his death. It really is very catchy...)But as with ALL good traditions Easter also involves FOOD! We always have hot-cross buns on Good Friday (no earlier) and lamb on Easter Day. We also always make rice crispie egg nests to take as “energy” on our annual ‘Easter Walk’. We used to do a pilgrimage to St Albans Cathedral but foot and mouth put a stop to that when I was still quite young. Instead now, my family and I (all...16+ of us) go for a walk in the countryside in pursuit of a pub for lunch!)
But, one of the food related traditions that stands out most for me is the illusive ‘Simnel Cake.’ Every year my Mum, Nan and aunties would complain about a lack of Simnel Cake’s in the supermarket and at how expensive they were when they could find them. As they were so ‘rare’ I hadn’t even eaten a piece of Simnel Cake until last year, and they are delicious! They are also steeped in tradition of their own!
Until delving into the knowledge archive that is the internet, all I knew was that the small balls on top of a Simnel Cake represented the disciples. I assumed this meant there were 12 of them (lets not get controversial and include Mary Magdeline!) But no, there is even more significance to the balls...Judas is left off the cake!
There is some contention however, over whether it is a cake for Easter Day or Mothering Sunday which also falls in Lent. There are some good stories explaining the cakes origins too! I particularly liked these: “The name Simnel probably comes from the Latin word simila which means a fine wheat flour usually used for baking a cake. There's a legend that a man called Simon and his wife Nell argued over whether the cake for Mothering Sunday should be baked or boiled. In the end they did both, so the cake was named after both of them: SIM-NELL”
Anyways enough of the history/R.E lesson! Now you know so much about Simnel Cakes I bet you want to know how to make them! So, here’s my recipe!