Simnel cakes are light fruit cakes that are traditionally made at Easter. Many people in my family are not fans of rich fruit cake, but throw some chocolate in and they come running for it! I hope you like this twist on the traditional. Use whatever dried fruits and nuts you prefer, just keep the quantities the same.
150g butter, softened (I use salted)
220g caster sugar
120g sour cream
4 medium eggs
180g self-raising flour, plus 2 tbsp for dusting the raisins (see tip)
40g cocoa powder (sifted if lumpy)
½ tsp baking powder
100g toasted skinned hazelnuts, finely chopped
20g toasted blanched almonds, finely chopped
300g white marzipan
100g dark chocolate, roughly chopped, plus extra for shavings, if desired
FOR THE CHOCOLATE ICING
70g dark chocolate, roughly chopped
120g butter, softened
100g icing sugar, plus extra for dusting
2 x 20cm round cake tins
1 Preheat the oven to 180C (fan 160C/350F/gas 4) and line the cake tins with baking parchment. Put the butter, caster sugar, sour cream, eggs, flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, hazelnuts and almonds into a large bowl. In another bowl, mix the raisins with the extra 2 tablespoons flour.
2 Tip this raisin and flour mixture into the main bowl and beat with a wooden spoon until well combined. Then, using a spatula, divide the cake mixture between the lined tins and level the tops. Bake on the middle shelf of the oven for 25-30 minutes, or until a skewer inserted in the centre of each cake comes out clean, and the cakes have shrunk slightly from the edges of the tin. Once the cakes are cooked, remove them from the oven and leave to cool completely in the tins.
3 When the cakes have cooled, make the chocolate icing. Melt the chocolate in a bain-marie by setting a heatproof bowl over a small pan of simmering water, making sure that the water in the pan does not touch the base of the bowl. If it does it can ‘seize’, making the chocolate very grainy and unpleasant to use. You can also melt the chocolate in the microwave in 40-second blasts, stirring well after each blast until smooth. Set the melted chocolate aside to cool a little. Now, put the butter in a bowl with the icing sugar and beat together until light and fluffy, then add the slightly cooled, melted chocolate to the mixture little by little, mixing to combine as you go.
4 Remove the cakes from the tins and place one on a serving plate with a blob of the chocolate icing underneath to stop it from moving around. Spread with a nice thick layer of the chocolate icing and then place the other cake on top, bottom side up so that it is nice and flat.
5 Spread the top of the cake with a thin layer of the chocolate icing and then set this aside. Reserve about 1 tablespoon of the icing to stick the chocolate covered marzipan balls on top of your lovely cake!
6 Dust the work surface with a little icing sugar and then roll out two-thirds of the marzipan to the thickness of a £1 coin (about 3mm). Using a small, sharp knife, put the 20cm round cake tin on top and use it as a stencil for a circle of marzipan.
7 Remove the cake tin and set aside and then place this marzipan circle on top of the cake, pressing it down with a little gentle pressure. You want it to be nicely smooth and even. Then crimp the edges to decorate using your thumb and forefinger, or you can just mark the edges with a fork for a pretty pattern.
8 Line a baking sheet with baking parchment and set this aside. Melt the 100g chocolate over a bain-marie or in the microwave, as before. Leave to cool a little and then roll the rest of the marzipan into 11 equal-sized balls.
9 Take a marzipan ball on a fork and dip it into the melted chocolate, then remove it, letting the excess drip back into the bowl. Place the chocolate-coated marzipan ball on the baking parchment. Repeat with the rest of the balls and then, using small blobs of chocolate icing, stick the balls around the cake an equal distance apart.
10 When you are ready to serve, lightly dust the cake with the icing sugar. You can also sprinkle over chocolate shavings, if you fancy it.