The name of this seasonal British cake comes from the Latin word “Simila” which means finest wheat flour. Traditionally it is decorated with 11 almond paste balls symbolising Christ's 11 faithful disciples Traditionally it was the cake that was given by girls in service to their mothers on the fourth Sunday of Lent - which later became know as mothering Sunday - as proof of their cooking skills. The cake keeps well and would be eaten at Easter, at the end of the Lenten fast.
Grease and line a 20cm/8in deep cake tin. Preheat the oven to 150℃ (130℃ fan)300°F /gas mark 2.
Beat the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. Then beat in the eggs one at a time. Add the flour and mixed spice and fold in. Next add the lemon zest, juice, dried fruit and cherries and mix well.
Roll out half the marzipan to a circle the same size as the cake tin. Scoop half the cake mixture into the tin and level the surface. Carefully put the marzipan circle on top and press down gently.
Now scoop the remaining cake mixture on top of the marzipan and spread level. Bake in the centre of the oven for 2½ – 3 hours. To test if the cake is cooked, insert a skewer in the centre. It will come out clean when the cake is cooked.
Allow the cake to cool in the tin for at least 1 hour then turn out onto a wire rack to cool completely.
Roll out ¾ of the remaining marzipan to a circle the same size as the cake. Brush the top of the cake with apricot jam and place the marzipan on top.
Using a dinner knife score the surface of the marzipan with a diamond pattern. Divide the remaining marzipan into 11 pieces and roll into balls. Arrange the balls on top of the cake, securing with a dab of apricot jam.
Place the cake under a preheated grill and grill until lightly browned. Watch carefully to avoid it burning.
Simnel cake will keep for up to 1 month if stored in an airtight container in a cool place.