These little simnel cupcakes are perfect for an Easter treat. With their double layer of marzipan and mixed dried fruit encased in a flavoursome sponge, these little bakes are incredibly delicious.
Mini Simnel cakes
Simnel cakes have a long history in the UK. Originally associated with Mothering Sunday the name of this seasonal British cake and now usually served on Easter Sunday is believed to come from the Latin word “Similae” which means fine wheat flour.
You can read a little more history of simnel cakes as well as find the recipe on my traditional Simnel cake post here on Crumbs.
As we know, Simnel cake is a delicious light fruit cake containing two layers of marzipan; one hidden within the batter and baked in the cake, and the other adorning the top which is then decorated with balls of marzipan.
For these mini Easter simnel cupcakes, I have taken the concept of the original simnel cake adapting them to make individual cupcakes. I have opted for a lighter fruit sponge but you will still find a delicious piece of marzipan hidden in the centre of the cake just like the original. This central piece of marzipan almost completely melts into the cupcake giving it a really delicious almond flavour.
Being cupcake sized means this bake clearly spends far less time in the oven than a traditional simnel cake, but it also means that you can make as many as you like; be it just a few for your own household or several to share with family and friends at an Easter celebration.
To make these Simnel cupcakes you will need.
- Butter – I like to use lightly salted
- Light muscovado sugar – Muscovado sugar is less refined than soft brown sugar and retains, much of its molasses component. Where as some soft brown sugars are actually refined white sugar with the molasses added back to it. While the two are generally interchangeable muscovado sugar is not only less processed it also has a more complex caramel like flavour, which is it why it is my preferred choice of the two.
- Eggs – large
- Self-raising flour or use plain flour plus 1 teaspoon baking powder
- Yoghurt – wholemilk natural yoghurt
- Lemon zest – Not essential but it does give a little extra flavour to the sponge
- Dried fruit – I've used a basic mixed dried fruit with a little peel. You could also make up your own mix of sultanas, currants and raisins
- Marzipan – I prefer to use a natural uncoloured marzipan but if you are leaving untoasted you may wish to use a coloured marzipan instead.
- Maple syrup - to stick the marzipan to the cakes. You could also use sieved apricot jam or a little warmed golden syrup
- Icing sugar – to dust
You will also need some cupcake cases.
How long do these mini simnel cakes keep?
I added some yoghurt to the mixture which gives added extra moisture to the mini cakes and helps to extend their shelf life.
They will keep in an airtight container for at least a week.
They also freeze well for up to 4 months.
How to make Simnel cupcakes step by step
1 Make the marzipan discs. Roll balls of marzipan and flatten with your fingertips.
2 Cream the butter and sugar together then gradually add the egg, beating well after each addition.
3 Whisk in the yoghurt followed by the lemon zest.
4 Then fold in the dried fruit until just combined.
5 Finally fold in the flour. Spoon a small amount of cake mixture into each cupcake case.
6 Then place a marzipan disc on top of the cake mixture and gently press down.
7 Cover the marzipan with the remaining cake mixture and level the surface of the cakes.
8 Bake until golden and a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean.
9 Roll out the marzipan and cut out twelve fluted circles of marzipan the size of the tops of the cakes. Roll the trimming into small balls for the top of the cakes.
10 Brush the surface of the cakes with maple syrup and top with marzipan. Secure balls in place with maple syrup. Toast under a grill if desired.
Toasting the marzipan
To decorate the simnel cupcakes, I decided to use a scalloped biscuit cutters rather than a plain circle, I thought they looked prettier this way. To keep things simple I applied just one marzipan ball to the top of the cupcake. You can then serve them as they are or like the traditional full-sized cake you can roast the marzipan under a hot grill.
It takes no more than a couple of minutes to toast the marzipan. Once the marzipan starts to colour under the grill it will caramelise quickly so watch it like a hawk or you will end up with burnt marzipan.
Initially, I was tempted to just leave them without toasting and while they are perfectly fine that way, to me they feel slightly unfinished, so although it is an extra step I think it is so worth taking the time to do this. The sugars in the marzipan slightly caramelise after toasting which is delicious and somehow helps to make the marzipan on the top part of the cakes themselves rather than just plonked on top.
So let's get to it and bake!
- Muffin tray
- 12 cupcake cases
- Electric hand or stand mixer
- mixing bowl
- spatula or large metal spoon
- Rolling Pin
- round fluted biscuit cutter about 6cm (2½in) to fit the top of the cupcakes
- pastry brush
For the cup cakes
- 100 g (3½oz) marzipan
- 150g g (5oz) butter , softened
- 150 g (5oz) light muscovado sugar
- 2 large eggs , lightly beaten
- 150 g (5oz) natural yoghurt (whole milk)
- 1 Lemon , zest only
- 200 g mixed dried fruits
- 175 g (6oz)self-raising flour
- 200 g (7oz) marzipan
- 1 tablespoon maple syrup
- icing sugar , to dust
To make the cupcakes
- Preheat the oven to 190℃ (170℃ fan)/375°F/gas mark 5. Place the paper cupcake cases into the muffin tray.
- Prepare the marzipan layer. Divide100g (3½oz) marzipan into 12 equal pieces. Roll each piece into a ball then flatten into a round disc. Set aside.
- Beat together 150g (5oz) butter and 150g (5oz) sugar together until pale and fluffy. Gradually add 2 beaten eggs a little at a time, beating well after each addition.
- Add 150g (5oz) yoghurt and whisk in. Then add the finely grated zest of one lemon and 200g (7oz) mixed dried fruit Fold in with a spatula or large metal spoon.
- Sift 175g (6oz) self-raising flour and fold in until just combined.
- Place a spoonful of the cake mixture into each cupcake case. Then place a disc of marzipan on top and gently press down. Divide the remaining cake mixture between the cupcake cases and level the tops. They should be about ⅔ full.
- Bake. in the preheated oven and bake for about 20 – 25 minutesuntil golden on top and a sponge which springs back when touched. Allow to cool in the tin for a few minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.
To complete the cupcakes
- Once the cakes have cooled completely. Lightly dust the work surface with icing sugar. Roll out 200g (7oz) marzipan and cut out 12 circles of marzipan about the size of the top of the cupcakes, re-rolling as required. Then use the remaining trimming to make 12 small balls of marzipan.
- Brush the top of the cakes with a little maple syrup and place the marzipan circles on top of the cupcakes pressing down gently. Secure a marzipan ball on top with a little bit of maple syrup.
- If desired, pop the cupcakes on a baking sheet and place under a preheated grill and toast the marzipan until just golden. Enjoy!
- In an airtight container in a cool place for up to a week.
- Freeze up to 4 months