Made with fruit, spices and a marzipan topping, Simnel cake is traditionally eaten at Easter.
Place the caster sugar and the ground almonds in a bowl. Beat together 2 eggs. Add a little beaten egg to the caster sugar and ground almonds and mix to a fairly soft consistency. Add the almond extract and knead for one minute until the paste is smooth and pliable.
Take a third of the marzipan and roll out to a circle 18cm in diameter. Reserve the rest for the cake topping.
Preheat the oven to 160'C. Grease and line an 18cm cake tin. Zest the lemon.
Cream the butter and soft brown sugar together until pale and fluffy. Beat 3 eggs together and then gradually add them to the butter and sugar. Mix until well incorporated and then sift the flour, salt and mixed spice. Combine well and then stir in the dried fruit, the confit citrus peel and the lemon zest.
Pour half of the mixture into the cake tin. Cover this mixture with the disc of marzipan. Add the rest of the cake mixture and smooth the top leaving a slight dip in the centre to allow for the cake to rise. Bake in the preheated oven for 1¾ hours. Test by inserting a skewer in the middle - if it comes out clean, the cake is ready. Once baked, remove from the oven and set aside to cool on a wire rack.
Divide the remaining marzipan in two and roll on half out flat to cover the top of the cake. Use the other half to form 11 small balls of marzipan.
Brush the top of the cooled cake with the apricot jam and place the disc of marzipan on top. Arrange the marzipan balls around the edge of the cake and then brush the topping with a little beaten egg. Use a chef's blow torch or a hot grill to gently glaze the marzipan until golden brown. Allow to cool before serving.
«Vary the flavour of this cake by using the dried fruits in different proportions. Feel free to use ready made marzipan if you do not have time to make your own marzipan.»