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Simnel Cake (Marzipan-iced)
Traditional Irish Easter cake

350 g / 12 oz / 2 generous cups best-quality sultanas (golden raisins)
350 g / 12 oz / 1 1/2 generous cups best-quality currants
350 g / 12 oz / 1 1/2 generous cups best-quality raisins
110 g / 4 oz / 1/2 cup natural glace cherries, washed and chopped
110 g / 4 oz / 1/2 cup best-quality candied peel
55 g / 2 oz / scant 1/2 cup whole almonds, skinned
55 g / 2 oz / generous 1/2 cup ground almonds
zest of 1 lemon
zest of 1 orange
60 ml / 2 1/2 fl oz / generous 1/4 cup Irish whiskey, optional
225 g / 8 oz / 2 sticks butter
225 g / 8 oz / 1 1/2 cups pale soft brown sugar
6 eggs, beaten
285 g / 10 oz / 2 1/4 cups flour
1 teaspoon mixed spice (pumpkin pie spice)
1 large or 2 small baking apples, grated

450 g / 1 lb / 4 cups ground almonds
450 g / 1 lb / 4 cups caster sugar
2 small eggs
50 ml / 2 fl oz / 1/4 cup Irish whiskey, optional
a drop of almond essence

Line the base and sides of a 23 cm / 9 inch round, or a 20.5cm /
8 inch square tin with brown paper and greaseproof paper.

Mix the dried fruit, nuts, ground almonds and orange and lemon
zest. Add the whiskey and leave for 1 hour to macerate.

Meanwhile, make the almond paste. Sieve the sugar and mix with the
ground almonds. Beat the eggs, add the whiskey and one drop of pure
almond essence, then add to the other ingredients and mix to a
stiff paste (you may not need to all the egg).

Sprinkle the work top with icing (confectioner's) sugar, turn out
the almond paste and work lightly until smooth. Set aside.

Cream the butter until very soft, add the sugar, beat until light
and fluffy. Add the eggs bit by bit, beating well between each
addition so that the mixture doesn't curdle. Mix the spice with
the flour and fold in gently. Combine the grated apple and the
fruit and stir gently but thoroughly into the cake mixture (don't
beat again or you will toughen the cake). Put half of the cake
mixture into the prepared tin.

Roll out half the almond paste into a 21.5 cm / 8 1/2 inch round,
place this on top of the cake mixture in the tin and cover with
the remaining mixture. Make a slight hollow in the centre and dip
your hand in water and pat it over the surface of the cake; this
will ensure that the top is smooth when cooked.

Bake in a preheated 160 deg C / 325 deg F / gas3 oven for one hour,
then reduce the heat to 150 deg C / 300 deg F / gas2 and bake for
a further two hours, or until the cake is cooked (a skewer inserted
in the centre should come out perfectly clean). Leave to cool in
the tin.

Next day remove the cake from the tin. Do not remove the lining
paper but wrap in some extra greaseproof paper and tinfoil until
required.

When you are ready to ice the cake, roll two-thirds of the remaining
almost paste into a 23 cm/9 inch round. Brush the cake with a little
lightly beaten egg white and top with the paste. Roll the remaining
almond paste into eleven balls about the size of a large walnut.
Score the top of the cake in 4 cm / 1 1/2 inch squares and brush
with beaten egg or egg yolk. Stick the apostles' around the outer
edge of the top and brush with beaten egg. Toast under a grill in
a preheated 220 deg C / 425 deg F / gas7 oven, for 15-20 minutes
or until slightly golden. Protect the sides with tin foil. Decorate
with an Easter chicken.

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