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Simnel Cake

225g (8 oz) butter, softened
225g (8 oz) light muscovado sugar
4 eggs
225g (8 oz) self-raising flour
225g (8 oz) sultanas
110g (4 oz) currants
110g (4 oz) quartered glace cherries
50g (2 oz) chopped candied peel
zest of 2 lemons
2 tsp mixed spice

450g (1 lb) almond paste
2 tbsp apricot jam
1 egg beaten, to glaze

Pre-heat oven to 150C / 300F / Gas 2. Butter and line the base and
sides of a 20 cm (8 inch) deep round cake tin with buttered
greaseproof paper. Place all the cake ingredients in a large bowl
and beat well until completely blended. Place half the mixture in
the prepared tin and level the surface. Take one-third of the
almond paste and roll it out into a circle the size of the tin.
Place it on top of the cake mixture. Spoon the remaining cake
mixture over and smooth the surface. Bake for about 2 hours until
well risen and firm to the touch. Cover with foil after 1 hour if
the top is browning too quickly. Allow the cake to cool in the
tin for 10 minutes before turning out onto a wire rack to cool
completely. When the cake has cooled, brush the top with a little
warmed apricot jam and roll out half the remaining almond paste to
fit the top. Press firmly on the top and crimp the edges to decorate.
Mark a criss-cross pattern on the almond paste with a sharp knife.
Form the remaining almond paste into 11 balls t represent the 11
apostles (not counting Judas). Brush the almond paste with beaten
egg and arrange the balls around the outside. Brush the tops of
the balls with egg as well. Place the cake under a hot grill to
turn the almond paste golden. Decorate with crystallised flowers
such as violets, primroses and jonquils, if liked.

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