All the fabulous flavour of a traditional British Simnel cake in cookie form! These super easy Simnel cake cookies are just perfect for Mother’s Day or Easter. These cookies are an easy reinvention of the classic British Easter cake, all the flavour and less fuss!
What is simnel cake?
The Simnel cake (sometimes called the Easter Cake) was originally the cake of Mothering Sunday.
This rich fruit cake is made in two layers and sandwiched together with a layer of marzipan. On top, it has another layer of marzipan and eleven little marzipan balls around the edge. These balls signify the disciples of Christ. Notice there are only eleven, Judas is not included!
The history of simnel cake
Although Mothering Sunday is celebrated on the fourth Sunday of Lent it did not actually originate as a Christian celebration.
In fact there were special days in Spring going right back to ancient times when the Greeks would celebrate the birth of Rhea, mother of all their Gods. The Romans too had a similar ceremony.
It was in the 16th century in Britain that Mothering Sunday came about as a way to celebrate Mother Mary and the Mother Church.
Finally, it came to mean all mothers and was the day that domestic servants (mostly girls) would be given the day off (this was very rare for servants back then) to go home and visit their mother and attend worship at their local (mother) church.
The gift of cake
It was tradition that mothers would be given a small gift, usually a posy of spring flowers picked from the roadside and hedgerows.
Gifts of baked goods were also popular and a special cake has become synonymous with Mothering Sunday, the Simnel cake.
Ingredients for simnel cake cookies
- For the sugar aspect, I have used light muscovado sugar. It has a slightly richer, more caramel flavour than standard white sugar.
- Spices are important in a simnel cake so I have used ground mixed spice and ginger to give that hint of heat and depth of flavour.
- The fruity bit – Simnel cake is traditionally a fruit cake so I’ve used finely diced glace cherries, sultanas and dried apricots in my cookie recipe.
- Marzipan – no self-respecting simnel cake can ever be presented without marzipan. I’ve used this to simply top my simnel cookies which keeps things nice and easy.
- Other ingredients are almonds, butter, flour and a pinch of salt.
How to make simnel cookies
Like all cookie making this is simplicity itself and perfect for children to do.
Beat together the butter and sugar till nice and fluffy then sieve in the flour and spices and stir.
Then add the almonds and fruit to form a dough. Wrap this in clingfilm and let it rest in the fridge for half an hour.
Make walnut sized balls out of the dough and flatten these slightly making a little dent in the centre of each with your finger. This is where you will be putting the marzipan later.
Bake the simnel cookies for 10 minutes then add the marzipan balls for the final 5 minutes of baking time.
Simnel cake cookies
I love the fact that these simple little cookies look almost flower like with their marzipan centres.
Unlike traditional simnel cake you don’t have to toast or blow torch the marzipan balls, they toast nicely on the cookies in the oven while baking.
These cookies are perfect for children to bake (with supervision, of course) for Mother’s Day or Easter Sunday.
How long will these simnel cookies keep?
These cookies should stay crisp in a sealed tin for up to 4 days. Though I very much doubt they will last that long
Can you freeze them?
Yes, just pop them in a freezer proof box and freeze for up to 3 months. Defrost completely.
You can also freeze the cookie dough prior ro baking. Again, just wrap well and pop it in the freezer ready to make your simnel cookies whenever you are ready.
Here are some other easy ideas for Mother’s Day treats that you might like;
Or check out my Simply Scottish Cakes & Bakes cookbook for lots of great baking ideas.
Simnel cake cookies
- 100 g unsalted butter softened
- 50 g light Muscovado sugar
- 150 g self raising flour sieved
- pinch of salt
- 1/2 tsp ground mixed spice
- 1/2 tsp ground ginger
- 50 g flaked almonds chopped
- 50 g mix of glace cherries, sultanas and dried apricots chopped up small
- 50 g marzipan
- Preheat oven to 180C and line a large baking sheet with parchment
- Beat the butter and sugar till fluffy
- Sieve in the flour, salt and sices and mix well
- Add the almonds and fruit and mix to form a dough
- Wrap in cling film and set aside in fridge for 30 minutes to firm up
- Pull off walnut sized balls and slightly flatten on baking sheet and use index finger to lightly press a small circle in the centre of each
- Roll the marzipan into 12 marble sized balls
- Bake cookies for 10 minutes then gentley pop the balls into the dents and bake for further 5-7 minutes
- cook cookies on a wire rack