Simnel Cake is the traditional Easter Cake and it is supposed to be decorated with eleven apostles (in the form of marzipan balls). The twelfth, Judas, is excluded for his sins. If you don’t like marzipan, you could cover the cake with any icing and then use mini foil-covered Easter eggs for the apostles.
First make the marzipan by whizzing all the ingredients together in a food processor. Gather the mixture into a ball and keep covered until using.
For the cake, line the base and sides of a 23cm cake tin with baking parchment. Set the oven to 180°C/160°C fan/350°F/Gas 4.
Whizz the dried fruit in a food processor briefly, so that it is roughly the size of the candied peel. Tip into a bowl, then pour over the brandy, orange juice, and zest.
Mix the ground almonds and flour together.
Put the butter and sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer and beat until fluffy and white, scraping down the sides of the bowl as you go.
Slowly beat in the eggs, one at a time, adding a tablespoon of the flour mix between each egg. Then add the rest of the flour mix with the machine on ‘pulse’. Don’t over-mix or the cake will be heavy.
Mix in the dried fruit and chopped almonds, taking great care not to over-mix. Transfer half the mixture to the lined cake tin, gently smoothing the top and spreading a little up the sides.
Roll out one third of the marzipan to a circle a little smaller than the cake tin, using extra icing sugar (as you would use flour when rolling out pastry) to stop it sticking.
Lay the circle of marzipan on top of the cake mix in the tin.
Add the rest of the cake mix and smooth the top flat.
Bake for 45 minutes. (Check after 30 minutes and put some foil on top if it is already dark enough.) Check it is cooked by inserting a skewer into the centre, which should come out clean.
Leave the cake to cool in the tin, running a palate knife around the edge to loosen it as it cools.
Roll the remaining marzipan into a circle the same size as the top of the cake. Cut a hole in the centre about 12cm across and use this piece to make eleven small balls.
Lay the ring of marzipan on top of the cake and brush with beaten egg, then arrange the balls on top of the ring. Lightly brush the balls with egg.
Heat the grill to maximum and grill the top until golden.
When cool, store in a cake tin.