Simnel cake is a light fruit cake, similar to a Christmas cake, covered in marzipan, and eaten during Lent or at Easter in England, Ireland and some other countries. A layer of marzipan or almond paste is also baked into the middle of the cake. On the top of the cake, around the edge, are eleven marzipan balls to represent the true disciples of Jesus; Judas is omitted. In some variations Christ is also represented, by a ball placed at the centre.
The cake is made from these ingredients: white flour, sugar, butter, eggs, fragrant spices, dried fruits, zest and candied peel.
Simnel cakes have been known since mediaeval times, and were originally a Mothering Sunday tradition, when young girls in service would make one to be taken home to their mothers on their day off. The word simnel probably derived from the Latin word simila, meaning fine, wheaten flour with which the cakes were made.
A popular legend attributes the invention of the Simnel cake to Lambert Simnel, but this is clearly false since the Simnel cake appears in English literature prior to Lambert's escapades.
Different towns had their own recipes and shapes of the Simnel cake. Bury, Devizes and Shrewsbury produced large numbers to their own recipes, but it is the Shrewsbury version that became most popular and well known.
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