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A Traditional Lenten Cake
Associated With Mothering Sunday and Laetare Sunday

The following was originally posted on the site of the Anglican Catholic Church as a seasonal resource in 1999.   It has been adapted for this site.   Any errors on this page are ours and not that of the original authors - whom we thank for their work.
Simnel cakes are called such because of the fine flour (Latin "simila") they were made of.   These cakes were baked and sold on Lenten Sundays in both England and France.   The French baked their cakes muffin-size and drew sugar crosses on the top.   These were their equivalent of the English Hot Cross Bun.

In England, the Simnel cake is especially associated with the 4th Sunday in Lent called Refreshment, Rose, or Mothering Sunday.   That day was the older version of Mother's Day.   Children of all ages were expected to pay a formal visit to their mothers and to bring a Simnel cake as a gift.   In return, the mothers gave their children a special blessing.   This custom was so well-established that masters were required to give servants enough time off to visit out-of-town mothers - provided the trip did not exceed 5 days!

The Simnel cake is also associated with "Holy Humour Sunday" or "Laughter Sunday" which is celebrated in certain places on the 4th Sunday in Lent, especially in North America, where "Mothering Sunday" has given way to "Mother's Day" (see Laughter Sunday)

A Recipe For Simnel Cake

  1 ½ Cups butter
  4  Cups flour
  8 eggs
  1 teaspoon salt
  4  Cups sugar
     2/3 Cup grated lemon & orange peel
  2  Cups currants
  8 oz. (or more) almond paste
Mixing & Baking Directions
 Cream butter and sugar until smooth.
 Add eggs singly, beating after each one
 Sift and add flour and salt.
 Dust peel and currants with flour and add to batter.
 Line 12" x 15" greased pan with waxpaper.
 Pour in ½ batter.
 Bake at 300 degrees for one hour.
 May be iced if desired.
 Cut cake into small 1" squares as it is very rich. (Freezes well.)

Another Recipe For Simnel Cake

The following recipe for Simnel Cake varies from the one above in that it has more fruit and spices. Some describe this as a rich plum cake enclosed in a hard dough crust, some say it is a currant cake, and some insist it has a marzipan frosting. There are probably as many variations of Simnel cake as there are imaginative cooks who add a special "something" from their cupboard. The following recipe is delicious and very easy to make. Try making it to enjoy with your family and friends or to take to church and share at the coffee hour.
  1½ Cups flour
    ½ teaspoon baking powder
    ¼ teaspoon allspice
    ¼ teaspoon cinnamon
    ¼ teaspoon nutmeg
    ¼ teaspoon ground cloves
    ¼ Cup softened butter
     ¾ Cup sugar
     ½ Cup golden raisins
     ¾ teaspoon currants
 1 Cup chopped candied fruits such as cherries, pineapple slices
   2 Tablespoons mixed candied fruit peel
   3 eggs beaten lightly
     ½ teaspoon vanilla
   2 Tablespoons brandy
Mixing & Baking Directions
 Set the oven 300 degrees
 Mix raisins, currants, candied fruits, and candied peel with 1 tablespoon and set aside.
 Sift remaining flour, baking powder, allspice, cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves and set aside.
 In a large bowl, cream butter and sugar together until light.
 Beat in eggs, brandy, and vanilla. A food processor or electric mixer may be used.
 Beat in flour mix gradually until just combined.
 Add the fruit and peel mix to the batter and combine well.
 Turn the batter into a greased layer-cake pan and press down the surface with the back of a spoon to smooth.
 Bake 1  ¼ until a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean.
 Let cool before removing from pan and cool completely before frosting.
 Beat 1/3 Cup softened butter until light
 Gradually beat in 3  ½ Cups confectioner¼ar until fluffy.
 Beat 2 teaspoons vanilla and about 3 Tablespoons milk until smooth.
 If it seems too thick, add a little more milk.

The first recipe is from The Christian Year, A cookbook for Holy Days & Seasons; by the Women of St. Thomas of Canterbury, Anglican Catholic Church, Roanoke, Virginia.

The second recipe is from A Lenten Companion, Molly Cochran McConnell, Morehouse Publishing, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.

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