Watch: This Easter you need to add chocolate to your hot cross buns
It’s not quite time to crack open the chocolate eggs – but Easter weekend provides treats of its own, with Simnel cake, featuring 11 balls of icing to represent the Apostles (minus Judas, naturally), and that all-time baked-goods icon, the fragrant hot cross bun.
This traditional cake is a lovely treat to have on hand over Easter week. You can swap half the sultanas for currants if you prefer – sultanas make for a softer texture.
Makes: 12 servings
170g golden caster sugar
3 large eggs
1 tsp mixed spice
½ tsp cinnamon
zest of 1 orange
60g candied peel
2 tbsps milk
2 tsps honey, thinned with water
1 tbsp beaten egg white
1. Preheat the oven to 160°C. Grease and double-line a 20cm cake tin.
2. Cream together the butter and sugar with an electric whisk, then gradually beat in the eggs.
3. Sieve in the flour, mixed spice and cinnamon and stir through.
4. Add the zest, mixed peel and sultanas and fold in with a large spoon.
5. Add the milk, and stir, then transfer half the mix into the lined tin. Roll out a disc of marzipan, about 0.5cm thick, and cut to fit the tin. Place it on top on the mix, then add the rest.
6. Bake for two and a half hours, but check at two hours 15 mins – if it’s springy on top, and a skewer emerges clean from the centre, remove the cake.
7. Let it cool in the tin for an hour, then remove to a wire rack for another hour until fully cooled.
8. Roll and cut another marzipan circle. Turn the cake upside down, then brush with thinned-down honey and stick the marzipan disc on top. Form 11 balls of marzipan (if you want them exactly matching, 10g each is perfect), and arrange round the edge.
9. Brush the balls and marzipan top lightly with egg white. Place under a hot grill, watching very carefully, until lightly browned. This happens in seconds, so be wary!
10. Decorate with spring flowers, and tie a ribbon around the cake.
Hot cross buns
This is a not a quick recipe to whisk up spontaneously. But if you have a few hours spare, it makes delicious Easter buns, which toast perfectly.
Makes: 12 small buns
100ml tepid whole milk
100ml tepid water
7g sachet dried yeast
50g golden caster sugar
350g strong white bread flour
pinch of salt
½ tsp cinnamon
½ tsp nutmeg
30g mixed candied peel
120g mixed currants and sultanas
1 beaten egg
30g butter, melted
For the crosses
75g plain flour
5 tbsps water
For the glaze
2 tbsps marmalade
2 tsps boiling water
1. Mix the tepid milk and water. Add yeast to 1 tbsp of the liquid and mix with 1 tsp of the sugar. Set aside till it bubbles slightly.
2. Put 225g of the flour and the salt into a big bowl, make a dent in the centre and pour in the yeast mix. Cover and leave for 20 mins.
3. Mix the rest of the flour with the sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, peel and dried fruit. Add to the yeast mix, with the beaten egg and melted butter, and mix to a dough (add water, a tsp at a time, if it feels too dry to form into a ball).
4. Place in a greased bowl, cover with oiled cling-film or a tea towel, and leave to rise somewhere warm and draught-free until doubled in size (about one and a half hours).
5. Knead the risen dough gently for a couple of minutes. Roll into a log, and cut into 12 equal pieces. Shape into buns, and place apart on two well-oiled baking trays. Cover again and leave to rise for 30 mins.
6. Mix the flour and water, and spoon the paste into a piping bag, or small plastic bag with the corner snipped off. Pipe a cross on each bun.
7. Preheat oven to 220°C (200°C fan). Bake buns for 15-20 mins until they are browned and sound hollow when tapped on the base.
8. Transfer to a wire rack. Mix the marmalade with boiling water (if you hate it, use honey). Brush each bun to glaze while they’re still warm.
Watch: Seven Easter traditions from around the World