Simnel Muffins (Easter Muffins)
I should start this post by freely admitting that I’m neither religious nor a fan of the current, commercially driven Easter celebration. When it comes to this time of the year, I tend to lean towards paganism – I simply enjoy the celebratory feasting and nod to nature, spring and new beginnings (represented so perfectly of course by the symbol of the egg). Fruit cake is overshadowed by chocolate at Easter these days, but it is most definitely the authentic treat to eat. My grandparents passed down to me a love of fruit cake at both Christmas and Easter, but I never really appreciated the difference between the two until recently. Easter fruitcake, traditionally known as Simnel Cake, is a much lighter, golden cake, in texture and colour respectively. It also heavily features marzipan, so if you’re not into the almondy good stuff, you might as well stop reading now.
I wanted to devise a fun way of presenting all the elements of a Simnel Cake to fruit cake haters (and there are plenty of you out there!). So I created this recipe. It is also perfect if you’re a bit scatter-brained like me and fancy a fruit cake for Easter, but haven’t allowed yourself enough time to make one. Either way, I BEG you to give these a try. Good fruit cake is quite an investment in both time and money; good muffins, however, are unbelievably fast and easy (and not to mention economical) to make. These will change your life! Or at least, your Easter weekend. I am so proud of these golden, fruity, lightly spiced bundles of goodness! As a finishing touch, I rolled balls of marzipan to decorate the muffins as a homage to the Victorian tradition of decorating Simnel Cake with eleven marzipan balls, representing the twelve apostles minus Judas. But feel free to go a bit kitsch and use Mini Eggs instead.
I like creating my own traditions and instilling them in my daughter; this Easter Muffin recipe is most definitely a keeper.
Makes 12 large muffins. You will need a large 12-hole muffin tin and large muffin cases – I always use the Dr Oetker ones from any supermarket.
For the muffins:
250g plain flour
1 tbsp baking powder
1 tsp mixed spice
1/4 tsp salt
75g soft light brown sugar
115g dried mixed fruit
1 large egg
75ml sunflower oil
85g icing sugar
1 tbsp lemon juice
100g marzipan, rolled into balls – or use Mini Eggs
A little cinnamon, for sprinkling
Preheat the oven to 200c/400f/gas mark 6. In a large bowl, stir together the flour, baking powder, mixed spice and salt, then grate in the marzipan. Stir now and again, coating the marzipan in the floury mix to stop it clumping. Stir in the sugar and dried fruit.
In a separate jug, combine the egg, milk and sunflower oil. Add this to the dry mix. Stir gently with a spatula, scraping the sides of the bowl and cutting through the mixture just until everything is combined. Don’t aim for a smooth batter; when it comes to muffins, less is more and a few little lumps are ok! Just combine until you can’t see any dry bits.
Divide the mixture evenly between the twelve muffin cases. I use a trigger ice cream scoop to do all my muffins and cupcakes – it’s the perfect no-mess measuring tool. (I use this one from Oxo).
Place the muffins in the centre of a preheated oven and bake for 23-25 minutes. Check them after 23 minutes, if they look slightly too pale, pop them back in for another minute or two. They will be a beautiful golden colour when they’re ready. Allow to cool on a wire rack.
When completely cold, simply combine the icing sugar and lemon juice in a bowl and gently place a teaspoonful on top of each muffin. Top with a marzipan ball (or Mini Egg). Leave to set then dust with a little cinnamon. Store in an airtight tub and enjoy within a couple of days.