What is an Easter Cake Called

In Italy, the Easter cake is called crescia sfogliata, which translates to sheet cake. This type of Easter cake varies in shape and style according to the region it comes from. Some are circular while others are square or rectangular. They can be made with simple ingredients like flour and water, or they can be more complicated cakes made with yeast, eggs and butter.

In Portuguese and Spanish, the cake is called torta pascualina and is traditionally served in countries such as Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Uruguay, Peru and Portugal.

The cake is called torta pascualina and is traditionally served in countries such as Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Uruguay, Peru and Portugal. It’s a sweet pastry filled with spinach or other greens, eggs and cheese similar to a quiche.

A traditional Easter dessert in Italy is a sweet pastry filled with spinach or other greens, eggs and cheese similar to a quiche.

Though it may seem like a sweet dessert to you, an Easter cake made in Italy is called Torta Pasqualina, which translates to “Easter Cake.” This traditional Italian pie is filled with spinach or other greens, eggs and cheese similar to a quiche. It’s also served at Christmas time. The pastry dough can be either sweetened or savory depending on its filling – some versions contain ricotta cheese while others are stuffed with vegetables like asparagus or mushrooms.


We believe that the best way to enjoy Easter is by making a cake with your family and friends. We hope you will try one (or all) of these recipes this year!

Simnel cake is a fruitcake widely eaten in the United KingdomIreland and other countries with patterns of migration from them, associated with Lent and Easter. It is distinguished by layers of almond paste or marzipan, typically one in the middle and one on top, and a set of eleven balls made of the same paste. It was originally made for the fourth Sunday in Lent,[1] also known as Laetare Sunday, the Refreshment Sunday of Lent (when the 40-day fast would be relaxed), Mothering Sunday, the Sunday of the Five Loaves,[2] or Simnel Sunday; named after the cake.[3] In the United Kingdom it is now commonly associated with Easter Sunday.[4]



Simnel cake decorated with marzipan

Conventionally, 11 marzipan balls are used to decorate the cake, symbolising the 12 apostles minus Judas Iscariot,[1][5][6] or occasionally 12 are used, representing Jesus and the 11 apostles.[7][8] However, an early reference to decorating with marzipan balls appears in May Byron’s Pot-Luck Cookery,[9][10] but with no mention of this story, and her version may well be derived from earlier styles, which were sometimes crenelated.[11]


A slice of the cake showing dried fruits

Simnel cake is a light fruitcake, generally made from these ingredients: white floursugarbuttereggs, fragrant spicesdried fruitszest and candied peel. Sometimes orange flower water or brandy is used, either in the cake batter or to flavour the almond paste. In most modern versions marzipan or almond paste is used as a filling for the cake, with a layer laid in the middle of the mix before the cake is cooked, and it is also used as decoration on the top.[12] Most recipes require at least 90 minutes of cooking, and advise using several layers of baking parchment to line the tin, and sometimes brown paper wrapped around the outside to stop the marzipan burning.[13]


Simnel cakes have been known since at least medieval times. Bread regulations of the time suggest they were boiled and then baked, a technique which led to an invention myth, in circulation from at least 1745 until the 1930s,[14][15] whereby a mythical couple, Simon and Nelly, fall out over making a Simnel. One wishes to boil it, one to bake it and, after beating each other with various household implements, they compromise on one which uses both cooking techniques.

Simnel cakes are often associated with Mothering Sunday,[16] also known as Simnel Sunday.[17] According to historian Ronald Hutton, in 17th Century Gloucestershire and Worcestershire the custom of live-in apprentices and domestic servants going home to visit their mothers on Mothering Sunday started, checking that their families were well and taking food or money if needed. This was a time of year when food stocks were low, and the high-calorie simnel cake was useful nutrition.[16] The cake later became simply an Easter cake.[18]

The meaning of the word “simnel” is unclear: there is a 1226 reference to “bread made into a simnel”, which is understood to mean the finest white bread,[19] from the Latin simila, “fine flour” (from which ‘semolina‘ also derives). John de Garlande felt that the word was equivalent to placenta cake,[3] a cake that was intended to please.[20]


Shrewsbury Simnel cake with pastry covering and crenulated decoration, 1869

Different towns had their own recipes and shapes of the Simnel cake. Both Bury and Shrewsbury produced large numbers to their own recipes. Chambers Book of Days (1869) contains an illustration of the Shrewsbury Simnel cake, of which says:[21]

It is an old custom in Shropshire and Herefordshire, and especially at Shrewsbury, to make during Lent and Easter, and also at Christmas, a sort of rich and expensive cakes, which are called Simnel Cakes. They are raised cakes, the crust of which is made of fine flour and water, with sufficient saffron to give it a deep yellow colour, and the interior is filled with the materials of a very rich plum-cake, with plenty of candied lemon peel, and other good things. They are made up very stiff; tied up in a cloth, and boiled for several hours, after which they are brushed over with egg, and then baked. When ready for sale the crust is as hard as if made of wood … the accompanying engraving, representing large and small cakes as now on sale in Shrewsbury. The usage of these cakes is evidently one of great antiquity.

Today, in Shrewsbury, as elsewhere in England, the Simnel cake is usually made with the Bury recipe.[21]

Traditional Easter Cake

Simnel Cake. A British Easter tradition. A light fruitcake with a layer of marzipan baked into the centre, then topped with a traditional marzipan decoration.

Easter Simnel Cake featured recipe image

Easter Simnel Cake

A Simnel Cake is something I hear about practically every year on the British cooking shows. I’d never made one until now.

I thought about it again recently, once again when doing a cupboard cleaning. I did have quite a few odds and ends of leftover dried fruits from our annual holiday fruitcakes.

An Easter Simnel Cake seemed the ideal way to use up these leftover bits and bobs. Not having to buy additional ingredients also appealed to my frugal “waste nothing” sensibilities.

You can find the recipe for our Homemade Marzipan here.

How to make Homemade Marzipan

A quick search online shows that almost every one of the TV chefs over there have a recipe for it. From Nigella Lawson to Jamie Oliver to The Hairy Bikers, all have their own recipes that they’ve featured at some point over the years.

Simnel Cake close up photo of a slice of Simnel Cake

Easter Simnel Cake

The traditional Easter treat popped up again this year, just the other night as I was watching Mary Berry’s Easter Feast. That’s her latest short cooking series on BBC.

At that point I said, this will be the year to try this traditional British favourite.

The Simnel Cake has a very long history dating back to Medieval times. It’s also known as the cake young women who were in service at the country houses and manor houses of the upper classes, would bring home on Mothering Sunday, held on the middle Sunday in Lent.

Easter Simnel Cake wide shot photo of entire cake

Easter Simnel Cake

The 11 balls of marzipan are meant to symbolize the 11 Apostles of Jesus, with Judas, the traitor, being left off the cake. In Victorian times, sugared edible spring flowers came into fashion to replace the balls of marzipan.

Still, only 11 were welcome to adorn the top of the cake.

Developing a recipe for my own Simnel Cake.

I read quite a few recipes online and they are all quite different.  Some had apricots, some didn’t, some had spices, some didn’t. Some had fruit soaked in whisky or brandy, although most did not soak the fruit.

Most of the recipes did have that common layer of marzipan baked right into the centre of the cake.

An apricot jam layer to hold the marzipan in place

An apricot jam layer to hold the marzipan in place

As I often do, I pick and choose my favourite elements and make my own personal favourite version, so that’s exactly what I did here. I did keep the traditional cherries, citrus peel, currents and sultanas but threw in the apricots as well because they are my favourite dried fruit.

For background flavours, I added a little vanilla extract and kept the citrus zest that many of the recipes I’d read included.

I carefully converted the measurements to cups and not weights. I then scaled the recipe for a 9 inch pan because many of the recipes had smaller sized pans that aren’t all that common in North America; at least not in a baking pan deep enough for a fruitcake.

I figured many people have 9 inch springform pan for cheesecakes, so I went with that size.

Marzipan for Simnel Cake. Make your own.

Marzipan is always a bit of a challenge to find in these parts. A couple of stores that I tried, said that they only carry it seasonally around Christmas, so I went with a homemade version that’s really simple to make.

The texture of the marzipan turned out pretty well and it was quite easy to roll and to form into the shapes needed. It also tasted excellent. I love the smell of almond extract and that scent permeates the cake too, after the marzipan is baked into the centre.

Many of the recipes called for an egg wash over the marzipan topping but I tested torching just the marzipan first and it worked extremely well without an egg wash so I left that out altogether.

Homemade marzipan for Simnel Cake

Homemade marzipan.

Roll marzipan to 9 inch round

1. Roll marzipan to 9 inch round

Spread half the cake batter in the prepared cake pan.

2. Spread half the cake batter in the prepared cake pan.

Place the marzipan round over the batter.

3. Place the marzipan round over the batter.

Add remaining cake batter.

4. Add remaining cake batter.

The result

I must say, the result of this baking experiment was extraordinary. The marzipan at the centre melts into the cake and makes a sort of sticky, delicious core that’s irresistible. The toasting of the marzipan added a nice touch to the topping as well.

A Simnel Cake is definitely on the Easter cards from now on. I’ll be thinking of a recipe to incorporate that baked marzipan centre in one of my Christmas cakes this year too. That was my favourite part of discovering this British classic for the first time.

Simnel Cake photo on a clear glass stand with title text added for Pinterest

What Do The Marzipan Balls on Simnel Cake Represent

Simnel cake has been eaten since medieval times as both a rich, sweet treat and a symbolic ritual. The fruit cake is topped with eleven marzipan balls to represent the eleven apostles of Christ, minus Judas.

Simnel cake

Simnel cake is a light fruitcake that is an Easter classic and is often associated with Mother’s Day.


More simnel cake recipes

Easter simnel cake

by Mary Berry


Simnel cake


Mary Berry’s Easter simnel cake

by Mary Berry


Traditional simnel cake

by The Hairy Bikers


Mary Berry’s simnel cake

by Mary Berry


Simple simnel cake

by Mary Berry

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