Six of the best simnel cakes from Yorkshire
Have patience with Tony Greenway who has just discovered an Easter tradition the rest of us have always enjoyed
This month, when the Editor asked me to investigate the best simnel cakes in Yorkshire, I said ‘yes’ immediately but had one key question.
What on earth is a simnel cake when it’s at home? Honestly, sometimes I think she makes things up just to test me.
Anyway, the Editor took me to one side and explained what a simnel cake was in the same tone of voice I use to let my five-year-old know that she has put her leggings on back to front.
A simnel cake, she said, is traditionally eaten at Easter and is, pretty much, fruit, treacle, spice and marzipan heaven on a plate. On the top of the cake are a number of marzipan balls — usually 11 of them — and these, so the story goes, are supposed to symbolise the 12 apostles; minus Judas (some people put an extra ball in the middle to symbolise Jesus).
Then again, a prominent food historian said that this was all a load of… um… marzipan spheres. The marzipan balls symbolise nothing and are just there because… well… they are.
So, taking an old family recipe — from Mary Berry’s family, you understand, not mine — my wife made a simnel cake and wow. It’s really rather good.
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So, although I’m nominating the six best in Yorkshire as listed here, I’m going out on a limb by nominating my wife’s as number seven, with thanks to Mary Berry, obviously.
CelebrateCelebrate, based in Helmsley, is run by Rhian Crusher, who has been baking and decorating cakes for more than 20 years and established her business in 2008. Rhian makes cakes to order and her simnel cakes start at six inch diameter. So what makes a good simnel cake, I asked? ‘Its fresh ingredients,’ she replied. ‘Orange and lemon zest with the marzipan running through the centre.’ Sign me up, I’ll have a couple.celebrate-countrycakedesign.co.uk
A Little Slice of HeavenThis Beverley-based cake-making business is aptly named because it creates handmade celebration cakes to order, and that includes those of the simnel variety (and many others besides).You can call to discuss your requirements, including, we presume, how many balls you want on the top.alittlesliceofheaven.co.uk
Blacker Hall Farm ShopA Wakefield-based farm shop which has its own bakery, staffed by expert bakers It’s well known for its Christmas cakes, but it creates lovingly made and rather tasty simnel cakes, too.blackerhallfarmshop.co.uk
Angels ShareHave you been to The Station at Richmond? You really should. This restored Victorian railway station is home to various food artisans. One of these is Angels Share, a small but fab bakery which makes simnel cakes in two different sizes.richmondstation.com/angels-share
Bettys of HarrogateI know. Bettys here, Bettys there, Bettys everywhere. But the people I’ve spoken to who have tried Bettys simnel cakes assure me that they are, frankly, out of this world and that it would be criminal not to mention them (it’s moistened with rum and presented in a rather fetching tin). Bettys also make Bury Simnels, a seasonal variation of the famous Fat Rascal.bettys.co.uk
Hirst’s BakeryA lovely traditional bakery based in Knaresborough. There’s no website, but you can find them on the high street — and they do a one-size 6.5inch diameter simnel cake. Why are they so good? ‘It’s all down to the recipe and the ingredients,’ they tell me, which is fair enough.
Mary Berry's recipehttp://www.bbc.co.uk/food/recipes/mary_berrys_simnel_cake_84841
Lesley Wild’s Recipe on the Betty's websitehttp://blog.bettys.co.uk/index.php/2013/03/lesley-wilds-easter-simnel-cake-recipe