Chocolate, orange & almond simnel cake

Chocolate, orange & almond simnel cake

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(17 ratings)

Prep: 40 mins Cook: 50 mins

More effort

Cuts into 12 slices
A rich, indulgent Easter treat with orange frosting and homemade chocolate marzipan, great for those who don't like traditional fruit cake

Nutrition and extra info

  • Undecorated cake can be frozen

Nutrition: per serving

  • kcal1148
  • fat71g
  • saturates38g
  • carbs123g
  • sugars93g
  • fibre3g
  • protein12g
  • salt0.99g
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  • 250g slightly salted butter, plus extra for greasing



    Butter is made when lactic-acid producing bacteria are added to cream and churned to make an…

  • 100g orange-flavoured plain chocolate or 100g plain chocolate plus 2 tsp orange extract
  • 400g plain flour
  • 500g golden caster sugar
  • 25g cocoa, plus extra for dusting
  • 1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
    Bicarbonate of soda

    Bicarbonate of soda

    Bicarbonate of soda, or baking soda, is an alkali which is used to raise soda breads and full-…

  • 2 egg



    The ultimate convenience food, eggs are powerhouses of nutrition, packed with protein and a…

  • 284ml tub buttermilk
  • zest and juice 1 orange



    One of the best-known citrus fruits, oranges aren't necessarily orange - some varieties are…

For the marzipan

  • 85g golden caster sugar
  • 100g icing sugar, plus extra to decorate
  • 200g ground almond
  • 50g cocoa powder, plus extra for dusting
  • 1 egg, plus 1 yolk, beaten



    The ultimate convenience food, eggs are powerhouses of nutrition, packed with protein and a…

For the frosting

  • 2 x 250g/9oz tubs mascarpone
  • 250g butter, softened



    Butter is made when lactic-acid producing bacteria are added to cream and churned to make an…

  • 250g icing sugar
  • zest 2 oranges plus 100ml juice



    One of the best-known citrus fruits, oranges aren't necessarily orange - some varieties are…


  1. Heat oven to 180C/160C fan/gas 4. Grease and line the base and sides of two deep 23cm cake tins. Boil the kettle. Put the butter and chocolate in a small pan and gently heat, stirring, until completely melted. Mix together the flour, sugar, cocoa and bicarbonate of soda with a pinch of salt in your largest mixing bowl. Whisk the eggs, buttermilk, orange zest and juice together in a jug. Scrape the melted chocolate mixture and egg mixture into the dry ingredients, add 150ml boiling water and whizz briefly with an electric whisk until the cake batter is lump-free. Divide between the tins and bake for 45 mins – swapping the tins round after 30 mins if on different shelves. To test they’re done, push in a skewer and check that it comes out clean. Cool the cakes in their tins.

  2. Meanwhile, make the marzipan. Mix the sugars, ground almonds and cocoa in a bowl. Make a well in the middle, tip in the egg and egg yolk and mix together with a cutlery knife before kneading with your hands to a smooth ball. Wrap in cling film and set aside. Will keep in the fridge for 1 week if making ahead.

  3. Make the frosting: beat the mascarpone and butter together until smooth. Sift in the icing sugar, add the zest and juice, then beat again until combined.

  4. To assemble, split each cake in half horizontally. Dot a little frosting on your serving plate and sit one of the cake halves on top. You’ll use about half the frosting to sandwich the cakes together – spread the plated-up cake with some frosting, then repeat to sandwich the remaining cakes on top. Brush the top of the cake with a tiny bit more frosting.

  5. Roll out the marzipan, on a dusting of cocoa if you need, to a rough 27cm circle. Using your cake tin like a cookie cutter, stamp out a marzipan circle, then carefully lift this onto the top of your cake. Roll the remaining marzipan into 11 small balls and stick them on top, using a little more frosting or water like glue. Spread the remaining frosting round the outside of the cake, then dust the top with a little more cocoa and icing sugar.

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Comments (22)

sllyst's picture

I read all of the comments before making this cake but the cakes were too flimsy to be halved and I only added the zest to the frosting. The marzipan was tasteless and the frosting was bitter, overall a disappointment.

sonia84's picture

Totally gutted. I really should have read these comments before I attempted this. Moderately easy?!!! Maybe if you're Delia Smith! I'm not an avid baker but thought I'd give this a go as it would be nice to take to the in laws for Easter lunch.
I followed the recipe to the letter. I ended up with a sponge that completely crumbled, marzipan that could hold up ceiling tiles and an icing that resembles scrambled egg!! I've managed to save one of the cakes so will make a chocolate butter icing instead for that... I might write up the recipe and send it to Good Food. You clearly don't have to be too masterful to contribute a recipe!!

jannya's picture

I wanted to make an Easter cake and don't like simnel cake so this looked great!
The cakes themselves barely rose at all so I didn't cut them in half.
I used a different marzipan recipe that didn't contain raw egg (, replacing a few tablespoons of almonds with cocoa powder).
After hearing about everyone's frosting disasters I made buttercream instead (110g icing sugar, 50g butter and a few squeezes of orange juice was just enough to fill one layer).
The result was delicious, but it took all afternoon, and I didn't really follow much of the recipe, but hey, that's what baking is about. :)

lynwarren's picture

I was really looking forward to making this cake for the coming Easter weekend, but I am put off by all the comments saying how it doesn't work. It does annoy me that no one from Good Food seems to monitor these comments, surely, with so many negative comments they should be looking to change this recipe? I am giving it one star because I feel that I am not willing to risk the cost of all these expensive ingredients & so can't bake it.

hagaar's picture

Was considering making this for Easter this year but after reading the reviews I am not prepared to waste expensive ingredients if the icing is going to split.

I am really surprised this recipe has not been reviews by Good Food as there are a lot of complaints.

glenyst's picture

You've got to be joking! 1148 kcalories, carbohydrate 123g, fat 71g!!

Also, it sounds more difficult than "Moderately Easy". Won't rate because I won't be trying this. Does look pretty though.

jaclegg's picture

I made this cake, as others the frosting split and the cake could not tbe taken to the easter party as I planned. I bought more mascarpone and had another go. This time it worked ( i only gently beat the ingredients together)and finished off the cake. It is rather delicous cake unfortunately there were only 4 people round the next day! Lots of cake still to eat.

faltskog's picture

Frosting was a disaster, it curdled and there was no saving it. Considering all the problems that people have had, maybe Good Food should remove this recipe and retest it before alot more disgruntled readers make it and waste so much money.

mkalogeropoulos's picture

I made this cake for a friend's birthday as a surprise. It is true, the filling did separate even before adding the orange juice. I had to add some flour to gather the liquids! In the end it both looked and tasted great!
An Italian friend said that the way she makes the tiramisu cream resembles this one; she melts the butter and then mixes it with the mascarpone. So it might work better if butter is melted rather than just softened at room temperature.

mich_mkp's picture

I made this cake over Easter. My frosting also split, but I rescued it by zapping it in the microwave for a few seconds, then beating some more. Left it to cool for a bit, and it worked just fine. Only slight problem was there wasn't enough to coat the sides, but I think that might have been because I used too much in the middle.

Am intending on using the sponge recipe again with ordinary buttercream for my friends' wedding cakes - this time with plain chocolate and maybe a little raspberry liqueur (and jam to sandwich/ice), and with only two layers made slightly thicker so as not to have such a huge cake! Gorgeous.

lynetteab's picture

delicious cake! However, I think the recipe perhaps needs retesting? The cake batter was too runny, so I left out the additional boiling water. After this the cake itself came out perfectly and just perfect to split in half each. The icing was a big disaster though. It is far too runny to use. After adding an additional 250g of icing it was a bit thicker, but still too sloppy and the cake layers ended up sliding about and the icing would not stay on the sides of the cake. I might use a revised version of the sponge again, but will certainly use regular butter icing next time.

anji444's picture

I made this cake and it worked well. I could not find buttermilk so I used an equal quantity of single cream. I later searched online for buttermilk equivalents and think I should have used plain yoghurt (especially in light of the calories in this recipe!)
The problem with this cake - if it works - is because of the frosting it does not keep. The cake is so rich so unless you know a lot of people willing to eat such a fattening cake, I would go with something less ambitious.

heleng55's picture

I have NEVER been so disappointed with a cake from this magazine/website. Aside from the cost of the cake, which is very high, the frosting split and ruined it, after all the work taken to make the cake and marzipan. I make cakes every week and have cooked some really difficult ones, so my error it wasnt!

Reading the other comments i am glad it was not just me that had this problem, but i am so annoyed at our Easter cake being a waste of time and money....i think Good Food should reply and tell its readers how the frosting should be made. (given the amount of complaints!)

fishaami's picture

It worked well with mine, even a bit complicated. But very delicious.
But I have too much frosting and marzipan left, don't know what do to with them...

mdaszko's picture

I made this cake for Easter Sunday and was really looking forward to it. I bake a lot of cakes and wanted to try something new, however it turned out to be the worst cake I've ever made (despite following the instructions and ingredients exactly)! The cake itself tasted too doughy and the marzipan was grainy. The frosting curdled instantly, and could not be rescued no matter how much icing sugar I added. I think the quantities of icing sugar and orange juice really need to be checked. I ended up throwing the entire cake in the bin. Very disappointed.

absfabmum's picture

Excellent cake, massive hit with everyone who definitely preferred it to last year's easter cake (also from Good Food). Not sure about getting 12 portions out of it - I had 15 to lunch and still have half the cake left over! Perhpas I shouldn't have told them 1,150 calories per slice!

Had no problems making the cake, although I added more icing sugar (not sure how much 150g?) to make the frosting go further before adding orange zest and juice. It didn't curdle although I kept it in the fridge once decorated as when it got warmer the frosting became looser and I didn't want it slipping off the cake!

I didn't make the chocolate marzipan as I had already bought golden marzipan so I just mixed some cocoa powder into it (it went a light coffee colour) and then rolled the balls in cocoa powder to finish them off to make them darker.

Would definitely make again.

froggirl1's picture

The sponge was lovely, but I also found that the icing split, even before the orange juice was added. I had to add a lot more icing sugar to try and 'save' it. This worked to an extent, but ended up being sweeter and less creamy than it should have been to compliment the sponge. I would avoid using the recipe for this icing as it costs ALOT and does not work.

eball14's picture

I have a lot to complain about this recipe. First off I don't know how they got their cake so flat using only 2 tins and their layers so thick, I think they made more than 2 cakes. And the frosting, first off mine split, and I think it calls for wayyyy to much orange juice in it and now way should you just pour it in all at once. It should be done a little at a time with sugar and beaten after each addition. It also needs to say that the mascarpone should be at room temperature. I'm sure it will taste good, but considering how much time it takes, and I needed 4 tubs of mascarpone which cost me $16 on a waste. I made a cream cheese orange frosting instead. I don't think I will ever be making this again.

anita_boneyb's picture

have also tried frosting today, it too curdled. very disappointed as had guests. what a waste of ingredients,any suggestions, particularly as i cook for a living.

celialbell's picture

Tried the frosting twice: first time mascarpone and butter at fridge temperature and curdled even before orange added; second time with two sets of ingredients from different sources at room temperature and still curdled. The frosting could not be applied because the separation was too great. Help - very disappointing and expensive.


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