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    Iain Watters’ Pistachio & Fig Simnel Cake

    Iain Watters shows us how to put a modern twist on the classic Simnel cake.

    A recent survey, carried out by our team at ao.com, has revealed that 58% of the population will be revelling in a traditional past time this Easter holiday and indulging in home baking, with the classic Simnel cake beating the hot cross buns and Chelsea bun to become the nation’s favourite Easter indulgence.

    With baking fever still gripping the nation, thanks to TV shows such as the Great British Bake Off, it looks like many of us will be setting time aside this Easter to try our hands at a new recipe or make the most of our favourite cook books.

    If you’re struggling for a little inspiration though, we’ve caught up with one of the stars of last year’s Great British Bake Off, Iain Watters. After working with Iain last Christmas on his delicious Chocolate Chestnut Orange Christmas Cake (the recipe of which can be found here) we knew he’d be the man to create something a little special for us to enjoy this Easter. And he hasn’t disappointed.

    Iain has taken the traditional Simnel cake and brought it up to date with the inclusion of pistachios and figs.

    Iain told us, “Now more than ever, baking is in fashion, and the extensive range of ingredients and equipment is helping to really encourage a younger generation to don an apron and get into the kitchen.

    “It’s really inspiring to take ingredients and recipes, and add your own mark to them. This year, I’ll be baking this Simnel Cake for my family. Updating the recipe slightly by adding some figs and pistachios gave it extra depth and a modern twist which everyone will hopefully really enjoy!”

    Here's what you'll need...

    • 175g Margarine
    • 175g light muscovado sugar
    • 3 medium eggs, beaten
    • 1 egg yolk (left over from pistachio marzipan)
    • 240g Self raising flour, sifted
    • 1 tsp grated nutmeg
    • 125g ready to eat figs
    • Finely grated rind of 1 lemon and orange

    For the pistachio marzipan

    • 200g pistachio kernels (save a few for decoration)
    • 150g sifted icing sugar
    • 1 medium free-range egg white
    • ½ tsp rose water (optional)


    • Honey or apricot jam
    • A few crushed pistachios
    • Some edible rose petal (optional)
    • Zest or an orange and lemon (optional)

    Here's how it's done... Step 1

    For marzipan, finely grind the pistachios in a food processor. Add the icing sugar and grind to a really fine mixture, then tip into a mixing bowl. Lightly whisk 1 egg white with a fork and stir in. Using your hand, knead the mixture until smooth. You may not need all the egg white take care as it can become too wet very quickly.


    Step 2

    Wrap in cling film and allow to rest in the fridge while you are making the cake. Heat the oven to 170°C/325°F/Gas mark 3, and grease and line a 22mm round, deep cake tin. Prepare the figs by chopping then into large pea sizes and set aside.

    Step 3

    Sift the self-raising flour and finely grate the nutmeg and set aside. Beat the margarine and sugar until light and fluffy; you can use a wooden spoon or an electric whisk or mixer. Then add all the eggs including egg yolk, along with the sifted flour and grated nutmeg and beat until well combined. Now fold in the fig until thoroughly dispersed.

    Step 4

    Pour the mixture into the prepare cake tin and bake for 35-40mins. Inserted skewer in to the center of the cake if it comes out clean it’s done. Leave to cool on a wire rack then remove from the tin and discard the lining paper.


    Step 5

    Trim the top of the cake so you have a flat top for the marzipan to sit on. Roll out two-thirds of the pistachio marzipan to a circle to fit the top of the cake. I rolled out the marzipan and used the base of the cake as a template and cut around it to form a perfectly sized disc Brush the top of the cake with a little warm apricot jam or honey and set the marzipan disc on top.


    Step 6

    Shape the rest of the marzipan into 12 balls and arrange around the edge, again stick them on with a little warm apricot jam or honey.


    Step 7

    Finally to decorate I sprinkling a few crush pistachios, zest of an orange and lemon, followed by some edible rose petals.



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