Sunday, March 22, 2009

Simnel Cakes for Mothering Sunday

As a tribute to my UK visitors and Mothering Sunday, I would like to post a recipe for Simnel Cake from a cookbook titled We Gather Together A Cookbook of Menus and Recipes By the Wives of the Bishops of the Episcopal Church, (c) 1976.

Traditionally referred to as Refreshment Sunday, Laetare Sunday and Rose Sunday, the fourth Sunday in Lent is know as Mothering Sunday in the UK. It is on this day that those who were baptized return to their "Mother" churches and offer a gift, usually in the form of cake called a Simnel Cake. “Mid-Lent Sunday” is also a day where those who have fasted during the Advent season get a day of relaxation or a day to refresh. On Refreshment Sunday, you may notice that the church too takes a break from its traditional Advent season colors which are replaced with the color rose, hence, Rose Sunday.

We Gather Together
Mid-Lent; Mothering Sunday
When the lenten fast was more rigorous, a "break" was permitted halfway through...This break, the fourth Sunday in Lent, usually comes in March and is called by several names, the nicest being "Laetare" from the opening Latin words of the Mass, "Rejoice!" It is also called "Refreshment Sunday" and "Mothering Sunday," possibly from the Epistle which refers to Jerusalem as the "Mother of us all." So, the custom arose of visiting one's cathedral, the "mother-church," and if possible one's own early mother. To her one brought a small gift, often a simnel cake. Robert Herrick, the seventeenth century poet, refers to the day in these lines.
I'll to thee a simnel bring
'Gainst thou go'st a-mothering;
So that, when she blesseth thee
Half that blessing thou'lt give me.

Once again from the book.

There are many good rules for simnel cake. The word seems to come from the Latin simila, meaning fine flour. Simnel Bread appears in many forms on the Fourth Sunday of Lent. In some churches a large loaf of bread is blessed and eaten as part of the Communion service, or it may be blessed at the service and shared at the coffee hour. The bread-in our day it has become more cake than bread-may be baked in cake tims of any desired size and frosted and decorated in any appropriate manner. The following recipe is a variation in the form of little cakes with almond paste filling.
Simnel Cakes
3 sticks butter
2 cups sugar
6 eggs
2-1/2 cups sifted flour
1 cup currants
1 cup golden raisins
1/2 cup candied mixed peel, chopped fine
Cream butter and sugar. Beat in the eggs one at a time. Add flour, currants, raisins, and peel. Make an almond paste, using:
3/4 cup almond paste
2 eggs
3/4 cup granulated sugar
6 tablespoons flour
Mix these ingredients together to a smooth, stiff paste. Using paper linings for tiny cupcake tins, place 1 teaspoon cake batter in the shell, then 1/2 teaspoon almond paste and top with a layer of cake batter. Bake in a 350-degree oven for 30 minutes. Make 4 dozen cupcakes. (contributed by Martha Porteus)

Before I forget, tomorrow is the birth day of Fannie Farmer, often referred to as "the mother of level measurements." You may like to visit a post I did last year titled, Fannie Farmer Tales. Enjoy Mothering Sunday:)


  1. Tomorrow is my husband's birthday, too -- how funny he shares it with Fannie :)

    I have some Episcopalian family members, but had never heard of this tradition before. Is it not celebrated much in US denominations, or do I simply have less-than-observant relatives? (The latter is fairly likely.)

  2. Hi Erica, Nice to "see" you. That is funny that your husband shares a day with Fannie. Had I but known, I would have included a birthday cake in the post.

    Mothering Sunday is a custom once celebrated in the United Kingdom. I think it has gone by the wayside in modern times. Perhaps, when English visitors see this post, they will enlighten us:)

  3. Hi Louise! Mothering Sunday is still BIG the the UK.
    This is a lovely cake recipe!

  4. Fascinating post. This is one tradition I've never heard of, and I thought I had a pretty good handle on the obscure, food-related ones in the Christian tradition. :)

  5. I've never heard of a simnel cake before. How neat!

  6. Hi Jan,
    I suppose I should have checked with you first. Thank goodness, a cake recipe such as this should not slip into the shadows.

    Thanks for stopping in Adele. I think some obscure holidays are worth resurrecting.

    Bake it duckie, the "kiddies" will love it!


Through this wide opened gate,
none came too early,
none returned too late.

Thanks for dropping in...Louise