Chocolate, orange & almond simnel cake

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

  • Prep:40 mins
    Cook:50 mins
  • More effort

Nutrition per serving

  • kcal 1148
  • fat 71g
  • saturates 38g
  • carbs 123g
  • sugars 93g
  • fibre 3g
  • protein 12g
  • salt 0.99g


  • 250g slightly salted butter, plus extra for greasing
  • 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
  • 2 eggs
  • 284ml tub buttermilk
  • zest and juice 1 orange
  • 85g golden caster sugar
  • 100g icing sugar, plus extra to decorate
  • 200g ground almonds
  • 50g cocoa powder, plus extra for dusting
  • 1 egg, plus 1 yolk, beaten
  • 2 x 250g/9oz tubs mascarpone
  • 250g butter, softened
  • 250g icing sugar
  • zest 2 oranges plus 100ml juice


Ready-made chocolate marzipan
You can buy ready-made chocolate marzipan from Squires ( that doesn't contain any raw egg, great if you're baking for kids or expectant mums.Don't have two tins?
This cake recipe is easily halved, so you can make and bake it in two batches. Don’t make the whole batch of batter, then bake the cakes one at a time, or the second cake won’t rise very well as the batter will have been sitting around for too long.


  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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