I am not religious, but I do enjoy all the major Christian holidays, chiefly because they are all held together with copious amounts of marzipan. I love marzipan. I’m that person that will eat the spare almond paste off your Royal icing when you’re defeated by Christmas cake or buy a block of it to eat slices off. And don’t get me started about those exquisite little fruits modelled from the stuff you get in posh grocers and Fortnums. I am definitely in the pro-camp.
I spend a lot of time wanting to increase the ways I can get marzipan into my life, so Easter and its siren song of Simnel cake pleases me hugely. I toyed with these mini ones from Nutmegs Seven which look light as a feather, but I’ve also been fiddling around with trying a marzipan ice cream for ages and suddenly it came together and I realised my world needed Simnel cake ice cream immediately.
You could of course bake a Simnel Cake and break it up into homemade ice cream and bob’s your uncle, but I have a deep shuddering hatred of wet cake. Things like trifle and tiramisu make me feel funny inside. So I needed something more deconstructed, but simple and I think, with this recipe, I’ve cracked it:
Simnel Cake Ice Cream
Vanilla Ice Cream (adapted from David Lebovitz’s The Perfect Scoop)
- 250 ml whole milk (preferably Jersey)
- 500ml double cream
- 75g caster sugar
- pinch salt
- 5 egg yolks
- vanilla bean or 1 tsp good vanilla extract
- 1/4 tsp mixed spice
Heat the milk and cream and sugar together until just warm and blipping gently round the edges. Infuse the vanilla pod if using. Separate your eggs and put the yolks in a bowl and beat lightly. Then take a cupful of the warm cream and milk mix and pour it into the eggs and mix well. This tempers the eggs so that you don’t scramble them when adding to the hot milk mixture. Then pour the egg mix into the cream and milk and heat gently until it covers the back of the spatula and looks like custard.
Take it off the heat immediately. Fish out the vanilla pod if you used it and stir in the vanilla extract if that’s what you are using. Pour the custard into a metal bowl and either chill overnight so it thickens or cool down over an ice bath. When fully chilled, make in your machine as normal.
Five minutes before the end add in the Simnel cake additions. I used about 100g of mixed dried fruit and candied peel that I had soaked overnight in lapsang souchong tea to plump up nicely. I also of course used some marzipan to add that almondy goodness and because I can get inexpensive bags of ground almonds, I made it myself, but feel free to use shopbought.
- 100g ground almonds
- 100g icing sugar
- egg to bind (I used some of the egg white from the ice cream & it was fine)
- almond essence (I used bitter almond from Baking Bits because I adore it, but sweet works too)
Mix the almonds and icing sugar together, breaking up any clumps, and make a well in the middle. Add in about a tablespoon of the egg and start binding together, adding more egg if it’s too dry or a bit more almond if it’s too wet. When it comes together into an almondy dough, knead it for a few minutes to get it smooth. Chill for about ten minutes and then roll into small balls for the ice cream (or roll for cakes.) The leftovers will keep in the fridge or can be frozen until needed in the future.
I then toasted my eleven marzipan balls at 200℃ for about 4 minutes (I had the oven on, but you could grill or blowtorch them) and then chopped them in half and added to the ice cream along with the fruit until mixed well. It all smelled amazing and looked to have a lovely texture but I decided it needed something cakey after all and went for some sponge fingers on the side to scoop the ice cream up with.
Sponge fingers: (adapted from this All Recipes version)
- 2 medium eggs, separated
- 50g caster sugar
- 50g plain flour
- 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
- pearl sugar to garnish (optional)
In one bowl, whip the egg whites until soft peaks appear. Add in about two tablespoons of the caster sugar and beat until glossy as shampoo advert hair. In a separate bowl, whisk the egg yolks and the remaining caster sugar until frothy and super pale.
Fold about half the egg whites in the yolks with a metal spoon. Sift in the flour and the baking powder and fold, adding in the rest of the egg white as you go. You should end up with the lightest batter you’ve ever seen. Spoon it into a piping bag with a wide nozzle or use a freezer bag with the corner cut off. It’s a little bit tricky to pipe easily as the amount of air in the batter makes it want to escape immediately, so mine looked more like a convention of commas than finger. Pipe on a tray covered with greaseproof paper, sprinkle with the pearled sugar and bake at 200℃ for 8 minutes.
Leave to cool for a minute or two then carefully peel from the paper to a cooling rack. They will stick very slightly but don’t worry. I got about 15 monster sized ones from this batter. You’d probably get 25 if you’re daintier with a piping bag than I am. Then simply scoop out a healthy portion of the ice cream, garnish with any leftover toasted marzipan balls and one of these etherally light sponge fingers and dig in for a lighter taste of Simnel cake.
This ice cream was wonderful. The vanilla, spice and bitter almond mingle beautifully to create a warm clean flavour that varies from spoonful to spoonful, depending whether you get a little more marzipan or the very grown up citrus of the peel. Althought there’s a lot going on in there, nothing dominates or clashes. I think you might even convince a few marzipan sceptics with this (it’s definitely an excellent one if your loved ones don’t do fruit cake). Have a very Good Friday with a dish of this!