This Lemon & White Chocolate Simnel Cake is for those of us that like the idea of having a traditional Easter cake but who don’t like heavy fruit cakes or marzipan. A moist lemon drizzle cake is topped with white chocolate ganache and Lindt white chocolate truffles for a super easy, great looking and tasty alternative!
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Simnel cake is a traditional British cake which is popular in the run up to Easter. Servants used to visit their families on the 4th Sunday in lent (Mother’s Day) and treat them to the cake.
Simnel is really a lightly spiced fruit cake with a layer of marzipan baked into it and topped with another layer of marzipan. 11 balls (more marzipan) are placed on top. The balls symbolise the 11 apostles (Judas is excluded) and the whole thing is grilled so the top of the balls blister and colour.
Which is all very well and good if you like fruit cakes. And marzipan. Which I don’t! Simnel cake has not therefore ever been a tradition in my family. But they look really cool so I wanted to make a version with the essence of a traditional simnel but lighter and marzipan free.
And so this Lemon and White Chocolate ‘Simnel’ Cake was born. I discussed, experimented and cogitated about my options for a couple of weeks. Should I handmake truffles to replace the balls? What flavour should I make the cake? Single layer or frosted in the middle? Should I cover it with buttercream or make it naked? Should I blow torch truffles to give them the burnt look?
But in the end, I decided to keep it light and as simple as possible. The cake is a simple single layer lemon drizzle. Its a similar recipe to my Mini Lemon & Cointreau Drizzle cakes but baked as one large cake. The lemon syrup keeps the sponge lovely and moist.
A single layer of white chocolate ganache just spread over the top of the cake not only tastes amazing but looks very similar to a layer of white marzipan. Using Lindt White Chocolate Truffles is a genius way of keeping the flavour profile of the cake very simple (and delicious) but the perfectly round and shiny truffles make the cake look instantly sophisticated.
I did decide against blowtorching the top of the truffles. They looked amazing but tasted of burnt chocolate and I simply couldn’t advise you to do it in good conscience! I’ll stick to making meringue when I want to have fun with my blowtorch.
If you’ve stumbled here by mistake and you’re actually looking for a more traditional simnel cake, check out this recipe from Janice over at Farmersgirl Cook. Or for different twist, this traybake version from Eb at Easy Peasy Foodie.
How to Serve Simnel Cake
The British way would be with a cup of tea! And I’m inclined to agree. There is nothing better than sitting down in the afternoon or late morning with a brew and slice of delicious lemon cake.
Room temperature is the best way to serve this cake. It doesn’t need to live in the fridge which will make it dry out anyway. And warm will simply melt the ganache. If we were talking about a milk or dark chocolate ganache then I’d be all over eating it warm. But white chocolate ganache just tends to be on the oily side. So room temp it is.
A note about portion size. This isn’t a large cake. A 20cm cake of this size is at most an 8 slice cake. This is what I have said in the recipe and the nutrition information. But you are going to put 11 decorations onto the cake which makes it an obvious 11 slice cake. But the slices are small. It’s up to you how to proceed!
Make Easter Cake into a Feast
I truly believe that you can make any dish into a proper feast! Whether thats a feast for one after work on a Tuesday, a casual feast for four on a Friday evening or a feast for 12 for a special occasion!
Cake is a feast in itself. A little squirty cream or evaporated milk turns it into a real decadent treat. A cup of tea or coffee if almost a given.
But for an extra special treat, you can make this cake part of an Easter themed afternoon tea. Throw in some savoury treats like Scotch Eggs and Quiche Lorraine (eggs are eastery right?), a few mini egg topped Cornflake Cakes and you are good to go! Oh and don’t forget the Scones. They might not be overtly Easter themed by it isn’t an afternoon tea without them!
If you want to serve something more traditionally chocolate alongside, I’d highly recommend my Black Forest Poke Cake.
Don’t forget to head over to my Feast Collection pages to find all of my tips and tricks to help you host a fun and stress-free feast. Plus remember to check out my recipe index to create your own awesome Feast!
Ingredients for Lemon & White Chocolate Easter Cake
BIg, juicy and fresh is what you’re looking for. You can use bottled lemon juice if you need to but fresh is best. I use my trusty lemon reamer on room temperature lemons and got around 2 and a half tablespoons of juice from each. All lemons are going to be different. So you might want to grab a couple of extras in case you need more lemons for the amount of juice in the recipe.
I don’t use the zest in this recipe, only the juice. If you want to ramp up the lemon flavour, you can also add some zest to the cake batter. Just make sure to do the zesting before the juicing. If you are going to do this, make sure to buy unwaxed lemons. Otherwise it doesn’t really matter.
I generally use pretty cheap chocolate in baking. But when white chocolate is going to be the star of the show like on this cake, I do generally choose something with a little extra quality. Ultimately if you like it to eat, use it in this cake.
Lindt Lindor White Chocolate Truffles
These classic lindor truffles are available year round but the shelves will be extra stocked in the run up to Easter. And nowadays the run up to Easter seems to start on New Year’s Day so I think you’ll be fine in sourcing them.
They are kind of pricey. So feel free to use any other rip off variety, Other white chocolate truffles would work too. I especially like the white champagne truffles from Thorntons although these are likely less available outside the UK
There are many ways to be flexible with this cake. The first way is to change the citrus flavour of the cake. So you can change the lemon juice for orange or lime or grapefruit.
You can also change the white chocolate to milk, dark or a combination of both. But you need to think about the combination of flavours. An orange cake would be amazing with milk or dark ganache. But I’m not convinced about about how well they’d pair with lemon.
The other option is to change the cake entirely. You can still make an alternative simnel cake using the ganache topping and truffles but with a different base. I love to use my Muscovado Chocolate Cake recipe with milk or dark choc ganache and truffles. The white chocolate topping however is best on a Victoria Sponge version. You could even replace the sour cream layer on my Chocolate Brownie Peanut Cheesecake.
Make it Vegetarian or Vegan
This lemon cake recipe is naturally vegetarian.
To make the cake suitable for vegans, you will need to make a few substitutes. In the sponge you can replace each of the eggs with 1 tbsp of vegetable oil. The milk can be replaced with a plant based milk or just water. Make sure to beat the batter as well as you would if using eggs and milk.
Vegan white chocolate can be bought and the double cream in the ganache can be subbed for a dairy free alternative. There are many vegan creams now readily available. As for the truffles, you will have to see what vegan alternatives you can source. To the best of my knowledge, Lindt doesn’t yet have a vegan range.
Make it Allergy Friendly
This cake recipe is free from nuts.
Gluten Free: To make the cake gluten free, you simply need to switch the flour for a good gluten free flour. If it isn’t self raising, add 1 tsp of gluten free baking powder per 100g.
Dairy Free: To make this cake dairy free, follow my advice given above to make the cake vegan but don’t worry about replacing the eggs.
Egg Free: To make it dairy free, do indeed replace the eggs. I recommend 1 tbsp of vegetable oil per egg.
Please note that this recipe may contain other allergens not referred to above. For more information regarding any dietary information provided on this website, please refer to my Nutritional Disclaimer.
Equipment Notes for White Chocolate ‘Simnel’ Cake
You will need a deep cake tin to make this cake as a single layer. My preference is to use a spingform tin. A regular loose bottomed tin would also work providing it is decently deep.
I sometimes make this cake using my electric hand mixer and sometimes employ my trusty Kenwood stand mixer. Whichever you choose, I really would recommend using some kind of electric assistance. You can of course make a decent cake by hand, but you will ultimately end up with a much lighter cake by giving it a really good electrical beating.
Like with all of my recipes, I have provided the option of converting the recipe into imperial cups and ounces. But investing in a set of scales and accurately measuring in grams will result in my better and accurate baking. Everyone needs a set of good measuring spoons too.
I mention it everytime I create a recipe requiring lemon juice but I must once again mention that the best way to effectively juice a lemon with minimum washing up is with a basic lemon reamer. If you don’t have one…buy one!
I’ve recently invested in a set of offset spatulas to up my cake decorating and icing game. They’re nothing fancy but they do make spreading the ganache nice and evenly that bit easier. I won’t be going back to not having one. You can simply use a regular knife, back of a spoon or flat spatula if you prefer.
A comprehensive list of the equipment used to make this recipe is included in the main recipe card below. Click on any item to see an example. There are no hard and fast rules so many items can be sensibly substituted to achieve the same results.
The whole cake is very stable and can be made a few days in advance. The whole thing can also be frozen, ganache and all which is very handy.
If you just want to get ahead with the sponge element, the cake can be made and wrapped or frozen and then decorated just before serving.
The joy of a big classic cake like this is that it can be stored and just dipped into as and when. The recipe as written isn’t a terribly large cake in any event.
In the unlikely event that the cake does get to the point of stale, there are lots of ways to use it up. As a base in a trifle, covered in a light custard and baked or my favourite way, crumbled and used to make Russian Slices.
Lemon & White Chocolate ‘Simnel’ Cake Tips
Do note that if you change the portion size of the cake that the tin size and cooking times will change.
Make sure your lemons are not cold when juicing. They will give up more juice. Also give them a roll on a flat surface which will help to release more juice too.
Don’t be concerned that there looks like too much syrup for the cake to absorb. It will.
Don’t flip the cake over to achieve a smooth top for decorating. Not unless you do it before adding the drizzle or you end up with a dry cake. Use a large serrated knife to level off the top of the cake instead.
The ganache wants to be a stir-able and spreadable consistency. If it runs off a spoon, it is too thin, leave it to cool longer.
Don’t forget to let me know in the comments if you try making this recipe – I want to know what you think and if you made any substitutions, how did it turn out?
Still Have Questions?
Simple! Just contact me and I will do my best to help as quickly as I am able. Head over to my Contact Me page, any of my social media channels or post a comment at the bottom of this page and I’ll see what I can do.
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Lemon & White Chocolate ‘Simnel’ Cake
- Offset Spatula
- Preheat the oven to 170c or equivalent.
- Line a 20cm springform cake tin with parchment on the bottom and sides.
- Juice 4 Large Lemons.
- Strain the juice so it is free from pips and pulp. You should have around 10 tbsp of lemon juice.
Make the Cakes
- Add 190g Salted Butter and 260g Caster Sugar to a large mixing bowl.
- Beat until light and fluffy.
- Add the first of 3 Large Eggs and continue whisking until well combined. Beat until the mix is light and creamy.
- Add the second egg and continue whisking again.
- Repeat for the remaining eggs.
- Add 3 tbsp Lemon Juice and whisk in fully.
- Add 3 tbsp Milk and whisk in fully.
- Using a silicone spatula or wooden spoon, fold in 260g Self Raising Flour and ¼ tsp Sea Salt Flakes.
- Stop folding as soon as the flour is combined.
- Pour the batter into the lined tin.
- Bake for around 45 minutes – until golden brown and a skewer comes out clean.
Make the Drizzle
- When the cakes are nearly cooked, add 7 tbsp Lemon Juice and 85g Caster Sugar to a small saucepan.
- Heat gently whilst stirring to dissolve the sugar.
- Once the syrup starts bubbling, take it off the heat. This should take no more than 3 to 4 minutes.
- Once the cake is out of the oven, use a skewer or something long and pointy to poke holes in the top of the cake.
- Take your time to make the holes as even as possible.
- Spoon the syrup over the cake. Keep going until all the syrup has been absorbed.
- Leave the cake to cool fully.
Make the White Chocolate Ganache
- Break 200g White Chocolate up into a heatproof bowl or small saucepan. Add 100ml Double Cream.
- Blitz for 30 seconds in the microwave and stir thoroughly. Or put the pan on a very low heat and keep stirring until the chocolate is melted and totally combined with the cream.
- Blitz in 10 second intervals and stir thoroughly each time if using the microwave.
Crumb Coat the Cake Top
- If your cake is a little domed, use a large knife to level it off. (Do not flip it over like I did in the photo – this was an error!)
- Whilst the ganache is still super runny, use a spatula to spread some of the ganache over the top of the cake.
- Make sure to go right to the edges. This will harden and make the rest of the ganache easy to spread.
- Leave the ganache on the side to cool and set a little. Cover it with clingfilm so a skin doesn’t form. Do not put it in the fridge unless your kitchen is overly hot.
- Put the cake in the fridge to chill.
Decorate the Cake
- Once the ganache has cooled and thickened (at least an hour) and the cake has chilled, put the cake on your stand or whatever you are serving it on.
- Dollop the ganache on top of the cake and gently spread it towards the edges.
- You are looking to achieve a smooth even layer over the whole cake which extends right to the edges. Be patient.
- Evenly space 11 Lindt White Chocolate Truffles around the outer edge of the top. Press them very lightly into the ganache.
- And the cake is ready to serve!
Step by Step Video
This post was shared with the #CookBlogShare group which is hosted by Recipes Made Easy, Lost in Food and a selection of guest hosts.
You can learn more in my guest host post and see the recipes that I chose to create an Easy Everyday Feast!