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The Great Appleby Simnel Cake Bake!

An astonishing £600 was raised for the St Bartholomew’s Church ‘Raise The Roof’ Fund by the sale of our home made Simnel Cakes. An amazing achievement that has helped to boost awareness of the project both within Appleby and further afield.

The Simnel Cake itself has a fascinating cultural heritage with roots that stretch back to the Romans and Athenians! The name simnel is derived from the old French word simenel via the Latin term used to describe the finest flour for baking cakes, simila.

The earliest simnel cakes were more akin to biscuits due to their size, texture and thinness! Today, the Simnel cake is more likely to be a rich fruitcake covered with a thick layer of almond paste or icing. In times past the crust was occasionally made from a mixture of flour and water, which was coloured with saffron. The cake is adorned with 11 marzipan balls - representations of the Apostles at the Last Supper, excluding Judas.

The Simnel Cake is traditionally baked for Easter although it was originally made for the 4th Sunday in Lent known as Mothering Sunday. This day was also referred to as Refreshment Sunday due to the relaxing of the rules for Lent on that particular day.

Mothering Sunday was a time put aside for relaxation and enjoyment during the long Lenten fast. In olden days, young servant girls who worked away from home were given time off by their masters to visit their mothers on this special day and they would bake a Simnel cake to present to their Mothers as a gift.

Earlier traditions saw the cake being eaten on this day but it soon became customary to keep the cake for a week until Easter Sunday. It appears that this particular tradition is not currently observed by certain members of the Appleby community!

Keeping the cake stored for the week leading up to Easter was seen to be a test of the young girls’ culinary skills; she was considered to be a good cook if the cake retained its taste and moistness on Easter Sunday. Fortunately, fruitcake has always maintained its reputation for long life, which aided the girls somewhat! Indeed, our particular version improves with keeping.

Many thanks to all those who bought the cakes and for helping to make this event such a resounding success.