Today is Laetare Sunday, the Fourth Sunday in Lent. Laetare, the first word of the Introit, means Rejoice, offering us a respite in the midst of our Lenten penances. We take a break from the penitential purple and use rose vestments at Holy Mass, the organ is played, and we rejoice thinking ahead to the glory of Easter that is to come. A little fortification before the final weeks of Lent, so to speak.
For our treat today the girls decided to make a Simnel Cake. Not being British, I admit we had never heard of this cake before Mary Rose read of it in her Vintage Cakes cookbook by Jane Brocket (a fabulous collection of cake recipes, by the way). Apparently it is an old tradition to make this cake on Laetare Sunday, whereas nowadays folks are more likely to partake of it for Easter. The cake is a sort of fruitcake, baked with a layer of marzipan in the center and later topped off with more marzipan. It is decorated with eleven marzipan balls to symbolize the apostles, minus the betrayer. You pop the completed cake under the broiler for a minute or two to gently brown the marzipan.
Mary Rose took quite a bit of liberty with the recipe in the book: she skipped the candied peel and cherries although they were hardly missed with all of the raisins, golden raisins, dried currants, and fresh citrus peels she did include. We didn't actually plan too much ahead for this cake which only added to the fun (the girls even had to go borrowing eggs from the neighbors, ahem). Lydia made the fresh marzipan using this recipe, or perhaps we should call it rustic marzipan as the only almonds we had in the house were not blanched, thus the brownish color. It still tasted fantastic, especially with the lovely touch of rose water. She made one and a half recipes of the marzipan, and used it all up in the cake. Lacking the called for apricot jam, we stuck the balls on with raspberry.
The cake turned out delicious - moist and rich with spicy fruit, sweet but not overly so. A tasty, flavorful sweetness - just the thing to brighten up the day in the middle of Lent.
Rejoice, O Jerusalem: and come together all you that love her: rejoice with joy, you that have been in sorrow: that you may exult, and be filled from the breasts of your consolation. I rejoiced at the things that were said to me: we shall go into the house of the Lord. Isaiah 66:10,11, Psalm 121:1 Introit, Fourth Sunday in Lent