Celebrate Easter with this fabulous Simnel Cake.  This version is a lovely fruity cake with a hint of chocolate making it a popular choice with the children. Soaking the fruit in the orange juice softens the fruit creating a wonderfully moist cake.  I was lucky to be sent some of UDI’s new gluten free flour mix which I used in this recipe.  Don’t be put off with the long recipe instructions – it is actually really easy to make.

Gluten & Dairy Free Chocolate Simnel Cake


Difficulty – Moderate

Time – 30 minutes preparation, 1 hour 20 minutes cooking

Serves – 8-10

What’s good about it?

This traditional Easter Cake has been given a gluten free makeover and the addition of xylitol keeps the sugar content down. It is still high in sugar so serve this as a treat.  You can omit the marzipan and simply make a moist fruit cake as an alternative


  1. Put the orange zest and juice in a saucepan and add all the dried fruit and cherries. Bring to a simmer over a medium heat and bubble for two minutes, stirring constantly until the liquid disappears. Remove from the heat and leave to cool.
  2. Butter and line the base and sides of a 20cm/8in loose-based deep round cake tin with baking parchment. Preheat the oven to 170C, Gas mark 3.
  3. Mix together the flour, cocoa powder, mixed spice, cinnamon and baking powder in a bowl.
  4. Put the dairy free spread and xylitol in food processor and beat for 3-4 minutes, or until light and fluffy. Slowly add the beaten eggs, a little at a time, alternating with the flour mixture to prevent it curdling. Stir in the dried fruit.
  5. Spoon half of the mixture into the lined cake tin and smooth the surface as evenly as you can.
  6. Divide the marzipan into three equal pieces. Take one of the pieces and roll out on the parchment into a circle the size of the cake tin. Place the marzipan round on top of the cake mixture.
  7. Spoon the reserved cake mixture on top and smooth the surface. Wrap the remaining marzipan portions tightly in cling film to prevent them drying out while the cake is cooking.
  8. Bake the cake for about 1 hour 20 minutes, or until well risen, firm and golden-brown. If it starts to brown too much cover the cake with some foil.
  9. When it is cooked, remove the cake from the oven and leave it to cool in the tin for 15 minutes. Then remove from the tin, peel off the lining paper, and put the cake on a wire rack and leave to cool.
  10. Heat the apricot jam in a small pan until just warm for one minute, until warm.
  11. Take one of the remaining marzipan pieces and roll out on the parchment into a circle around 5mm thick and just a little larger than the cake tin. Place the cake tin on top of the rolled marzipan and use it as a template to cut out a circle the same size as the tin.
  12. Brush the surface of the cake with the jam and cover with the marzipan circle. Flute or pinch the marzipan all the way around the edge if wished to decorate.
  13. With the remaining marzipan shape into 11 balls to represent all the Apostles, minus Judas. Dab one side of each ball with a little of the jam and place around the edge of the cake.
  14. Place the cake under a preheated hot grill for 2-3 minutes, or until the balls turn slightly golden.
  15. Decorate the top if wished with a little chocolate shavings and Easter chicks

Did you Know?

Use a selection of dried fruit according to taste in this recipe. Try and select those without sulphur or added sugars. Instead of xylitol you could use erythritol a similar sugar polyol which is low in calories and does not spike blood sugar


For the cake

1 orange, juice and zest

50g prunes, diced

100g dried cherries

150g mixed dried fruit

100g natural glacé cherries, chopped

1 ball stem ginger in syrup, finely chopped

175g xylitol or coconut sugar

175g dairy free spread

25g raw cacao powder or 1tbsp cocoa powder

200g gluten free flour mix

1 tsp. mixed spice

1 tsp. ground cinnamon

2 tsp baking powder

3 eggs, beaten


500g marzipan (check labels for gluten free)

2tbsp apricot jam

A little chocolate shavings to decorate