Does your mother live gluten free? You’ll need to be careful if you’re going to give her a treat …

Mothering Sunday isn’t quite the same as Mother’s Day. Mother’s Day is celebrated on different dates around the world, and is a celebration of mothers. Mothering Sunday wasn’t originally a celebration of mothers, but these days it usually is. The tradition I was brought up in is that described by Wikipedia:

During the sixteenth century, people returned to their “mother church” for a service to be held on the fourth Sunday of Lent. This was either a large local church, or more often the nearest Cathedral. Anyone who did this was commonly said to have gone ‘a-mothering’ although whether this preceded the term Mothering Sunday is unclear. It was often the only time that whole
families could gather together, if prevented by conflicting working hours.

In later times, Mothering Sunday became a day when domestic servants were given a day off to visit their mother and other family members. In today’s more secular times, it is generally celebrated as the British equivalent of America’s Mother’s Day.

Whatever the origins, Mothering Sunday (also known as Mothers Day) is this coming Sunday, March 18. Here in the UK, because it was originally a church festival, the date of it varies depending on the date of Easter. In the US, I gather that Mothers Day is always the second Sunday in May.

Traditionally, Simnel cakes were baked to celebrate the reuniting of families during the austerity of Lent. In case you don’t know, the Simnel cake is a particularly sweet version of a fruit cake, involving a central layer of marzipan, marzipan on the top and 11 small marzipan balls as decoration on the top, representing 11 of the disciples. Judas, of course, is excluded …

These days Simnel cakes are often eaten at Easter rather than Mothering Sunday, but I thought I’d look for some gluten free versions for you, just in case you wanted to go traditional!

  • Glutafin offer a Simnel Cake recipe using their own mix and a standard fruit cake recipe, as do Juvela (you will have to navigate their recipe menu to find it – look at Seasonal Recipes)
  • Cook it Simply provide one using maize and rice flour.
  • If you’re very wealthy and/or generous, you could buy your mother a year’s supply of gluten free cakes, including a Simnel Cake, from Marnie Searchwell. These look fabulous, but out of my price range.
  • Or you could make your own (love in every mouthful).

I usually use a ready-made mix when baking, but I have discovered that you can make up your own mix of gluten free flours. There are several suggestions around:

Gluten Free Simnel Cake

8oz butter
8 oz light muscovado sugar
4 eggs
8 oz gluten free flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
8 oz raisins
4 oz sultanas
4 oz glace cherries
2 oz mixed peel
grated rind of 2 lemons
2 tsps mixed spice

1lb marzipan
apricot jam

Mix all cake ingredients thoroughly. Put half the mix into a greased lined 8 inch round cake tin (a deep one) and level the surface.

Roll out 5 oz marzipan into a circle the size of your cake tin and place on top of the cake mix. Put the rest of the cake mix on top of the marzipan circle.

Bake in a preheated oven at 150C (300F, Gas Mark 2) for about 2.5 hours. Cool in the tin for about 10 mins before turning out to cool on a wire rack.

When the cake is cool, brush the top of the cake with warmed apricot jam (about 2 tablespoonsful) and roll out 5 oz of marzipan into a circle and put on the top of the cake.

Cut the remaining marzipan into 11 chunks, and roll into 11 balls to represent the disciples and arrange these on the top.

If you like, you can brush the marzipan with a beaten egg, and then put the cake under a hot grill briefly to go golden.