On Saturday evening we noticed a few spots on Miss T and as we'd always been told that contracting chickenpox whilst on her methotrexate injections would be dangerous for her, we phoned the hospital ward and they asked her to go in and stay overnight.
Fast forward another 5 nights and she was still there having missed roast dinner and the annual Easter egg hunt that has become tradition at granny and grandads house. She's not even had much of an appetite for chocolate so hasn't yet eaten the chocolate egg that the nurses gave her in hospital.
She's been on acyclovir intravenously to help her fight the chickenpox which her immunosuppressed body would be unable to do unaided.
I did the usual thing I do in a crisis when I am feeling stressed - I've baked! It takes my mind off things as I need to concentrate to avoid my typical baking disasters and I've pottered in the garden planting up some bright spring flowers for Miss T to enjoy when she got home.
I also wanted to bake something really special - an Easter cake made especially for Miss T to celebrate her getting out of hospital so that we can celebrate our postponed Easter.
I was inspired originally by the idea of a simnel cake ever since seeing it on Mary Berry's Easter Feast last year, but I knew Miss T isn't a massive fan of fruit cake. So I used the melted marzipan layer as my starting point for deciding upon this cake.
I love lemon and poppy seed cakes - they remind me of springtime and it's lighter than a fruitcake so decided to use that as my main cake batter but added in a few twists...saffron which I love and reminds me of my cultural heritage with my late mum being Persian, a small amount of dried fruit to give a nod to the classic Easter simnel fruit cake and some chopped crystallised stem ginger - simply because I had bought some ages ago and never been brave enough to use it in any cooking.
I initially wanted to decorate it in a fun childlike fun way with bunnies and eggs to appeal to Miss T but as I baked and decorated things just evolved to give me the cake I ended up with. In many ways simpler than I had planned but I feel more fitting to what Easter means to our family. Easter is a special time for me because I was baptised as an adult 15 years ago at an open-air dawn service on Easter Sunday. Whereas Christmas can easily become an over-commercialised present-frenzy, Easter feels like a simpler time of year - a time for reflection as well as a time for celebration and renewed hope.
I baked it in my heart shaped silicone cake tin to represent that this is a labour of love for my little girl that I've missed so much, and also reflecting God's love for us at Easter time.
I wanted to include the 11 marzipan balls to represent the 11 disciples (minus Judas) and I knew I wanted to include some edible flowers from the garden and Miss T adores flowers.
So this is what I ended up with.
Miss T was allowed home from hospital today. Her consultant agreed for her to move onto oral acyclovir for the next 7 days of treatment which means she no longer needs to have the drip, which means she can be at home - hurrah!
We captured her reaction to the cake on video when she arrived home:
Here's the recipe for my Simnel Inspired Easter Celebration cake with saffron, lemon, poppyseed and crystallised ginger:
250g self-raising flour
250g caster sugar
250g soft butter or margarine
25g poppy seeds
big pinch of saffron (ground with a pestle & mortar)
chopped crystallised stem-ginger (to taste)
zest and juice of 1 lemon
approx 50g chopped mixed fruit (we used chopped apricots, sultanas and mixed dried fruit)
454g pack of marzipan (or you can make your own)
a little apricot jam
a little beaten egg to glaze marzipan
edible flowers to decorate
1. Pre-heat the oven to 180C and grease a cake tin.
2. Mix together the caster sugar, butter/margarine, eggs and self-raising flour.
3. Add in the poppy seeds, saffron, lemon juice and zest, ginger and dried fruit (you can toss the dried fruit in a little flour first to prevent it from sinking inside the cake).
4. Pour half of the cake batter into the cake tin.
5. Break the marzipan into two roughly equal pieces - one can be slightly larger than the other. Using the smaller half, roll until thin and cut to the shape of your cake tin. Place into the cake tin on top of the cake batter.
6. Add the remaining cake batter on top of the marzipan.
7. Place in the oven and cook for approximately 50-60 minutes until a skewer comes out clean. Mine needed 35 minutes at 180C and then I lowered the temperature to 170C for a further 25-30 minutes.
8. Remove from the oven and leave to cool.
9. Once cool, remove from the tin and brush the top with apricot jam mixed with a little boiled water to loosen it. Then roll out your second piece of marzipan, cut to shape and place on top. Using the remaining pieces of marzipan from the off-cuts, make 11 small marzipan balls and place on the cake.
10. Brush the marzipan with a little beaten egg and place the cake under a hot grill for a couple of minutes to slightly brown the marzipan.
11. Once cooled down again, decorate using edible flowers. I used pansies, violas, primroses, and pinks (dianthus) from the garden. I also added a little rosemary for a splash of greenery.
Having tasted a crumb that fell off the cake, I was worried it was too dry, but when served a slice of cake with the marzipan melted in the middle, it was perfectly moist enough.
There was just the right amount of poppy seed for that satisfying crunch and the saffron fragrance permeated through the house as this cake cooked.
It's been so lovely having Miss T home this evening and I was so pleased that she loved her cake. Here's hoping for a less eventful Easter next year!
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