The Fourth Sunday in Lent, March 27, provides a short respite from our Lenten fasting. It has various names, including Mothering Sunday, Refreshment Sunday and Laetare. The first title is a reference to the fact that this was the traditional day for apprentices and young people “in service” (i.e., working as servants) to have a holiday to go home and visit their mothers. Mothering Sunday is the original “mother’s day” and reminds us of our natural mothers and also of our spiritual mother, the Church. This Sunday is marked with a special holiday confection called Simnel cake, baked with fine flour, sugar, and dried fruit. Modern recipes are considerably simpler than the original versions which were boiled and baked cakes. In some churches, it was the custom to bring the Simnel cake to church to be blessed and distributed.
A Recipe for Simnel Cake
¾ cup butter ½ tsp. salt
2 cups sugar ¾ cup raisins
4 eggs 1 cup diced candied fruit
2 cups flour 1 cup almond paste
icing sugar glaze
Grease a large round deep cake pan (10″) and set aside. Cream together butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well. Blend in flour and salt, adding candied fruit and raisins last. Pour half of the batter into the cake pan. Roll out almond paste and place on top of the batter. Cover almond paste with remaining batter. Bake at 300º for one hour. After the cake has cooled, frost with confectioner’s sugar glaze.
Blessing of Simnel Cake
Almighty God, giver of all joy: Receive at our hands this cake, that it may be to us a symbol of our communion with thee and with one another; as its flour was once scattered over our land as wheat and now is one, so let us be one in anticipation of thy gift of the new Jerusalem which, as thy redeemed people, is our joy, our hope, our destiny, and our home; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.