Simnel Fairy Cakes and Minted Pea Patties for Carling Sunday

Two Easter Recipes. Simnel Fairy Cakes and Carling Sunday Minted Pea Patties.

Recipes and a bit of History too on Carling Sunday Minted Pea Patties and Simnel Fairy Cakes

On one of my recent cookery book hunts, I was rummaging in the charity shops of Boston when I found a book called Yorkshire Kitchen by Susan Brookes. It dates from the 90’s, you may remember her as the resident cook on “This Morning.” Flicking through I discovered her recipe for Carlings, named after Carling Sunday. This has nothing to do with a popular brand of lager but refers to, as it happens this coming Sunday (22nd March). It’s a moveable date like Mothering Sunday, being governed by when Easter falls. Mothering Sunday is always on the fourth Sunday in Lent and Carling Sunday, also known as Caring Sunday and Passion Sunday is the week after.

 I must confess I had never heard of it, largely because it seems to be celebrated more in the North East and sort of seems to fizzle out geographically somewhere in Yorkshire. Susan Brookes recipe for Carlings is centred around the traditional use of dried Carling peas.  One story that appears to be behind the pea association is that a boat carrying a cargo of dried peas washed up in Filey Bay on the fifth Sunday of Lent. The peas, obligingly soaked and plumped up by the sea water were too good an opportunity for a free meal for the locals. Legend has it that they didn’t want to waste this gift of free food, so the peas were gathered from the shore and off they went to create as many different peas dishes as they could think up.  As with many regional traditions, the more you dig, the more variations you find both with the stories and the food. There even seems to be much debate about what peas you should use too, but I think we will leave it there.

I haven’t actually used dried peas for my recipe, as I don’t want to be “clatting” about soaking them and I don’t fancy swishing them around a bucket off Skegness and I’m guessing you probably won’t want to either. However what I have done is looked at lots of different Carling Sunday recipes and produced my own variation, which I think is delicious, cheap and simple to make.  I hope this will be a useful one for you to have up your sleeve; it’s a perfect accompaniment to serve with a Spring Lamb Roast over the Easter Season.

The second recipe I have created for Easter is for my Simnel Fairy Cakes, as featured in my column in the East Lindsey Target on Wednesday 25th March 2015.  This would normally be made as one big cake, but I think doing them as little individual fairy cakes is a great idea. They look pretty served this way, are deliciously moist with lots of almond flavour and they also make lovely Easter Gifts too.  Originally these cakes were linked to Mothering Sunday and were made by daughters for their Mothers. Sometimes girls in service were allowed by their employer to make them and could take them home on their precious day off. I think the association with Easter came about as they were often saved for a couple of weeks to wait until the period of Lent was over, as eating such rich food may have been frowned upon. Legend has it that two siblings from Shropshire – Simon and Nell wanted to make their Mother a cake. They argued on whether it should be boiled or baked and ended up with the Sim (Simon)-Nel (Nell) cake with the marzipan in the middle and at the top. Another link with Easter is that it should have 11 marzipan balls on top to represent the apostles minus Judas.

Carling Sunday Minted Pea Patties


Food Processor, Sieve, Mixing Bowl, Spoon, Tablespoon, Frying Pan, Fish Slice, Kitchen Paper

2 small tins of Marrofat peas, drained of liquid (353g drained weight for the two)
2 Tbsp Mint Sauce
4 oz Breadcrumbs, I used about 3 slices of stale white sliced bread.
Seasoning – good 2 pinches of salt and grinding of black pepper
1 Tbsp of runny Lincolnshire Honey
Egg to bind it all together
Butter or Oil for Frying
Plain flour


Mix all of the ingredients together in a food processor and whizz up
Turn on to a floured tray
With floured hands shape into whatever size patties you would like
Chill for at least a couple of hours
Fry gently until a nice golden colour
Drain on kitchen paper and serve
Goes really nice with roasted lamb and mint sauce. These are very filling, so don't make them too big. I liked them cold too.

Simnel Fairy Cakes


Scales, Good Sized Saucepan, Butter Knife, Wooden Spoon, Sieve, Bowl, Teaspoon, Two Muffin Tins, Fairy Cake Cases, 1 7/8 “ Cutter, 2 ½ Cutter, Pastry Brush, Small Pan, Tablespoon, Rolling Pin
¼ Pint Water
4 oz Sultanas
4 oz Raisins
4 oz Dark Brown Sugar
4 oz Stork in a Tub
Few Drops of Almond Essence
1 Local Free Range Egg
8 oz Self Raising Flour
1 tsp Mixed Spice
1 Pack of Marzipan ( I used a 500g Pack of Lincolnshire Coop White Marzipan)
2 Tablespoons of Apricot jam
Icing Sugar


Weigh straight into your saucepan the Water, Fruit, Sugar, Marg and Almond Essence and melt it all together slowly.
Leave to cool for at least half an hour.
Whilst it is cooling, Divide your Marzipan into thirds.
Liberally cover your work top and rolling pin with icing sugar to stop the marzipan sticking
Roll the first third about the depth of a £1 coin out and cut out 15 circles with your small cutter.
Roll out the second third the same depth and cut out 15 circles with your larger cutter
With your final third and trimmings make 165 little marzipan balls, about the size of a pea. ( you might have a bit left). This gives you the traditional 11 balls per cake.
Put 15 fairy cake cases into your tins. Don’t use big muffin cases, just normal size.
Pour a little water in a couple of the empty wells in your tin, it helps the cakes rise a bit.
Preheat your oven to 170 c Fan, when mixture has cooled.
Making sure your mixture is cool, add your egg to fruit mixture in the pan.
Sieve your flour and mixed spice onto the fruit mixture and mix it all together.
Put a good heaped teaspoon into the bottom of the case.
Put a small disc of marzipan onto the mixture; don’t use your bigger discs of marzipan as they are to go on the top.
Cover the discs of marzipan with another good teaspoon of mixture, you should ¾ fill your cases.
Bake in the oven for 30 mins until a nice golden brown and firm to the touch.
Whilst the cakes are cooking, put your little balls on top of your larger discs of marzipan. This is easier to do when the discs are on the worktop, rather than on the cakes. Just make sure you still have a good dusting of icing sugar under your discs so they don’t stick to the worktop. You don’t want icing sugar on your hands though or on the balls or tops of discs, as it will stop the balls sticking to the marzipan. Do a circle of ten around the edge with the eleventh ball in the middle.
Take your cakes out of the oven and cool in the tins for 5 mins and then put on a cooling rack.
Melt a couple of tablespoons of smooth apricot jam with a splash of water.
Brush the tops of the cakes with the jam and allow to cool.
Stick your larger disc of marzipan, with the balls on, on top of your cakes.
These will keep in an airtight container for at least 4 days, if they last that long.

I wish you and your family a very Happy Easter.



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