Refreshment Sunday

Sometimes you just need a break. The burdens of life can be wearisome and burnout is common. Our forebearers knew that this was true of even good things like Lent. This season, with all of its fasting and self-denial, can make even the most ardent believer fall exhausted. So, the church has designated a “Refreshment Sunday.”

Falling in the middle of Lent, Refreshment Sunday is a time to catch your breath and remember that Easter is coming. While it is not a Sunday for great excessive excitement, it is a time to find your second wind. Some traditions designate this day by the use of pink as the liturgical color. Pink is diluted purple (the color of Lent) and  indicates that this Sunday is less Lent than all the others. Some traditions therefore call the day “Rose Sunday.”  Another name for the day is “Laetare Sunday” meaning “rejoice,” which comes from the traditional call to worship (introit) from Isaiah 66:10. 

The dish most associated with Refreshment Sunday is a Simnel Cake. This medieval recipe is a fruity and refreshing treat. It is iced with two layers of marzipan and topped with 11 marzipan balls to represent the 11 disciples who did not betray Jesus. Make your cake the day before so you can relax. Refreshment Sunday is a great Sunday to take a break. Don’t work in the yard, do laundry, or any of that kind of work. Instead take a nap, read a book, or go for a stroll and be refreshed and ready for the rest of Lent. Easter is just around the corner!

Boulevard Montmartre, Mid-Lent by Camille Pissarro; oil on canvas; 1897; Height: 62.2 cm (24.4 in); Width: 78.7 cm (30.9 in); Harvard Art Museums

Simnel Cake

Prep Time: 30-45 minutes; Cooking Time: 1 hour 45 minutes; Serves 10–12


2 cups (250g) Confectioners (Powdered) Sugar
2 cups (250g) Almond Flour
2 Egg Whites, beaten
1 tsp Almond Extract

12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter
3/4 cup + 1 tablespoon (compacted) (175g) light brown sugar
3 eggs, beaten
1 1/3 cup (175g) all-purpose flour
Pinch of Salt
1/2 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
2 2/3 cup mixed raisins, golden raisins, and currants
1/3 cup mixed peel, chopped
Zest from 1/2 lemon
2 tablespoons of Apricot Jam
1 egg for glazing, beaten


  1. For the marzipan, place the 2 cups (250g) Confectioners (Powdered) Sugar and 2 cups (250g) Almond Flour in a bowl. Add 2 beaten egg whites and mix until a soft consistency. Add the 1 tsp Almond Extract and knead for a few minutes or until the marzipan is smooth.
  2. Roll out a third of the marzipan and cut out an 8 inch circle. Cover and reserve the remainder of the marzipan.
  3. Preheat oven to 285.
  4. Grease, line the bottom with parchment, and then evenly flour an 8 inch cake pan (a cake pan with removable bottom also works well)
  5. Using a hand or stand mixer, cream the 12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter and 3/4 cup + 1 tablespoon (compacted) (175g) light brown sugar together until pale and fluffy. Gradually add the 3 eggs until well incorporated.
  6. Using a wooden spoon, slowly add the 1 1/3 cup (175g) all-purpose flour, a pinch of salt and 1/2 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice.
  7. Finally, fold in the 2 2/3 cup mixed raisins, golden raisins, and currants, 1/3 cup mixed peel, and the zest from 1/2 a lemon.
  8. Pour half the mixture into the cake tin. Smooth the top and cover with the 8” circle of marzipan. Add the rest of the cake mixture and smooth the top. (Leave a slight dip in the center to allow for the cake to rise)
  9. Bake for 1 hour and 45 minutes. (Check on the cake after 1 hour and 30 minutes by inserting a skewer in the middle. When the skewer comes out clean, it is ready.)
  10. Remove from the oven and cool on a wire rack.
  11. Once cooled, brush the top of the cake with the 2 tablespoons of Apricot Jam.
  12. Divide the remainder of the marzipan in half. Roll out a 8” (or slightly larger) circle to cover the top of the cake with one half and form 11 small balls with the other half.
  13. Place the circle of marzipan on the jam glaze and set the balls round the edge.
  14. Brush the cake topping with a little beaten egg.
  15. Using the broiler setting of your oven (or using a kitchen blowtorch) brown the marzipan on the top. (It only takes a few minutes to brown, so watch closely)