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Festivals of Mother’s Day and Mothering Sunday: Home Made Simnel Cake Recipe, Gift & Garden Ideas for Celebrations

Published by Rene Codell

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Strangely enough, Mothering Sunday was not originally a celebration of mothers. Originally it was a religious festival.

People would not attend their regular church on that day, but would go to the nearest large church or cathedral, known as the “Mother Church”. They would say that they were going “a-mothering”.

A Tribute to Real Mothers

It is not known exactly when the holiday began to be associated with real mothers.

In Victorian days, though, the young men and women working in service in big houses were usually given the day off to go home and visit their mothers and families on Mothering Sunday

Traditional Mother’s Day Gifts

The traditional gifts children gave to mothers were usually to do with flowers, and in days gone by, these would normally be Spring flowers which could be picked in the fields.

Nowadays, most people do not pick flowers in fields to take to their mothers, and internet florists have stepped in to fill the gap!

But it can be fun to make a traditional gift with dried flowers. It does not need to be elaborate. For most mothers it really is “the thought that counts.”

Here are instructions for a very simple gift that even a handy child can make with a little help.

Scented Herb Sachets To Make

  1. Choose a pretty fabric with a rather open weave. Take a rectangular piece of this fabric that is about 8 inches (20 cm) long and 4 inches ((10 cm) wide.
  2. Bend it double. Sew or glue up one side of it. You now have a little bag.
  3. Buy some dried herbs from the store – mint, lemon balm and thyme can be found in most food departments, or you can buy dried lavender, geraniums or roses from a florist. You can add a few drops of scented essential oil if you wish – this can be obtained at gift shops.
  4. Fill the bag with the scented herbs..
  5. Glue the bag closed. If you can do blanket stitch, then stitch with blanket stitch around the edges of the entire bag which will give it a decorative appearance and be a double safeguard against the glue coming apart. The sachet can be kept in a drawer with underwear, to give a pleasant scent to the clothes.

Free Entry for Mothers!

In a return to the traditional rural idea of flowers for Mother’s Day, some gardens offer free entrance for mothers on Mothering Sunday or Mother’s Day. One of these is Waterperry Gardens, near Wheatley, Oxfordshire – but check in your own area. Waterperry’s gardens include a lovely Spring riverside walk and a water-lily canal.

There’s also a rural life museum which contains such curiosities as a clockwork crow scarer! And the old barn contains a gift shop in which children can buy their mothers plants or bulbs.

Simnel Cake, A Traditional Recipe for Mothering Sunday or Mother’s Day

The traditional dish for Mothering Sunday in Britain was always Simnel Cake, and a recipe for that is given below. Simnel Cake, with its eleven faithful almond apostles, is now often eaten at Easter.


  • 110 grams (4 ounces, 1 stick) butter
  • 125 grams (4 ounces, 2/3 cup) soft brown sugar
  • 160 grams (5 ounces, 1 1/2 cup) plain flour
  • 4 eggs
  • ½ teaspoon of ground mixed spice or all spice
  • 350 grams (12oz, 2 1/4 cups) mixed fruit, or a mixture of currants, raisins and sultanas
  • 50 grams (2 ounces, 1/3 cup) chopped mixed candied peel
  • 1 small lemon
  • 2 tablespoons of peach or apricot jam
  • 125 grams (4 ounces, 2/3 cup) castor sugar
  • 125 grams (4 ounces, 1 1/3 cups) ground almonds
  • ½ teaspoon almond essence


  1. Place the sugar and almonds in a bowl.
  2. Beat one of the eggs and add enough of the egg to the almonds and sugar to makea soft consistency.
  3. Add the almond essence. Knead the paste for a minute or two until it is smooth and flexible.
  4. Roll out a third of the past to make an 18 cm (7 inch) diameter circle. Reserve the rest..
  5. Preheat the oven to 180C (350F, Gas Mark 4.)
  6. In a large bowl, cream the butter and sugar together well until the mixture goes pale.
  7. Gradually beat in the remaining 3 eggs and then add the flour, salt and mixed all spice.
  8. Add the dried mixed fruit, and the peel.
  9. Grate the lemon rind, and add the rind to the mixture and stir well.
  10. Grease and line an 18 cm. (7 inch) cake tin. Put the prepared circle of almond paste inside.
  11. Add the cake mixture and smooth the top down, leaving a slight dip in the middle as the cake will rise.
  12. Bake for 45 minutes, or until a skewer put into the cake comes out clean. When the cake it cooked, put on a wire rack to cool.
  13. When the cake has cooled and you are ready to decorate it, preheat the cooker grill at “medium”.
  14. Brush the top of the cooled cake with the jam.
  15. Divide the rest of the almond paste into two, roll out a circle to cover the top of the cake with. Use the rest of the paste to form 11 small balls. These balls symbolise the eleven faithful Apostles.
  16. Lay the circle of almond paste on the jammy top of the cake, and place the balls around the edge. Brush the top of the cake with the remainder of the beaten egg, or with milk and egg.
  17. Brown the almond paste under the grill until it goes a medium tan colour. Be careful to watch it or it may burn.

Mothering Sunday, Mother’s Day or “International Women”?

Early settlers in the US changed the date for Mothering Sunday and began to call it Mother’s Day. It is celebrated in the USA on the second Sunday in May. Other countries sometimes use 8th March which is International Womens Day.

But whichever day is used, the main thing is for us to remember our mothers specially on one day in the year.

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