Mothering Sunday and Tea in the Parlour with Little Chocolate & Violet Fancies

Chocolate and Violet Fancies

Mothering Sunday

 ~Tea in the Parlour ~

Little Chocolate & Violet Fancies

~ Happy Mother’s Day to my Mum ~

Of all the British holidays, feast days and celebrations, this is one of my favourites – not only does it give me the chance to visit and treat my mum, but it also heralds the beginning of spring. I love the traditions that are connected with this old-established celebration; a great excuse for going “home” with home-made cards, posies of spring flowers, chocolates and maybe even a Simnel cake.

Little Chocolate and Violet Fancies for my Mum

Young girls (and boys) in service were often allowed to make a Simnel cake (donated from the ingredients in the kitchens where they worked) and take the cake home as a gift for their mothers; even better than that, they were often given the day off (or half day) to visit their families – a rare treat, as many of them did not see their families for months at a time, and sometimes only once a year. The traditional flowers associated with this lovely day are primroses and violets – and bunches of these wild flowers often accompanied the cake; what a wonderful old-fashioned tradition, and one that I hope we can all try to keep alive in these modern times of hustle and bustle, and supermarket bouquets. I notice that these shy little spring flowers are making an appearance again in some florists and supermarkets, and there is something wonderfully quaint and quintessentially British about these dainty little Victorian style posies or Medieval Tussy Mussies.


Mothering Sunday as we know it now, was originally (in Medieval times) the day you went home to visit your “mother church”, the cathedral of your diocese. It was only in the mid 17th century that the idea of putting aside this special a day to honour your “human” mothers came into practice. One reason may be that it became confused with Lady Day, which was held on the 25th March, a day that celebrates the Mother of God, a date that was close to the 4th Sunday in Lent, Mothering Sunday. Mothering Sunday was also known as “Refreshment Sunday”, alluding to the fact that fasting for lent was relaxed for this day, a biblical reference to honour the feeding the five thousand with only five small barley loaves and two fish by Jesus (John 6:10-12). However, what a great treat in the midst of fasting, to have your cake and eat it!

Chocolate and Violet Fancies

Simnel cakes are associated more with Easter nowadays, but they are the original Mothering Sunday cake; rich fruit cake baked with a marzipan layer through the middle and with a toasted marzipan topping. The Easter version is often decorated with 11 small marzipan balls to represent the eleven apostles, minus Judas of course, a Victorian tradition. The name Simnel probably comes from the Latin word simila, which means fine wheat flour that is usually used for baking a cake. Although, common legend has it that a man called Simon and his wife Nell argued over whether the cake for Mothering Sunday should be baked or boiled. In the end they did both, so the cake was named after both of them: SIM-NELL.


Although I have made my mother a Simnel cake on numerous occasions in the past, this year I have made her some lovely little Chocolate and Violet Fancies – little cakes that are adorned with crystallised violets – a wonderful change but still special enough to make your mum smile I am sure…….so here you are Mum, Happy Mother’s Day and here’s some cakes for your special day! I will see you all later, with more treats and new recipes, have a wonderful Mothering Sunday, Karen.

Mothering Sunday Cakes – Chocolate & Violet Fancies

Little Chocolate & Violet Fancies

Serves Makes betrween 12 and 14 cakes
Prep time 15 minutes
Cook time 30 minutes
Total time 45 minutes
Allergy Egg, Milk, Wheat
Dietary Vegetarian
Meal type Dessert, Lunch, Snack
Misc Child Friendly, Freezable, Pre-preparable
Occasion Birthday Party, Formal Party
Region British
By author Karen S Burns-Booth
Dainty little chocolate cakes that are subtly flavoured with violet sugar and decorated with crystallised flowers - perfect for Mother's Day, Birthdays or Easter.


  • 25 g (1 oz) cocoa powder
  • 3 tbsp boiling water
  • 225 g (8 oz) butter or margarine
  • 225 g (8 oz) Violet sugar (I have a recipe posted on this blog)
  • 300 g (10 oz) self-raising flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 4 large free-range eggs
  • 2 tbsp milk
  • 180 g (6 oz) dark chocolate
  • 1 x 200 ml pot full-fat crème fraîche
  • crystallised violets (to decorate)
  • crystallised rose petals (to decorate)


Dainty little chocolate cakes that are subtly flavoured with violet sugar and decorated with crystallised flowers - perfect for Mother's Day, Birthdays or Easter. The violet sugar and crystallised violets recipes are posted on my blog here: Violet Sugar and Crystallised Violets.


Step 1 Grease/butter a roasting tin (or traybake tin measuring 30 x 23 cm/12 x 9 in). Preheat oven to (180°C/350°F/160°C Fan/Gas 4)
Step 2 Put the cocoa powder into a mixing bowl and add with the boiling water, mix well to give a smooth paste. Add the remaining ingredients to the bowl and beat well until smooth. Pour into the prepared tin. Bake for about 30 minutes, or until a skewer when inserted into the middle of the cake comes out clean. Leave to cool in the tin.

Step 3 For the ganache icing, put the chocolate and crème fraîche into a heat-proof bowl and heat gently over a pan of simmering water, stirring until melted. Set aside to thicken a little.
Step 4 With a biscuit or scone cutter, stamp out small cakes from the large tray bake. Cut in half and spread some chocolate ganache over the bottom half of the cake, before replacing the top on the bottom half. Spread or pipe more chocolate ganache over the top of the cakes and decorate with crystallised violets and rose petals if using.

Floral Treats – Chocolate & Violet Fancies


    • says

      Thanks Lorna! These cakes are, as I still have some left, delicious and the violet sugar really adds another dimension to the chocolate cake too! You have a fabulous day…..:-)

  1. says

    Happy Mothering Sunday to you and your mum! These look so beautiful and pretty, and the history is so interesting. Hope to catch up with you soon xx

  2. says

    I’d never heard of “refreshment Sunday” before but it’s a jolly good idea! I agree with Ren’s comment above too, I have some marzipan filled mini eggs from Waitrose this week that would be perfect.

    • says

      Thanks Sarah – I have plans for these cakes for Easter too, so yes the mini eggs idea of Ren’s is great!

  3. says

    These are just the prettiest cakes but I know they will also taste divine! I didn’t know Simnel cakes used to be associated with mothering Sunday but I would far rather receive a chocolate version such as yours any day. Lucky mother you have!

    • says

      LOL! Thanks for trying again – it seems that others on WordPress have had the same problems, so we all need to report it……

  4. says

    I never knew Simnel Cake was originally a Mothers Day treat Karen! I’ve always 100% associated it with Easter! What delightful fancies- I’m sure they were very well received by your Mum!

    • says

      Most people always associate the Simnel cake with Easter – it’s one of those traditions which slid along the festive time line a bit!

  5. Fiona Matters says

    These look lovely – and Easter is coming up again. Your chocolate icing has also given me a great idea for trying natural yogurt with that. I love my natural yogurt and chocolate makes everything better! Shared on G+ as Fiona Matters for a bit of a change.

  6. Fiona Matters says

    These look lovely. I have the wonderful individual mini cake tins from lakeland so can cook them all individually without any extra effort. Although the idea of having lots of sponge to “throw away” does have its plus points! The good thing about lots of little cakes is that it’s a LOT less obvious if you nosh one (or two). I found the history about mother’s day really interesting too. Shared with twitter.

  7. klara cort says

    What a lovely idea for a treat on Mother’s Day…and the history behind the Simnel cake :)