Elegant Easter desserts
Give your Easter meal a sweet grand finale. A traditional Italian Easter Cake will awe your guests with its toasty meringue topping and rustic crumb. The classic Carrot Cake lusciously frosted in rich and silky cream cheese is perfect with an after-dinner coffee or tea. The Double Chocolate Cherry Eggs will satisfy the sweet tooth of kids and adults of all ages.
Italian Easter cake recipe
Makes 2 cakes
A classic Umbrian treat that is worth the extra time it needs to prepare. This Easter cake is part of an ancient tradition that involves a young fiancé presenting this cake to her husband-to-be on Easter Sunday. You don't have to be getting married to enjoy the rustic uniqueness of Alkermes – a liqueur – and the dainty meringue that crowns this Easter dish. Alkermes can be found in Italian specialty shops.
1 tablespoon active dry yeast
1 1/4 cups buttermilk, warmed to 110 degrees F.
5 tablespoons sugar
3 large eggs at room temperature
Zest of 1 orange, finely grated
Zest of 1 lemon, finely grated
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened at room temperature
1/2 cup Alkermes or another red-colored liqueur
1 teaspoon salt
5 to 5 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (you may not use all the flour)
4 large egg whites at room temperature
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup sugar
1. In the bowl of a standup mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, dissolve yeast in buttermilk. Stir in 1 teaspoon sugar and allow the mixture to sit for 5 minutes to bloom the yeast. On low speed, beat in eggs one at a time until well blended. Add zests, butter, liqueur, salt and remaining sugar and blend until smooth. Gradually add the flour, 1 cup at a time, until a dough forms and leaves the sides of the bowl. The dough should feel tacky but not moist and sticky. Dump the dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead with your hands until the dough becomes a smooth, soft ball, 5 to 10 minutes.
2. Put the dough in a bowl sprayed with cooking spray and turn the dough over to coat. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and let dough rise until it has doubled in size, about 2 hours. Punch dough down with your fist and dump it onto a lightly floured surface. Knead again for 3 to 4 minutes. Divide the dough in half and roll each half into a 2-foot rope. Bring the ends of the ropes together and form two rings. Place each on a baking sheet and cover. Set aside to rise for 30 minutes.
3. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. While bread is rising for the second time, make the meringue. Place egg whites in a clean mixing bowl and using a hand mixer beat on medium speed until foamy. Raise the speed to high and add the salt and sugar. Continue to beat until egg whites are fluffy and hold their peaks. Set aside. Uncover dough and bake for 30 minutes or until just cooked through.
4. Quickly cover the cakes with meringue and sprinkles, if using. Bake for an additional 10 minutes or until meringue is lightly browned. Remove from the oven and allow to cool completely. Cut into thick slices to serve.
Spicy Carrot Cake recipe with Cream Cheese Frosting
Spicy carrot cake with a silky cream cheese frosting is a hallmark Easter treat. For an extra special presentation, press chopped toasted pecans around the sides of the cake and decorate the top with marzipan carrots.
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon finely ground black pepper
4 large eggs
1 cup sugar
1 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup well-drained crushed pineapple
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
2 1/2 cups finely grated carrots
1 cup pecans, toasted, coarsely chopped
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. and butter two 9-inch round cake pans. Line the bottoms of the pans with a circle of parchment paper and butter the paper.
2. In a large bowl, whisk together flours, baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, cloves and pepper. In the bowl of a stand-up mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the eggs until frothy. Add the sugar and beat until mixture is thick and lightly colored. With the motor running on low, add the oil. Add pineapple and vanilla and blend well. Gradually add the flour mixture and beat just until moist. Use a spatula to fold in the carrots and nuts.
3. Evenly divide the batter between the two cake pans and bake for 25 to 30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Remove from oven and allow to cool in the pans on a wire rack for 10 minutes. Invert the cake pans onto the wire rack and remove parchment. Cool completely before frosting.
Cream Cheese Frosting
1/4 cup unsalted butter, softened at room temperature
1 (8-ounce) package of cream cheese, softened at room temperature
2 cups powdered sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Juice of 1 lemon
In a large mixing bowl, use a hand mixer to beat butter and cream cheese until smooth. Add sugar, vanilla and lemon juice and beat until smooth. Keep at room temperature for frosting.
Double Chocolate Cherry Eggs recipe
Kid-friendly and delicious, these eggs combine two luscious chocolates, sweet maraschino cherries and yummy toasted walnuts. For variety, try dried fruit and different types of nuts.
12 ounces white chocolate chips or bars, chopped
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
7 ounces marshmallow crème
1 1/4 cups sifted powdered sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups chopped maraschino cherries (drain before chopping)
1 cup chopped toasted walnuts
11 ounces milk-chocolate morsels
2 tablespoons vegetable shortening
1. In a large microwave-safe bowl, melt white chocolate and butter on LOW, stirring every 45 seconds until smooth. With a wooden spoon, stir in marshmallow crème, sugar and vanilla until well-blended.
2. Fold in cherries and walnuts. Divide into 12 equal portions and form into egg shapes. In a medium-sized microwave-safe bowl, melt milk chocolate and shortening on LOW, stirring every 45 seconds until smooth. Using a fork, dip white chocolate eggs in milk chocolate, turning to evenly coat. Place on wax paper to cool.
Note: Eggs can be decorated with sprinkles after dipping in milk chocolate.