I really wanted to show you the photo of my “nailed it” Easy Easter Lamb Cake I made a few years ago with my daughter Lorie. Seriously, we were stone-cold sober and we worked for hours on this “easy” cake. Heck, we even used a pre-made loaf cake for the body. Oh my ... talk about your sacrificial lamb. It was pitiful, so bad that we were in tears laughing all night. Even to this day, if we want a good belly laugh we reminisce about that poor lamb cake.
Most family recipes handed down from one generation to the next are “beautiful and delicious memories eternal.” I’ve included a few of the traditional Easter dessert recipes that our grandmothers, Nonnas, yia yias, Nanny, Gran, Mima etc. have made and passed down for future generations to enjoy.
Great Britain has its own traditional foods to celebrate the Easter holiday; a very familiar one is the hot-cross bun. Originally hot-cross buns were made to honor the goddess Eostre, whose name morphed into the festival of Easter. These buns were made to represent the moon and the cross to symbolize the moon’s quarters. To modern-day Christians, the cross symbolizes the crucifixion, thus these pastries are perfect for an Easter celebration. Some say the cross-shaped marking goes back to Ancient Rome, where breads were marked with cross shapes so diners could evenly divide the loaves into four pieces.
Maybe so, but for a few of my Italian friends, the cannoli – a crisp, sweet and crunchy tube (think ice-cream rolled cone) which is filled with cream and/or ricotta cheese that has been mixed with nuts, chocolate or even candied fruit – is the desert of choice of their families and friends for the holiday.
I convinced a few friends to share their easy, kid-friendly recipes. So “please join our table” as we celebrate this holiday!
(adapted from several of my friends’ recipes)
From Theresa Tammone, Grace Montalto Pullen and Lina Sanfilippo Fratto
12 store-bought cannoli shells
2 15- or 16-ounce containers whole-milk ricotta cheese (see note below)
1 cup powdered sugar
2 teaspoons lemon zest or 1 teaspoon lemon extract
1 teaspoon vanilla
3 tablespoons heavy cream
3 tablespoons mascarpone cheese (softened at room temperature)
Mini chocolate chips, etc. chopped pistachios and powdered sugar as a garnish
Place the ricotta in a strainer over a medium bowl in the refrigerator for 30 minutes to remove excess water. Remove from the fridge and fold in the cream, mascarpone cheese, powdered sugar, lemon zest and vanilla. Using a pastry bag or a zip-lock bag with a corner snipped off, fill each cannoli shell carefully and sprinkle with a little extra powdered sugar and chopped pistachios. Chill until you are ready to serve. Do not fill the cannoli tubes too far in advance or they will become soggy.
Note: This is a necessary tip you should follow: Mix the ricotta with the rest of the ingredients and chill in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes before piping into shells.
Here is a tip from Mary Messineo McGovern. If you don’t want to stuff shells, just break up some sugar cones and use to dip in the cheese mixture.
Here is a hot-cross bun recipe that is easier than a traditional British hot-cross bun recipe. It may be faster but it tastes just as good as the traditional one which requires a starter dough and slow rising. If this is still too much for your kids, there is another quickie at mccormick.com/recipes/breakfast-brunch/easy-hot-cross-buns.
Ingredients for the buns
2 1/2 cups white bread flour
2 tablespoons packed dark brown sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1//2 teaspoon cardamom
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 tablespoons real butter (cold, cut into small pieces)
1/2 cup mixed dried fruit
1 teaspoon orange and lemon peel
1 package of active dried yeast
1 cup whole milk (warm, not hot)
For the crosses
2 1/2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon butter (cold, cut into small pieces)
1/2 tablespoon cold lemon or orange juice
For the glaze
2 tablespoons orange or apricot jam (warmed)
To make the buns, mix the flour, sugar, salt and spices in a large baking bowl. Add the butter and cut it into the flour until it looks like coarse cornmeal. Add the dried fruit, lemon and orange peels and stir. Sprinkle the yeast over the mixture and slowly pour on the warm milk. Mix gently to form soft, sticky dough. Pour the dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead for at least 10 minutes or until it becomes silky smooth. Place the dough in a large, lightly oiled bowl. Cover with a clean tea towel and leave to rise in a warm (not hot) place until doubled in size, about 2 hours. Place the dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead again for 2 minutes. Divide the dough into 12 little buns. Lightly oil a baking sheet and place the buns on the baking sheet. With a sharp knife, cut a 1/8-inch deep cross the width of the buns into the top of each bun. Cover the buns with a clean towel and let rise again for about 45 minutes. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.
To make the crosses, mash the butter into the flour, add a little cold lemon or orange juice (1/2 tablespoon) and stir to make dough. Roll the dough into a ball, cut in half, and then each half into 6. Place in the refrigerator for 30 minutes. The balls will get hard and make it easier to roll. Roll each small dough ball into a long, thin sausage, cut in half and firmly press each ‘sausage’ half into the cross of the buns without punching out the air. Bake in the preheated oven for 15 to 20 minutes or until the buns are risen and golden brown. Remove from the oven and brush the buns with the jam or an icing of your choice. Carefully move the buns onto a wire rack to cool.