Category: easter

Grandma Dotty’s mini honey cakes.

Each year I do a lot of Easter recipes for you guys. Tons of cute little cupcakes & muffins & stuff. But this year, I wasn’t really feeling it. I know for Sunday’s dinner I’ll probably make little bunny cupcakes or flowery cupcakes or something… but in the weeks leading up to it this year, I didn’t have it in me.

Grandma Dotty's honey cake recipe.

It’s probably because of the passing of Grandma Dotty. Its had us pretty down lately. And we’ve been spending a lot of time looking through her photos, going through her things, and reading those hand-written recipes.

So I figured why not make one of her recipes?

The one that immediately jumped out at me with Passover being here was the honey cake. Honey cake is a very popular & beloved item in Jewish cooking. Usually it’s made for Rosh Hashanah, sometimes Purim. Here’s a little more about the honey cake tradition:

Luckily, honey cake is dripping with tradition. Variations of honey-sweetened desserts have existed for thousands of centuries and in far-flung locales, from Ancient Egypt and Rome to China. Recent archaeological discoveries of beehives in Tel Rehov, Israel, also suggest that biblical Israel was indeed a land of milk and honey. According to Stephen Buchmann’s book, “Letters From the Hive: An Intimate History of Bees, Honey, and Humankind” (Bantam, 2005), German-Christian pilgrims developed a taste for honey cake on their trips to the Holy Land during the Middle Ages. They enjoyed the dish enough to take it home, where it developed over time into its contemporary form.

Not surprisingly, the first Jewish honey cakes (or lekach, which comes from the German word lecke, meaning “lick”) originated in Germany around this time. During this period, the dessert was primarily eaten on Purim and Shavuot and sometimes served as a treat for young yeshiva students. As Gil Marks notes in “The World of Jewish Cooking” (Simon & Schuster, 1996):

“Honey was smeared on a slate containing the letters of the alphabet and the child licked them off so that the ‘words of the Torah may be sweet as honey.’ Afterward, the aspiring scholar was presented with honey cakes, apples and hard-boiled eggs.”

From Germany, the dish traveled to Eastern Europe, where Jews celebrated with honey cakes at simkhot (happy occasions) and holidays alike. According to Marks, the overall use of honey as an ingredient declined in Eastern European cooking during the 17th century but remained popular in Jewish cuisine.

-Source

Now, the fact that it’s leavened & includes wheat flour & confectioner’s sugar (among other “chametz“) would generally rule this cake out for Passover enjoyment. But since I’m not Jewish by birth nor am I (or Jay) religious in any capacity, it doesn’t matter to me. I’m doing this as a tribute to Dotty, not a religious symbol.

Grandma Dotty's honey cake recipe turned into mini cakes.

If you’re Jewish & you’re obeying the laws of Judaism, you know whether or not it’s okay to eat. Maybe wait until after Passover to try it? Or flex your culinary muscles by altering the recipe to use almond flour or matzoh meal? Alternately, they also make delicious little Easter cupcakes. Honestly they’re really great for any occasion. Even just an average Friday.

I used Langnese, an imported German honey in them, but Golden Blossom would taste great too ’cause of the orange. Just be sure to use a REAL honey. A lot of the honey you find in stores today is just high fructose corn syrup mixed with a little honey.

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Cherry cardamom hot cross buns with a buttermilk icing.

SPRING!! YOU’RE FINALLY HERE! Oh, how we’ve missed you. You & your bright colors & beautiful flowers. All winter I’ve longed for a big bouquet of fresh buds on my table, and I can finally indulge. And indulge I have!

Besides after having such a rough few weeks I think we all deserve some brightness.

Ranunculus.

I think since early March, I’ve had a trillion vases & jars all over the house, filled with beautiful flowers. As soon as I started seeing blooms for sale, I bought ‘em. Those gorgeous ones pictured are ranunculus; some of my absolute favorites. But daffodils were a big one recently, and of course tulips. It’s so nice to have the snow be gone & the greenery back!

And now, a spring-y, Easter-y recipe to usher in the season of eggs, bunnies & flowers: hot cross buns!

Cherry cardamom hot cross buns.

I had to change ‘em around a bit, though. I made mine with cardamom and dried cherries, and the icing is a buttermilk icing. You, however, can use cinnamon instead of cardamom, and raisins instead of cherries, and milk or heavy cream instead of buttermilk for a  more traditional recipe.

Cherry cardamom hot cross buns!

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Chocolate bunnies are always a good fall-back plan.

Just in case you aren’t aware, I’ve been busy lately. Really busy. And on top of that? I got wicked sick last week and I was in bed for about 6 days with something way worse than your average cold but just short of bronchitis. It was gross. Jay had a milder version of it the week before, and try as I might to avoid getting it, I was walloped. And boy was it a fucking doozy! Even when I could finally get out of bed after 6 days, I was still a mess & a half. And it really set me back; blog wise, too. There just wasn’t enough time this year between St. Patrick’s Day & Easter for me to plan anything unique, not to mention then I got hit with this stupid germ-fest. Really- I had no energy at all, I was still coughing & my nose was running like a faucet (and still is as I type this) and I just couldn’t come up with anything original or fun. I was at a loss. I was like a zombie.

I had just enough inspiration when dying my Easter eggs to come up with this: HTML hex code eggs! (for those of you uninitiated into the world of HTML, here’s an explanation as to what the hell that means).

I know, I know. I’m a geek. And it was very easy; just dye half your eggs. You can use any type of dye you want: natural dyes, food coloring dyes, Kool-Aid dyes, Paas or Dudley… there’s an HTML hex code to match any shade & any color. When they’re dry, find the HTML code that matches from this very comprehensive chart and write it with a thin black Sharpie, or if you’re more anal-retentive, print out decals on decal paper to stick on. Ta da! It’s a spin off of those Pantone Easter eggs that are everywhere right now. So anyway- that was my lone inspiration this year. The only spark that came to me.

But as far as baking goes? I had no idea. Even the almighty Pinterest wasn’t helping.

Then I saw a little bag of chocolate bunnies I had bought and never opened, and I figured, hey- those are always a good thing to fall back on! Who doesn’t love itty bitty chocolate bunnies? Especially when on top of cupcakes?

No, it isn’t very “different” and it probably isn’t going to go viral on Pinterest. But you know what? I DON’T CARE. Maybe it’ll give you an idea, or at the very least reassure you that a regular ol’ cupcake is just fine for Easter. Or maybe not. Maybe you can commiserate. Or maybe you’ll click the x in the corner & travel on over to a blog with better, cuter, more “original” ideas this year. Lord knows there are plenty.

Whatever you do, I hope you see that that’s pretty much the entire point of this blog. That you don’t have to be perfect or come up with “the next big thing” in order to have fun in the kitchen.

Who cares if you make 16 pints of plain ol’ strawberry jam just because it’s your favorite? No, it isn’t glamorous nor will it garner collective oohs & aahs from the blog world. But it’s your thing. Who cares if you like pound cake, and you make it 6 billion times a year? It’s nothing new but does that mean it isn’t delicious? Hell no! So what if I can’t come up with anything better than cupcakes with tiny chocolate bunnies on top. Who’s going to bitch about it? Nobody, really. Except me.

But see, this is my dilemma. I want to encourage you to cook, bake, experiment, eat homemade when you can, and to put effort into your meals. I want you to not be afraid of the kitchen. I want you to feel good about what you put on your plates, both visually and taste-wise, and create something NEW. Because you deserve to not be ashamed that it’s shriveled up overcooked chicken & instant microwave rice for the fourth night in a row. I want to empower you to bake from scratch & not feel that you can’t do a fancy frosting technique because it’s too hard. I want you to know that you can make a cake from scratch and not have it take ALL DAY. I want you to try making cake pops or canning and not feel like it’s beyond you. But on the other hand, like I said above I feel as though I’m part of a culture (food blogging) that’s pushing people towards perfection… and perfection that can never be achieved, at that. Which is why I will never have fake backdrops, or photographers backgrounds, or light boxes or professional lights just to take photos of cake. Never. You can count on that. Yes, I have a “fancy shmancy” brand-spankin’ new DSLR. And yes, I love it & I love the photos it takes. But trust me: you’ll always see my real house in the background. My real stove. My real counters, etc. Maybe a pet running around (if my photo editing skills are particularly lousy that week). The pots are mine, purchased by me. It will always be real. I will never phony it up just for a good photo op. All of those plates, napkins, tea towels, cake stands, etc? They’re really mine. Not just a one-off bought for a photograph. This is my real life. I buy plates because I use them. I buy tea towels because they’re pretty & I always loved them, even in my pre-blogging days. I like pretty napkins & cake stands & that hasn’t changed. My fresh flowers? I buy those because I like having them in the house, not just for pictures. And as far as plates or cutlery? Most of my things are vintage, anyway, and from my family… so they’ve always been here. I didn’t go out & buy them to impress anyone on the internet when posting a photo of food. But most importantly- it’s real in that it’s what I do because I love it. Not because I’m rolling in dough from it. I genuinely LOVE doing this blog.

So, see, I want to empower you with all of that knowledge, but at the same time deliver you content that you deserve, and show you that you do not have to be perfect or have the perfect kitchen. So when I fall behind or when I don’t meet those standards, I feel bad. When I shouldn’t. Because I know you’re all grown-ups and you understand that blogging does not equal my job or my entire life. I know you understand that I’m a human being, I get sick & I have other obligations & other things going on… that maybe this blog would have to take a backseat to. I’m not a blogging machine or a baking machine. I know you understand all that. It does make it sting a little less when I get “stuck” to know that you all get it.

And that also you understand that sometimes, a simple dark chocolate cupcake with a store-bought chocolate bunny on top will just have to do. Recipe for the cupcakes can be found here, recipe for the frosting can be found here (I colored it violet).

Happy Easter, Happy Eostre, Happy Passover, Happy Spring or happy whatever it is you celebrate.

Eggy bread.

Well it’s officially Easter Sunday, and I’m sure that you’re all busy making your dinners and baking your goodies, but just in case you’re lookin’ for some more inspiration, I thought I’d pop back in and show off my dip-dyed Easter eggs… plus something special I made with them.

Easter bread! Sweet & delicious (& unique). I’ve been looking for the perfect recipe to make for years. This was a tradition around my house forever, we used to buy the one shaped like a bunny with the egg where the butt was, ha. But I kept forgetting to make it and then whenever I found a recipe I just wasn’t feeling it. And then I found this one! Big thanks to The Italian Dish for the perfect recipe. Here’s a couple of pre-baking photos, pardon my pans- usually I cover them in parchment to bake but I ran out & wasn’t aware until it was time to bake. And at 11 a.m. on Easter Sunday I was not about to run out and get any! By the way, I used the entire recipe but only made 6 breads.

Enjoy your Easter, everyone who celebrates it. Or should I say… Buona Pasqua! And for the rest of you, I hope you have a nice relaxing Sunday with your family or friends, & you eat something delicious. Because that’s what it’s about for me. Being with the people I care about and enjoying my time. Not religion, or fables, or anything. Not being perfect or having the perfect table settings or impressing anyone. Not worrying. But just taking a day off to experience the true joys of life: food, family, and freakin’ naps! Zzzzzzz…

Hoppy Easter.

My mom’s Easter tree this year!

Again, this year, I had no idea what I was going to make. That’s been a common theme. I was lost as to what I was going to make for Valentine’s Day, then for St. Patrick’s Day, then again for Easter. It’s just been that kinda year I guess. I saw a million cute things but I hate repeating the same shit everyone else does.

But that’s basically what I ended up doing anyway. Pfft.

I made some simple vanilla-flavored cupcakes and topped them with vanilla frosting, then dipped them in chocolate sauce, then I added egg-shaped quins and white chocolate bunnies. Can’t get much easier than that, huh? THESE ARE NOT HI-HAT CUPCAKES. They’re just regular cupcakes dipped in chocolate. I used ‘The Ultimate Vanilla Cupcake’ from the Cupcake Project for this, and the chocolate sauce is one I’ve used before that hardens when it dries but doesn’t really harden to a crazy hard consistency. It just hardens enough to not be melty and messy. Deelish. The white chocolate bunnies are just white chocolate bars melted & poured into bunny molds. Very, very easy. The larger molds were more like the traditional chocolate Easter bunny, but they were too large for toppers so I just paired each cupcake with one.

By the way, I’ve started using salted butter in my confectioner’s sugar buttercream. I find it adds a nice touch, takes away some of the super-sweetness that you can get from a high-sugar buttercream. Just a lil’ tip from me to you.

So I hope you all have a Happy Easter, Happy Passover, Happy Eostre, Happy Spring! There might be another Easter-y surprise thrown in sometime this weekend. Maybe. Maybe not. *wink*

Hot cross muffins, hot cross muffins, one ha’ penny, two ha’ penny…

My grandma loved hot cross buns. LOVED them. Every spring, she had to have her hot cross buns for Easter. It was tradition, yes, but more so she just really enjoyed them. However I never really knew the full meaning behind them until I decided to make a batch in her honor this year. Thanks Wikipedia!

A hot cross bun, or cross-bun,[1] is a sweet, yeast-leavened, spiced bun made with currants or raisins, often with candied citrus fruits,[2] marked with a cross on the top. The cross can be made in a variety of ways including: of pastry; flour and water mixture; rice paper; icing; two intersecting cuts. They are traditionally eaten on Good Friday but in the UK they are now sold all year round.[3]

In many historically Christian countries, buns are traditionally eaten hot or toasted on Good Friday, with the cross standing as a symbol of the Crucifixion. They are believed by some to pre-date Christianity, although the first recorded use of the term “hot cross bun” was not until 1733;[1] it is believed that buns marked with a cross were eaten by Saxons in honour of the goddess Eostre (the cross is thought to have symbolised the four quarters of the moon);[4] “Eostre” is probably the origin of the name “Easter”.[1] Others claim that the Greeks marked cakes with a cross, much earlier.[5]

According to cookery writer Elizabeth David, Protestant English monarchs saw the buns as a dangerous hold-over of Catholic belief in England, being baked from the dough used in making the communion wafer. Protestant England attempted to ban the sale of the buns by bakers but they were too popular, and instead Elizabeth I passed a law permitting bakeries to sell them, but only at Easter and Christmas.

English folklore includes many superstitions surrounding hot cross buns. One of them says that buns baked and served on Good Friday will not spoil or become mouldy during the subsequent year. Another encourages keeping such a bun for medicinal purposes. A piece of it given to someone who is ill is said to help them recover.[6]

Sharing a hot cross bun with another is supposed to ensure friendship throughout the coming year, particularly if “Half for you and half for me, Between us two shall goodwill be” is said at the time. Because of the cross on the buns, some say they should be kissed before being eaten. If taken on a sea voyage, hot cross buns are said to protect against shipwreck. If hung in the kitchen, they are said to protect against fires and ensure that all breads turn out perfectly. The hanging bun is replaced each year.[6]

Amazing. As a self-admitted total history nerd, the part about Elizabeth I blew my mind! It also cemented my desire to make my own hot cross buns. But see, my idea was to translate them into a muffin type of deal. Not really, since they’re really just hot cross buns, except baked in buttered paper in muffin tins. But they resemble muffins more than buns this way. I got the idea from the panettone I made for Christmas which was both much talked about and much devoured. Is that proper grammar? Doesn’t sound like it. But you get the idea. Either way, hot cross buns are incredibly similar to panettones in terms of the dough & ingredients, so there wasn’t really much difference in making them.

HOT CROSS BUNS (adapted slightly from Ree Drummond/Pioneer Woman)

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups whole milk
  • ½ cup canola oil
  • ½ cup sugar
  • 1 package (2 ¼ teaspoons) Active Dry Yeast
  • 4 cups all-purpose flour
  • ½ cup (additional) flour
  • ½ teaspoon (heaping) baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon (scant) baking soda
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • spices: cardamom, nutmeg, allspice (optional)
  • ½ cup golden raisins
Glaze:
  • 1 whole egg white
  • splash of milk

;

Icing:
  • 1 whole egg white
  • powdered sugar
  • splash of milk

Directions:

  1. Combine 2 cups milk, canola oil, and ½ cup sugar in a saucepan. Stir and heat until very warm but not boiling. Turn off the heat and allow to cool until mixture is still warm, but not hot–about 30 minutes. Sprinkle yeast over mixture. Add 4 cups of flour and stir to combine. Mixture will be very sticky. Cover with a towel and set aside for 1 hour.
  2. Meanwhile, cut large squarish circles out of brown paper bags. Melt two tablespoons butter and brush each one with some butter. Line muffin tins with them and press down, making them fit.
  3. Add ½ cup flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Stir till combined. Combine ¼ cup sugar with cinnamon and whatever other spices you want to use. Lightly flour surface. Press to slightly flatten dough. Sprinkle a couple tablespoons of the sugar/cinnamon mixture. Sprinkle on about a third of the raisins. Then fold the dough over on itself and flatten again so the dough is “plain” again. Repeat the sugar/raisin process, then fold the dough again. Repeat a third time until all the raisins are used. (You won’t use all the sugar/cinnamon mixture.)
  4. Pinch off ping pong or golf ball-size bunches of dough. With floured hands, quickly roll it into a ball, then turn the edges under themselves slightly. Place each ball in the buttered paper. Cover and allow to rise in a warm place for at least 30 minutes, an hour-plus is better. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
  5. Make glaze: mix 1 egg white with a splash of milk. Brush onto each roll. Bake for 20 minutes, give or take, or until tops of buns have turned nice and golden brown. Remove from pan and allow to cool on a cooling rack.
  6. Make the icing: Mix 1 egg white with enough powdered sugar for icing to be very thick. Splash in milk as needed for consistency. Add icing to a small Ziploc bag or disposable pastry bag and snip the corner. Make icing crosses on each roll, making sure they’re completely cooled first.

I halved the above recipe and ended up with 14 total: 6 in the buttered-brown-paper-muffin version, without raisins, and 8 in an 8″-inch cake pan with raisins. As soon as the dough was made, I split it in half after adding the cinnamon mix and just added raisins to one lump and left them out of the other one. Makes sense, right?

These are the original buns that were baked in a pan & contain raisins

If you’re making the full batch, you could easily use brownie pans instead of a round cake pan, if you’re not into the buttered paper idea. You also don’t have to use golden raisins, or even raisins at all. Dried currants work too, as does citron if you’re into that. I’m definitely not. I’m sure any kind of small dried fruit would do the trick. And if you’d really like to, I’m sure little mini chocolate chips would taste delicious too. And if you’re really adventurous, why not soak the raisins in a bit of liquor first?

I have to say these were much easier than I anticipated. I made them while watching a few episodes of Shameless & before I knew it they were ready to eat. Best hot cross bun muffins ever!

Here comes Peter Cottontail.

And he’s riding on a parade of cupcakes, apparently. Yep, you guessed it folks. We’re two weeks away from Easter, and spring is officially here… that means so is the annual Best of Easter Cupcakes Compilation!

Each holiday I post a compilation of my favorite (or the best) cupcake or dessert items that are pertinent to said holiday; I also throw in links to other things like snacks or cookies or even meals that relate as well. I started doing it last Halloween (2010). Afterwards, I’d gotten good feedback from people who said it helps them come up with ideas without having to search too much, so I kept it up. The rest is history, as they say.

So here you are. A convenient little list of pretty cakes (& other things listed at the bottom) that are perfect for spring/Easter/Passover/whatever you celebrate. I celebrate chocolate bunnies, myself. Anyway, click on each image & you’ll be brought to the recipe. Enjoy!
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And there’s more than this that I haven’t pictured here, both for the sake of time & space. If you’re interested in them, I’m listing them below. I hope this helps you guys out with some ideas! And don’t forget- there’s plenty more to come in the next week or two.

Chocolate fudge Easter egg cake pops

Chocolate hi-hat cupcakes with banana-flavored Italian meringue

Sweet noodle kugel

Shortbread cookies dipped in chocolate (shape ‘em like bunnies!)

Thumbprint cookies
…………………………………….(shape ‘em like eggs & use all different colored springy jams & jellies to fill them)

Cherry filled low-sugar cupcakes
…………………………………….(great for diabetics, dieters or people who don’t like frosting.. freaks!)

Carrot cupcakes with lavender-colored cream cheese frosting

Coconut macaroons & chocolate-covered coconut macaroons

Alfajores with dulce de leche filling