It’s come to my attention that America doesn’t really have a traditional Easter dessert – which is what I’d planned to write this blog post on. While carrot cake seems like shoo-in, not everyone goes weak in the knees for that rich cream cheese frosting. The usual cakes and pies would be runners up, except that no one can agree on them – and don’t waste your time nominating tartlets as a contender for the U.S.A.’s favorite treat. Even at my own Easter celebration, I don’t think my mother’s ever made the same dessert two years in a row. Thus my conclusion is that maybe as a whole, America doesn’t have an Easter treat that sits at number one. But fortunately for the sake of this post, other countries are slightly more traditional…
A traditional Russian Easter dish, Paskha is made mainly of tvorog, butter, eggs, and spices. You’ve probably never heard of tvorog, or you know it better as curd, but it’s basically just soured milk that’s made into an un-aged cheese-like substance. At any rate, it’s pretty popular in Russia.
Like you’d expect from an Easter dessert, everything about Paskha represents something to do with the holiday. Its color, for example, symbolizes the purity of Jesus, while its shape represents the church, and the decoration of the letters X and B stand for the traditional Easter greeting, “Christ is risen!”
Also decorated with the letters X and B is this Easter bread known as kulich, which are enjoyed all over Eastern Europe, including Serbia, Bulgaria, Belarus, Georgia, and Russia. These sort of cupcake-like muffin-things are traditionally put into a basket along with a bouquet of colorful flowers. They’re then brought to a priest who blesses them, so that they can be eaten before breakfast. If it’s not blessed, the kulich is still consumed, but only after dinner, as a dessert.
This bread or cake loaf is as traditional as it gets (it’s said to be one of the oldest ceremonial breads in the Czech Republic). It’s made from a sweet yeast dough that’s speckled with plump raisins and sliced almonds. After being baked, the surface becomes crisp and golden, while the inside remains soft.
Legend has it that this cake was invented by the Polish king, Stanislaw Leszczynski. While he was exiled, Stanislaw was brought a really dry cake, so he poured rum over the whole thing. Ingenious. Following this episode of brilliance, he demanded that his cooks always use rum in the spongy cake, thus spawning Babka. Today, this Eastern European dessert is topped with a glaze as well as almonds, candied fruits, and, of course, more rum (Stanislaw would’ve wanted it that way).
Hot Cross Buns
These spiced sweet buns have been around for a while and are said to date back to ancient Greece. Being so old, it’s only natural that a good deal of lore surrounds these British desserts, like their ability to ensure friendship when shared between two people and their protection against fires when hung in the kitchen. And, according to some, you may want to kiss the bread first (that way the magic works).
In France, Catholics believe that all the church bells in the country fly to the Vatican on Good Friday, carrying with them the misery and grief of those who mourn Jesus’ death. On Easter Sunday, the flying bells return, naturally with loads of chocolates – which, not surprisingly, are often shaped like bells. Because of this tradition, French church bells do not ring from Good Friday to Easter morning because they’re going for a joy ride over Europe.
Colomba di Pasqua
This Italian Christian dessert is made with the basics: flour, eggs, sugar, yeast, butter, and usually contains candied peel. The dough is fashioned into the shape of a dove (which is colomba in Italian) and topped with pearl sugar and some almonds before being baked. Other versions, which sound slightly more intriguing, are topped with rich, molten chocolate too.
Questions? Lemme know! And if you’ve got a traditional Easter dessert, you should tell me about it. (Maybe then I’d have a post for next year.)
About the Author:
"Katie Straw" is the writer at Cheesecake.com, which provides an epic cheesecake experience, and currently resides in Manchester, New Hampshire.