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Celebrating the Easter Season, Part 4: Food

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We fast for the forty days of Lent. It stands to reason that we should find ways to feast for the entire fifty days of the Easter season. Most people are pretty adept at enjoying the extravaganza of Easter Sunday with chocolates, jelly beans, even Peeps (which, as my grandmother taught me, are really only good for Peep Jousting), but what happens after the inevitable stomachache and the ensuing sadness that the Easter baskets are empty? How can we truly keep the Easter feast for fifty days? We can BAKE.

As my lifelong love of creating delicious treats has been reignited of late by my being introduced to the joys of The Great British Baking Show (watch and revel—you’ll thank me later), it seems to me that baking is a fairly simple way for people to continue their celebration of the Easter for the entire season. By baking something once each week, you can sustain a sense of joy and newness throughout Easter, and if you’re concerned about your waistline, you can use this as an opportunity to help others continue their Easter celebrations as well by sharing your baked goods with friends, co-workers, neighbors, or fellow parishioners.

Most people think of Hot Cross Buns when they think of traditional Easter baked goods, but making these can be pretty complicated, especially when baking with little ones. I attempted them this past weekend and wound up with Hot Cross Bricks. If you’re looking for something a little simpler, here are seven delicious recipes (broadly arranged in increasing order of difficulty) to help you feast from Easter to Pentecost.

  1. Cinnabunnies
    Even the most novice baker will enjoy opening up a can of ready-made cinnamon rolls and shaping them into bunnies!
  2. Lamb Cake
    This one is a vintage favorite—even if things go horribly awry (just google “lamb cake fail”). I recommend making buttercream frosting in place of the frosting given in the recipe above. If you don’t have a lamb cake mold, you can always just bake a regular cake from a mix and pipe some lambs on it with frosting (cookie cutters are helpful templates for tracing).
  3. Resurrection cookies
    Make these on Holy Saturday and open the oven door on Easter Sunday morning to welcome Christ’s Resurrection with cookies that resemble the stone that was rolled away from his tomb. Our friends at catholicmom.com have provided a wonderful theological explanation of each ingredient as well as Scripture passages for you to read and reflect on throughout the baking process. (In my family, we break chocolate chunks into tiny pieces instead of pecans.)
  4. Bapka
    Bapka is a traditional Polish dessert, so named because “bapka” is derived from the word for “grandmother,” and the dessert itself resembles an old woman’s pleated skirt swirling around. There are tons of bapka recipes out there, but the one above is traditionally associated with Easter and seemed a little less complicated than others.
  5. Figolli
    We’re getting into the next-level bakes here: figolli are Maltese cookies filled with a delicious ground almond mixture. They can be cut into any shape (often crosses, bunnies, lambs, or eggs) and kids can have a blast with the decoration process (especially if you go all out and make your own royal icing—we’re feasting here, remember?).
  6. Kulich
    Kulich is the traditional Orthodox Christian Easter bread, popular in Russian Easter celebrations. Its ingredients are similar to bapka, and if you can’t find candied fruits, you can simply substitute your favorite dried varieties.
  7. Pashka
    This is the mother lode for traditional Easter desserts. It takes a couple of days to make properly and is decidedly not low-calorie. Pashka is also native to Russia and the Orthodox tradition, and it’s basically soft cheese that has been sweetened and shaped in a mold (or even a flower pot). It’s often decorated with slivered almonds that spell out the letters XB, which stand for “Christ is risen!” as well as dried red fruits, which symbolize the blood Jesus shed in his Passion and Death.

It’s not surprising that the food we make and eat and share can also proclaim the Gospel in its own way; after all, the entire Christian faith is rooted in the Eucharistic meal. Whether you remember the Paschal Lamb as you decorate your lamb cake, or recall the stone being rolled away from the tomb as your Resurrection Cookies crumble in your mouth, or ponder the saving Death and Resurrection of Jesus as you decorate your pashka, these recipes can help you keep the Easter feast going for fifty days.

Featured Photo: Laura Holm; CC-BY-NC-ND-2.0.

Carolyn Pirtle

Carolyn Pirtle is the associate director of the Notre Dame Center for Liturgy and a composer of liturgical music.