Pashka – Russian Easter Cheese Cake

The thought of Easter has given me a renewed desire to bake! But for me, Easter dessert means Pashka – a dense, creamy, sweet, Russian cheesecake. Here’s one from a previous year:

pashka 2009

The traditional shape of the Pashka is a sort of pyramid. The X B stands for Христосъ Воскресe, which means “Christ is risen” in Russian. The little jewels you can see through the cheese are dried cherries, blackberries and currants. I love serving this with fresh berries – they compliment the creamy joy very, very well! This is also one of the easiest desserts you can make.

There is a little preparation though. You need to drain the moisture out of the cheese – I find the easiest way is to hang it in muslin, over a bowl to catch the drips. Elastic bands over kitchen cupboard door knobs seems to work. See here:

hanging cheese for pashka

You will also need a flowerpot to use as a mold. I use plastic and sterilize it in the dishwasher. You then need more muslin, doubled over to line the flowerpot. Don’t worry – you can wash the muslin and re-use.

Here’s the recipe:

Easter Pashka


Serves: 12 – 16 Cooking time: 30 mins + 2 overnights Difficulty: Easy – for beginners Dietary guidance: v


Ingredients

1 1/2 pounds of cream cheese
1 1/2 pounds of ricotta cheese
1/2 pound of butter
1 cup of chopped dried fruits. Get the best you can afford – I like cherries, blueberries, cranberries.
1/2 cup currants
1/2 cup chopped nuts
1 cup of heavy cream
4 egg yolks
1 cup sugar
1 vanilla pod (or equivalent extract)

Garnish: currants, fresh berries, almonds or other nuts.


Method

1. Drain the cheese of as much moisture as you can by hanging it in muslin overnight. Also prepare the mold by lining a sterile flowerpot with a few layers of muslin.
2. Beat the butter with the cheese thoroughly until smooth.
3. In a saucepan, heat the cream just until bubble appear then set aside.
4. Beat egg yolks and sugar together until thick.
5. While still beating, add the cream in a continuous stream, and then return the mixture to the pan.
6. Stir constantly until this become a custard like thickness.
7. Take off the heat and stir in the dried fruits, currants and vanilla seeds from the vanilla pod.
8. Combine the cheese and the custard mixures gently.
9. Pour into the mold.
10. Fold over the muslin onto the top of the cheese mix, and place a plate on the top of the flowerpot. You will need a bowl or plate to stand the flowerpot into – to catch any remaining moisture that comes out. You then will want to add weight to press down onto the cheesecake – I use tinned tomatoes.
11. Chill in the fridge overnight. To serve, turn out on plate and decorate with berries. Serve with cream!

I love a big Easter, and an Easter table with the Pashka and a big bowl of colored hard boiled eggs.

easter kitchen table crop

hard boiled easter eggs

paskha russian easter cheese cake 1

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Raspberry Cupcakes Recipe

I first made raspberry cupcakes last year, with a basic vanilla cupcake recipe and fresh raspberries juiced into a fondant icing. This was, if I recall, my first attempt at dipping cupcakes using a pouring fondant, or dipping fondant. The fresh raspberry juice gave a beautiful taste and colour to the icing, and turned out to be surprisingly easy. Once your icing is at the right consistency, pour into a bowl and dip the cupcakes in, a little further than you would think to cover the entire top.

Not too shabby! A fresh raspberry on top with fondant flower and leaf – both made with a cutter.

Although they were good, all the raspberry taste came from the frosting. Baking fresh raspberries into cupcakes isn’t so successful – they loose their beautiful colour, the taste isn’t as good and  baked fruit can make small cupcakes very soggy. So the last raspberry cupcakes I made I used freeze dried raspberries.

Freeze dried berries and fruits are amazing to bake with – it keeps its colour and the taste is very intense. I topped the cupcakes with butter cream icing, to which I added a good handful of freeze dried raspberries that had be ground to a rough powder with a mortar and pestle. Then I piped them to look (kinda) like raspberries.

The ones behind were lavender with a butter cream. I halved the cake mix and instead of adding the broken up rasberries, I added some food grade lavender, and some lavender syrup. The frosting was half the plain butter cream, again substituting the raspberry for lavender.

Here’s the recipe:

Raspberry Victoria Sponge Cupcakes

A raspberry twist on the classic Victoria sponge, which also makes great cupcakes.


Serves: 6 in cake or 12 cupcakes Preparation time: 15 mins Cooking time: 15 to 20 mins


Ingredients

115g/4 oz butter
115g/4 oz caster sugar
115g/4 oz self raising flour
2 eggs, beaten and at room temperature
1-2 tablespoons tepid water
splash of good vanilla extract
generous handful (or two) of very roughly ground/chopped freeze dried raspberries


Method

1. Preheat oven to 180F/350C and prepare 2 x 6 inch sandwich tins, with baking parchment or 12 -15 cupcake cases.
2. Cream the butter and sugar well, until pale and fluffy.
3. Add beaten egg, a little at a time, and if mixture threatens to curdle, add a little of the flour (1-2 tablespoons), and add the vanilla.
4. Fold in the remaining flour, and add enough of the water so that the mix is of a slow dropping consistency.
5. Divide mixture between tins, or half fill cupcake cases.
6. Bake sandwich tins for 20 mins, cupcakes for 15-18 until well risen and a skewer comes away clean.
7. When cool, decorate with raspberry butter cream frosting, and try the cake with fresh raspberries and cream in the middle.