In searching for a cake to feature for spring, I realized I usually don't make a big cake for our Easter holiday. For the past 39 years, my girlfriends and I have had festive Easter breakfast gatherings where cake isn't necessarily on the menu. Though the menu has slight changes from year to year, there are always lots of favorite “bready products,” as Suzi would say, just not typically cake. Probably because I am a baker who cooks, rather than a cook who bakes, when I'm cooking a meal, I am not focused on a fabulous cake for dessert. When cake baking, I want all my attention on the cake, not stuck in between salad, chops, and veggies. I like to have a fruit dessert, if I'm the dinner and dessert cook. A cobbler, pie, or shortcake gets the job done.
A few years ago, Suzi found a small cake recipe which is insanely good and perfect for Easter. Golden Eggs are cakelets baked in egg-shaped pans or muffin pans. It is a rich butter cake which is then brushed with butter and rolled in cinnamon sugar, making them taste like the best doughnut you’ve ever had. The recipe is by a talented baker named Gesine Bullock-Prado and is from her fabulous cookbook, Confessions of a Closet Master Baker. Besides being an excellent baker and witty writer, she was the media lawyer for her sister, the actress Sandra Bullock and she writes entertainingly about her time in that world and her escape to baking. She has since written many cookbooks and now has a television show, Baked in Vermont. I cannot recommend these delicious cakes highly enough; as Gesine says, they are really magical as well as almost addictive. Find the recipe here on myteaplanner.com: Easter Tea Menu
Back to breakfast, and its more glamorous sister, brunch. We always called it breakfast but it was really brunch, with fancier egg preparations, all manner of bready products, morning meats, and mimosas of all stripes. After we added Tiffany to the family, we always had plenty of the best Driscoll’s berries, made into fruit salad, dropped into mimosas, and decorating everything in sight! Tiffany’s family owns a berry farm in Watsonville and sells their produce to Driscoll’s to be shipped all over the world. The first Easter breakfast, when we were fifteen, was at my parent's house, using the pastel plates and mugs from our picnic basket. I chose breakfast for our party because Suzi was already working at age 15, and her shift at Thrifty’s was from 1:30 to 10:30pm. I know I prepared all the food, but besides hot cross buns, I have no idea what I made. Each Easter breakfast since then has been a shared cooking event, hostessed by various gals, a collaborative effort. The locations changed from one girlfriend's house to another and has come over time to include the children of those then teenaged girls.
Gina in the backyard
Christina, Jennifer, Gina, Suzi in the parent’s kitchen
Diana in the orchard
A celebration in spring to welcome the return to green seems as old as the world. Who can resist lilies and tulips, freesia and daffodils? Add in bunnies and eggs, resurrection and renewal and you’ve got a lovely reason to celebrate. With spring pastels always the palette of the Easter breakfast parties, we held the feasts at kitchen tables, picnic tables, and in back yards around our green valley. We all decorated, cooked, and baked with spring joy and abundance in mind. And we had lots and lots of fun along the way!
This recipe is highly adaptable, and I confess I haven’t measured the ingredients for twenty years and it always comes out perfectly. I almost always put in the orange ingredients, but you can easily leave them out and it tastes lovely with just vanilla and a little spice. Feel free to pass maple syrup or a berry syrup and or a nice pourable custard sauce, such as crème anglais. The casserole can be assembled the night before with good results though it might need a few additional minutes of baking and will be a slightly firmer texture.
- 1 loaf French bread, cut into 1” slices
- 2 ounces melted butter
- 6 eggs
- 1/3 cup sugar
- 4 cups half and half or any combination of whole milk and cream (This is not a low fat recipe; please don’t be tempted to use low fat milk.)
- The grated zest and juice of one orange
- 2 tablespoons orange flavored liqueur
- 1 tablespoon vanilla
- 1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg or ground mace
- Powdered sugar for garnish
Preheat oven to 350˚F
Serves 12 as part of a party buffet or 6 to 8 hungry teenaged girls
- Brush both sides of the bread slices with melted butter. Arrange in the prepared pan.
- In large mixing bowl, whisk together eggs, sugar, half and half, zest, juice, liqueur, and vanilla. Slowly pour mixture over bread, making sure all bread is moistened. Sprinkle nutmeg or mace over top.
- Bake for 45 to 50 minutes until golden and puffy and a table knife inserted into center of custard tests almost clean. Let rest 10 minutes before serving. Sieve powdered sugar over top just before serving. Serve warm or at room temperature. Refrigerate leftovers covered for up to three days.
Deviled eggs with a proper Midwestern relish tray A Cookie Tower
- 6 hard-boiled eggs, cooled and peeled
- ¼ cup nonfat Greek yogurt
- 2 tablespoons dill pickle relish
- 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
- ½ teaspoon dry mustard (I like Coleman’s best.)
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 1/8 teaspoon cayenne or white pepper
- Cut eggs in half and place yolks in medium bowl. Place whites on egg plate or prepared platter, set aside. Mash yolks with masher or fork until evenly broken down and as smooth as possible. With fork, stir in yogurt, relish, vinegar, dry mustard, salt, and pepper. Stir until smooth.
- Scrape yolk mixture into piping bag or zip-top bag. (If using zip-top bag, snip about ½” off one corner.) Pipe into egg whites.
- To serve immediately, garnish as desired and serve. To make in advance, cover lightly with plastic wrap and chill up to one day. Garnish just before serving. Chill any leftovers promptly and use within two days.