Easter cakes for a grand finale

I love Easter so much because it’s a lovely holiday without all the stresses of Christmas. As the intro to Spring, Easter seems more relaxed. The menu can be anything, from your favorite meat or poultry served with tons of sides to a simple pan of lasagna and a salad. When it comes down to it it’s the people that make the dinner special, and a great dessert doesn’t hurt either.

I’m making my favorite carrot cake this year. Loaded with shredded carrots, coconut, crushed pineapple and walnuts and topped with a fluffy cream cheese frosting, this cake is moist and delicious.

If you don’t eat enough Easter candy, there’s chocolatey Almond Joy Cake with flavors reminiscent of the beloved candy bar. A mix makes the cake quick and easy, the filling and glaze make it incredibly good.

On the lighter side, Lemon Cake Roll, a lemon sponge-like cake wrapped around a lemony buttercream filling looks and tastes like Spring on a plate. Happy Easter!

Best-ever Carrot Cake

(This moist delicious cake is my favorite way to eat carrots.)

1 cup vegetable or canola oil

3 eggs

2 cups sugar

2 tsps. baking soda

2 tsps. cinnamon

2 tsps. vanilla

2 cups flour

2 cups shredded carrots

2 cups shredded coconut

16-ounce can crushed pineapple, drained

1 cup chopped walnuts

Cream Cheese Frosting (recipe follows)

Directions: In mixing bowl, combine oil, eggs, sugar, baking soda, cinnamon and vanilla. Beat in flour. Stir in carrots, coconut, pineapple and nuts mixing thoroughly.

Bake in greased 13×9-inch baking pan or 2 greased and floured 9-inch round cake pans. Bake in 350-degree oven about 1 hour for oblong or 50 minutes for layers, or till wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool on wire rack. For layer cake cool 15 minutes then invert to remove from pans. Cool completely before frosting. Serves 10 to 12.

Cream Cheese Frosting

8-ounce package cream cheese, softened

1/2 cup butter, softened

1 1/2 cups confectioners’ sugar

1 to 2 tsps. vanilla

Chopped walnuts for garnish, if desired.

Directions: Cream together cream cheese and butter in medium bowl with electric mixer. Add sugar and vanilla and beat well till mixed and fluffy. For layer cake: On serving platter place one layer, bottom-side-up; frost. Top with remaining layer, top-side-up and frost top only, leaving sides of cake unfrosted. Sprinkle top with more chopped walnuts, if desired.

Almond Joy Cake

1 package chocolate butter cake mix

Filling:

1 cup milk

1 cup sugar

24 marshmallows

1 (14-ounce) package sweetened shredded coconut

Whole almonds, lightly toasted

Glaze:

1 1/2 cups sugar

1 cup evaporated milk

1 stick butter

2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips

Directions: Toast almonds on a parchment-lined rimmed baking sheet in 350-degree oven, 5 to 10 minutes, shaking pan a few times so nuts brown evenly. When golden brown and aromatic remove from oven, and using the parchment paper, lift onto a cutting board to cool. Leave oven on.

Mix and bake cake according to package instructions for a 9×13-inch cake pan.

While cake is baking, prepare filling. In a saucepan, bring the milk and 1 cup sugar to a boil. Boil for 1 minute then reduce heat. Stir in the marshmallows and cook until melted and blended, stirring constantly. Remove from heat and stir in the coconut. Pour mixture over hot cake. Arrange toasted almonds in the filling. Allow to cool.

Prepare chocolate glaze. In a saucepan bring 1 1 /2 cups sugar, evaporated milk and butter to a boil. Reduce heat and add the chocolate chips, stirring till completely melted. Pour the glaze over the warm cake. Refrigerate till set and cut into squares. Serves 12 to 15.

Lemon Cake Roll

Cake:

3 large eggs

1/2 cup extra-fine granulated sugar

1/2 tsp. lemon extract

1/2 tsp. lemon zest

1 tsp. lemon juice

3/4 cup all-purpose flour

1 tsp. baking powder

1/4 tsp. salt

Lemon Butter Cream Filling:

1/4 cup butter

4 cups powdered sugar plus 1 cup for dusting towel

1/3 cup milk plus 1 tablespoon

1/2 tsp. lemon extract

1/2 tsp. lemon zest

Directions: Grease a 9×12-inch baking sheet with sides. Line with parchment or waxed paper. Grease paper. Set aside.

In mixing bowl, combine eggs and sugar. Beat on medium-high speed 4 minutes till pale yellow. Add lemon extract, lemon zest and lemon juice. Mix in flour, baking powder and salt till just combined. Spread batter evenly into pan.

Bake in preheated 350-degree oven for 9 to 10 minutes, or till cake springs back slightly when touched.

While cake is baking, lay a clean kitchen towel onto a flat surface. Sprinkle generously with powdered sugar.

Remove cake from oven and carefully flip it out of pan onto the sugar-coated towel. Carefully remove the parchment or waxed paper from cake. Using the towel, roll cake from short side with the towel inside, jelly roll-style. Refrigerate for an hour.

While cake is chilling, prepare filling. In large mixer bowl combine butter and 4 cups powdered sugar. Beat on medium speed and slowly add milk. Continue to beat till thick and creamy. Add lemon zest and extract.

Remove cake from refrigerator and carefully unroll cake, removing towel. Spread filling onto flat cake and then reroll. Wrap in plastic and place back in refrigerator till ready to serve. Place on serving platter, seam-side down. Sift powdered sugar generously over cake before serving. Garnish with white chocolate curls, jelly beans or lemon rind curls, if desired. Serves 8.

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