I have many happy childhood memories surrounding Easter. Thanks, Mom and Dad! For example, when I was in elementary school, my parents and my brothers and I would pile into the family car go to "the country" to spend Easter with my grandmother, who lived in a small town about ninety miles away from our suburban St. Louis home. We colored eggs for the Easter bunny to hide and had massive egg hunts on her beautiful grounds on Easter morning. We helped ourselves to chocolate from our overflowing baskets while Grandmother cooked breakfast: eggs, bacon, sausage, biscuits and gravy and several varieties of handmade jellies and preserves. And after we had stuffed ourselves and the breakfast dishes were done, Grandmother resumed the dinner preparations, begun days ahead of time.
The fabulous meal always ended with a lamb cake. I hadn't thought about that in years, but it came back to me during a phone conversation with my friend Peggy last week. No, a lamb cake is not some sort of meatloaf-esque concoction made from ground lamb. It is a white cake, baked in a lamb shaped mold, frosted with white icing and festooned with coconut. The more I thought about it, the more I wanted to make a lamb cake this year. But I don't have a lamb cake mold. I wonder what happened to Grandmother's. Anyway, I am sad to say that, although I went to several stores and checked numerous websites, I was unable to secure a lamb cake mold in time to bake a cake for my family's Easter dinner.
Grandmother coloring Easter eggs, 1972.
Instead, I settled for a Nordic Ware shortcake basket pan (click HERE). I love strawberry shortcake, but I have never been crazy about those spongy yellow shortcakes they sell at the grocery store. Have you ever read the list of ingredients on the package? But I adore their shape, perfect for holding lots of berries and whipped cream, so this pan seemed like a way to make the quintessential springtime dessert something really special.
Following the recipe that came with the pan, I whipped up the batter and divided it equally among the six ornate baskets.
Ready to pop into the oven
Still following the directions, I baked them for eighteen minutes, allowed them to cool for ten - and then was unable to remove them from the pan. They were completely unsalvageable. Instead of six beautiful shortcakes, I had an ugly pile of cake crumbs. And a cake pan that was very difficult to clean.
What I learned was when a cake recipe says "grease and flour pans" it doesn't mean "spray with nonstick cooking spray." Usually I get away with that; this time I didn't. Too upset to take a picture, I sent Casey to the grocery store for a small can of Crisco while I made a second batch of batter. And I am happy to report that after I greased the pans with Crisco and floured them - generously, I might add - and baked the shortcakes as before, the results were perfect.
This is more like it.
Obviously, the pans overflowed the molds a bit; when I make the recipe again, I will add a little less batter to each cup. I proposed trimming away the excess, but nobody wanted me to waste that delicious cake. Also, my brother said the cakes looked like monkey hats. How could I destroy the monkey hats?
So I set the cakes aside, sugared the strawberries, tossed the fruit salad, put the ham in the oven, got the green beans to simmering, made the potato casserole, and set the table.
These beautiful tulips made a perfect centerpiece. Thanks, Cindy!
Eric and Donna arrived with broccoli salad and dinner rolls. Finally, everything was on the table and it was time to eat.
My family seated around Grandmother's dining room table.
The piece de resistance.
Everyone I love wasn't able to be with me today. But I am thankful for those who were, and thankful for all the wonderful memories of Easters past. I hope you made some memories today. Happy Easter!