It's not just because Easter is centered around an infamous bunny and his/her (I'm not sure about the Easter bunny's gender) chocolate eggs. It has a lot more to do with the coinciding transformations from brown to bright green and bare to speckled with delicate buds in the world around. Easter heralds the arrival of robins hunting for worms, bright yellow daffodils and cute open toed sandals.
There's no heavy meal laden with gravy, mashed potatoes and stuffing, nor is there the stress of purchasing gifts for family and friends. Just stock up on cadbury cream eggs and peeps, and you're all set.
To celebrate Easter, the little rabbit is keeping it simple this year with iced butter cookies and mini orange chiffon cakes. Nothing rich and heavy, just some light desserts to welcome the arrival of the robins, daffodils and all things Spring.
For the mini orange chiffon cakes, I use a 4 1/2 inch diameter and 2 inch height tube pan. If you don't have pans this size and don't wish to purchase any, you can use muffin tins or double the recipe and use a standard 10 inch tube pan. Reduce baking time by roughly 5 minutes for the muffin tins and increase by roughly 10 minutes for the larger tube pan.
Mini Orange Chiffon Cakes
Makes 4 small cakes
1 cup + 2 tbsp cake flour
1/2 cup + 4 tbsp sugar
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
4 egg whites, room temp
2 egg yolks, room temp
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/4 cup + 2 tbsp orange juice
1 tbsp orange zest
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 tsp cream of tartar
orange liqueur (optional)
1. Preheat the oven to 325 F and have your ungreased tube pans ready. Sift the cake flour, baking powder, 1/2 cup + 2 tbsp sugar and salt together twice. In another bowl, whisk together the egg yolks, vegetable oil, orange juice, orange zest and vanilla. Stir the flour mixture into the egg mixture until smooth. Set aside.
2. In the bowl of an electric mixer, whisk the egg whites and cream of tartar on high until soft peaks form. Slowly add the remaining 2 tbsp of sugar with the mixer running, and continue mixing until stiff peaks form.
3. Fold 1/4 of the whipped egg whites into the flour-egg yolk mixture. Add the remaining egg whites and fold until incorporated. Spoon the mixture into mini tube pans until almost full. Bake for 40-50 minutes, or until golden on top and the cake springs back when touched lightly.
4. Invert the cakes and balance on the top of a bottle until cool. When cool, run a knife around the side of the pan to loosen the cake and remove from the pan.
5. To glaze, mix a small amount of confectioners sugar with either water or orange liqueur, and spoon over the tops of the cakes. Store the cakes in an airtight container for up to 4 days.
Iced Butter Cookies
3 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup unsalted butter, room temp
1 2/3 cups sugar
2 eggs, room temp
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1. Sift the flour, baking powder and salt together and set aside.
2. Cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add the vanilla and mix lightly. Add the dry ingredients in three parts, mixing just until the flour is absorbed into the butter mixture.
3. Place the dough on your work surface and form into a large ball. Divide into three parts, and wrap each in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 2 hours, or up to three days. Dough may also be frozen for up to one month.
4. When ready, preheat the oven to 350 F and unwrap the dough and let sit at room temp for roughly 10 minutes to soften slightly.
5. On a well floured surface, roll the dough to your desired thickness (anywhere from 1/8 to 1/4 inch). Cut with cookie cutter and place cookies on an ungreased baking sheet. Bake for 10-20 minutes (depending on cookie thickness), or until slightly browned on the edges.
6. Immediately remove cookies onto a cooling rack. Do not ice until completely cooled.
7. To make the royal icing, sift confectioners sugar (roughly 2 cups) into a medium bowl. Add about 2 tablespoons boiling water and stir until all the water is absorbed. Add more boiling water in small amounts, stirring after each addition until the icing is smooth and loose enough to ice cookies. Add food coloring if desired.
8. Coat cooled cookies with the royal icing, and let sit on cooling racks several hours until the icing is completely hardened. If decorating with sprinkles, add while the icing is still wet.