March 25, 2007

Welcome Home Bakers and Friends,

I do hope all of you have had a "gentle" winter. We are quite lucky living here in California where the winters are pretty mild compared to most of the country. We do get our fair share of rain, and of course there is lots of snow in the Sierra Nevada mountains for those who like to drive up there and ski, but most of us enjoy the winter with daytime temperatures that don't often dip below the 50 degree Fahrenheit mark. Living in California has it's definite advantages.

Now that's it late March (and Spring is officially here), I am looking forward to more sunshine and warmer weather and to start getting my garden back in shape after a long winter. The frost this past winter was a bit more then usual, so some of my plants need a little extra "tender loving care" after those frosty mornings. I do hope my roses do alright. I would hate to see any of them perish as they have been such beautiful friends all these years.

Also, I am looking forward to planting more tomatoes in late April or early May. Last year we had such fun growing our first batch of sweet juicy tomatoes and hopefully this year they will be just as good. I do plan to try some new varieties plus the exceptional ones we planted last year that were definite "winners"; so sweet and delicious. There is nothing like home-grown fruits and vegetables for flavor and variety. If you're interested in starting a small crop of tomatoes to grow on your deck or patio (like we did), go to www.windowbox.com for a great choice for patio or windowbox tomato plants and just for tomato plants in general. They have quite a large and varied selection of interesting heirloom tomatoes.

Well, I must say one good thing about winter -- it's a great time for staying inside and baking up great "comfort foods". During all those rainy winter days I had the chance to make some terrific sweet goodies for my husband and myself and it was also a great time to make some of our favorite winter dishes, such as chicken soup, pot roast (I usually do mine in the slow-cooker), beef and lamb stews, and a pasta dish made with egg noodles in a light olive oil or butter sauce topped with cottage cheese and sour cream and a little salt and pepper. That was one of my Mother's special winter time dishes that she made when it was cold outside and she felt we needed something warm and healthy. It sounds like a bit of a strange pasta concoction, but we all loved it and of course, I still do. I haven't been able to get my husband (who, you know is from England) to try it yet, but who knows, he may try it one of these days. Since he's British, and this pasta dish is most likely of Eastern European origin, maybe even Jewish, I guess it's not something he would have grown up with in England. Oh well, it's his loss. Just kidding, he usually will try most of my cooking, whether it be sweet or savory and usually he likes what I cook, but to be honest he does most of the savory cooking in our household and that makes me one lucky person!

Now on to the recipes for Passover and Easter, and also some interesting information about the tropical Passion Fruit in the Food Tips and Information Section below. Hope you like the choices I have selected to share with you for these special holidays. Of course, there are many more recipes for these holidays on my website for you to look at. Enjoy!

Guest Submitted Recipe

Hot Cross Buns

Servings: Makes 12 buns

A traditional treat during the Easter season, made and eaten especially on Good Friday, the Friday before Easter Sunday.

The dough for these wonderful buns can be made in your bread machine OR you may use a stand mixer.

Add to your bread machine or stand mixer:

8 fluid oz. milk
1 beaten egg
1/2 tsp. salt
2 oz./28g butter
1 lb. bread flour
2 tsp. ground allspice
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
2 oz. granulated sugar
3 tsp. instant or bread machine yeast

3 oz. raisins or currants
1 oz. chopped mixed peel

Using Bread Machine:
Knead the dough in the bread machine using the Dough cycle for 1/2 hour. Add currants and chopped mixed peel at the beep. After 1/2 hour take the dough from the bread machine and put it in a bowl, cover with a plastic film, let it proof in a warm place for 50- 60 minutes, or until it is double its size.

Using Stand Mixer:
Dough may be mixed and kneaded in a bowl of a stand mixer using the flat beater for mixing the dough ingredients, and using the dough hook attachment for kneading. Add the currants and chopped mixed peel after bread has been kneaded, place dough in a large bowl, cover with plastic film and let proof in a warm place for 50 to 60 minutes or until it has doubled in size.

Note: The best place to proof the dough is in the oven without switching it on. Put two cups of hot water in an oven safe bowl in the bottom of oven to provide some heat and water vapour.

After the dough has doubled in size, turn it out onto a floured surface and knead lightly, knocking out any large air bubbles. Divide dough into 12 pieces and shape each piece into a ball and place a little bit apart on a greased baking sheet. Cover loosely with an oiled plastic film and leave it to proof (in the oven with 2 cups of hot water) for 45 minutes or until doubled in size. The crosses are piped only after proofing.

For the Decoration and Glazing:

Decoration Ingredients:
3 oz. plain flour (all-purpose flour)
2 tbsp. vegetable or corn oil
1 small egg

Glaze Ingredients:
4 tbsp. powdered milk
3 oz. granulated or caster sugar
4 tbsp. water

To Make The Paste For The Crosses:

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F/200 degrees C.

Place the flour in a small bowl and add the oil and enough water to make a smooth, stiff paste. Beat the egg and brush it onto the dough pieces. Scoop the flour paste into a piping bag with a thin nozzle. Make sure there are no lumps or else this will clog the piping bag. Pipe a cross onto each bun with the flour paste.

Bake the buns in preheated oven for 15 to 20 minutes or until golden brown. Then transfer to a wire rack to cool.

To Make the Glaze:
Heat the powdered milk and sugar with 4 tbsp. of water in a small heavy saucepan. Bring to the boil for 1 to 2 minutes. Brush over the buns to glaze.

Makes 12 hot cross buns.

Submitted By: Irene
Date: March 9, 2004

Click here to view recipe and photo of Hot Cross Buns on Diana's Desserts Website


Passover is the 8 day observance commemorating the freedom and exodus of the Israelites (Jewish slaves) from Egypt during the reign of the Pharaoh Ramses II.

A time of family gatherings and lavish meals called Seders, the story of Passover is retold through the reading of the Haggadah. With its special foods, songs, and customs, the Seder is the focal point of the Passover celebration. Passover begins on the 15th day of the Jewish month of Nissan. As the Jewish day begins at sundown the night before, for the year 2007, the first night of Passover will be Monday April 2nd. The final night of Passover 2007 will be April 10th.

Rich Dark Chocolate Brownie Cupcakes

Servings: Makes 14 cupcakes

What a treat for Passover. These luscious brownie cupcakes made with bittersweet chocolate and no flour, just matzoh cake meal. Oh so yummy for the kids and adults alike.

9 ounces bittersweet chocolate
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons (2 sticks plus 2 tbsp./9 oz./255g) butter or margarine, cut into small pieces
5 eggs, lightly beaten
1 1/3 cups superfine or caster sugar
3 tablespoons matzoh cake meal

Roughly chop the chocolate into pieces. Transfer to a medium-sized bowl and add the butter. Place the bowl over a saucepan of simmering water, until the two ingredients have melted. Mix well and transfer to a large bowl; set aside.

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F/160 degrees C. Sift the sugar and matzoh cake meal together, then stir into the chocolate. Add the eggs and mix well. Cover and let rest at room temperature for 30 minutes. The batter will thicken as it stands.

Line a muffin pan with paper cupcake or muffin liners. Spoon 1/4 cup batter into each paper-lined cup. Bake in preheated oven for 30 to 35 minutes. The brownies will still be moist when done; they will puff up and fall slightly as they cool. Remove from oven and cool in pan on wire rack for 5 minutes, then remove from pan and let cool completely.

Makes 14 brownie cupcakes.

Click here to view recipe and photo of Rich Dark Chocolate Brownie Cupcakes on Diana's Desserts Website

Coconut Macaroons for Passover

Servings: Makes 35 macaroons

These scrumptious macaroons make a wonderful treat for Passover, either as a snack or as a light dessert after your seder. If desired, drizzle chocolate ganache over the tops of the cookies for a very special "extra" for your guests that are chocolate lover's.

3 egg whites
1 cup granulated sugar
2-1/2 cups desiccated coconut* (see notes below)
1 cup macadamia nuts or almonds, finely chopped

Chocolate Ganache (optional), for drizzling over tops of cookies.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F/180 degrees C. Lightly grease 2 baking sheets.

In a medium bowl, with electric mixer on high, beat egg whites into soft peaks. Gradually add sugar, beating after each addition until peaks are glossy. Fold in coconut and nuts.

With wet hands, roll tablespoonfuls of mixture into rounds and set on baking sheets. Bake 20 to 25 minutes, or until lightly golden. Cool on racks and store in an airtight container. Macaroons will keep 2 to 3 days.

Makes approximately 35 macaroons.

*Notes: Desiccated coconut, available in health-food stores and the natural-foods section of supermarkets, produces an excellent macaroon. If you can't find Desiccated coconut easily, substitute with coconut flakes, found at most supermarkets.

If desired, make a chocolate ganache and drizzle over tops of cookies for an extra special treat.

Source: DianasDesserts.com

Click here to view recipe and photo of Coconut Macaroons for Passover on Diana's Desserts Website

Passover Chocolate Torte with Raspberry Sauce

Servings: 10

Perfect for the Jewish holiday, this flourless torte has a wonderful deep chocolate taste. The sauce adds a special-occasion touch.

8 ounces bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, chopped
1 cup (2 sticks/8 oz/226 gm) unsalted margarine, (Kosher for Passover)*
8 large egg yolks
1 cup granulated sugar
5 large egg whites

Raspberry Sauce:
2 (12-ounce) packages frozen unsweetened raspberries, thawed with juices
1 cup granulated sugar

Decoration and Garnish: (optional)
1/3 cup granulated sugar or confectioners' sugar (Kosher for Passover)*
Paper doily
Fresh raspberries
Non-dairy whipped topping

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F/180 degrees C. Line the bottom of a round 9-inch springform pan with 2 3/4-inch-high sides with parchment paper.

Stir together the chocolate and margarine in a heavy medium saucepan over low heat until melted and smooth. Remove from heat. Cool until lukewarm.

Using an electric mixer, beat yolks and 3/4 cup sugar in large bowl until pale and very thick, about 4 minutes. Add chocolate mixture in 2 additions and beat until well blended.

Using clean dry beaters, beat egg whites in another large bowl until foamy. Gradually add the remaining 1/4 cup sugar and beat until whites are stiff but not dry. Fold 1/3 of whites into chocolate mixture. Fold in remaining whites in 2 additions. Transfer batter to prepared pan.

Bake torte until crust forms on top and cake tester inserted into center comes out with some moist batter and some moist crumbs still attached, about 55 minutes (top may crack). Run small sharp knife around torte to loosen. Cool in pan on rack (torte will fall and crack). Remove pan sides. Invert torte onto platter. If desired, decorate top of torte (see Decoration below) and garnish with fresh raspberries. Serve with Raspberry Sauce and if desired, non-dairy whipped topping.

Makes 10 servings.

Torte can be prepared 1 day ahead. Cover with cake dome and store at room temperature.

To Make Raspberry Sauce:
Puree raspberries with juices and sugar in processor until smooth. Transfer mixture to strainer set over bowl; press on solids to extract as much liquid as possible; discard solids in strainer.

Sauce can be made 2 days ahead. Cover and refrigerate.

Makes about 3 cups sauce.

Decoration: (optional)
If desired, grind 1/3 cup sugar in blender until fine powder forms or use confectioners' sugar that is Kosher for Passover. Place doily atop torte. Sift sugar over doily; gently remove doily.

*Where To Purchase Passover Food Items Online

Kosher for Passover Confectioners' sugar and Margarine may be purchased online at www.kosher.com.

Source: DianasDesserts.com

Click here to view recipe and photo of Passover Chocolate Torte with Raspberry Sauce on Diana's Desserts Website

Vanilla Bean Chiffon Cake

Servings: 8

Fresh fruit, such as kiwi, orange, pineapple, berries, or grapes are nice choices to garnish this lovely Passover cake, or serve it with whipped cream (with a dairy meal), or non-dairy whipped topping.

1 1/2 cups granulated or superfine sugar
1/2 cup matzo cake meal
1/2 cup potato starch
1 1/2 vanilla beans, chopped
1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
7 large eggs, separated
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 tablespoons brandy

Garnish: (optional)
Confectioners' sugar (Kosher for Passover)

Serve with fresh fruit such as kiwi, orange slices, pineapple chunks, berries or grapes and non-dairy whipped topping or whipped cream.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F/180 degrees C.

Blend 1/2 cup sugar, matzo cake meal, potato starch, vanilla beans and salt in processor until beans are finely chopped. Sift mixture into small bowl; discard beans in sieve.

Using electric mixer, beat egg whites in large bowl until medium-firm peaks form. Gradually add 3/4 cup sugar, beating until stiff but not dry. Using the same beaters, beat yolks and 1/4 cup sugar in another bowl until thick, about 5 minutes. Gradually beat in oil, then brandy. Beat in matzo mixture. Fold in whites in 3 additions.

Transfer batter to ungreased 10-inch (25 cm) tube pan with removable bottom. Bake until tester inserted near center comes out clean, about 37 minutes. Immediately invert center tube pan onto narrow-neck bottle. Cool completely. Cut around pan sides to loosen cake. Dust top of cake with confectioners' sugar and cut into wedges. Serve with fresh fruit and non-dairy whipped topping or whipped cream (for dairy meal), if desired.

Can be made 1 day ahead. Cover cake in pan.

Makes 8 servings.

Click here to view recipe and photo of Vanilla Bean Chiffon Cake on Diana's Desserts Website

Easter and Spring Time Recipes

Easter is celebrated on Sunday April 8, 2007

Easter is the time of springtime festivals, a time to welcome back the Tulips, the Crocuses and the Daffodils. Its a time of new suits, new dresses and patent leather shoes. A time for Christians to celebrate the life and resurrection of Christ. And a time of chocolate bunnies, marshmallow chicks, and colored eggs!

Easter Eggs-Dyeing Eggs Naturally

Instead of coloring your Easter eggs the same color you've seen year after year, do something more unique dating from the medieval kitchen. Naturally dyed eggs are so elegant they can grace the table at an adult dinner party, but it's the kids who most enjoy a project like this. Parents can preboil the eggs and let children experiment with bowls of cold dyes. For safety reasons, always have an adult present to supervise.


Natural Ingredients for Dyeing Easter Eggs

For Desired Colors:

For Red:
Boil 4 cups of red onion skins in a quart of water for 30 minutes. Cool to room temperature. Strain and dye as usual.

For Pale Red:
Boil 4 cups of fresh beets, cranberries or frozen raspberries in a quart of water for 30 minutes. Cool to room temperature. Strain and dye as usual.

For Pink:
Soak hard boiled eggs in cranberry juice or the juice from canned or pickled beets until desired color is reached.

For Blue:
Boil 4 cups shredded red cabbage in a quart of water for 30 minutes. Cool to room temperature. Strain and dye as usual. Also try soaking eggs in the juice from canned blueberries.

For Lavender:
Soak hard boiled eggs in grape juice.

For Yellow:
Add 1 1/2 tsp. turmeric and 1/2 tsp. vinegar to 1 cup hot water. Cool to room temperature and dye as usual.

For Light Yellow:
Boil 4 cups fresh shredded carrots in a quart of water. Cool to room temperature. Strain and dye as usual.

For Beige - Brown - Mocha:
Soak eggs in strong brewed coffee that has been cooled to room temperature. Or add 1 Tbsp. instant coffee and 1/2 tsp. vinegar to 1 cup of hot water. Cool and dye as usual.

For Pale Green - Green:
Soak eggs in liquid from canned spinach or boil 4 cups fresh spinach in a quart of water. Cool to room temperature. Strain and dye as usual.

For Green - Gold:
Boil 4 cups of Yellow Delicious apple peels in a quart of water. Cool to room temperature. Strain and dye as usual.

For Pastels:
Rub fresh or frozen (thawed) berries over hard boiled egg to achieve soft blue, pink and purple shades.

For Orange:
Dissolve 4 Tbsp. paprika in a quart of hot water. Cool to room temperature and dye as usual.

For Peach:
Boil 4 cups of yellow onion skins in a quart of water for 30 minutes. Cool to room temperature. Strain and dye as usual.



1) Natural dyes create beautiful effects, but may NOT be suitable for eating. Use for decoration only.

2) It is suggested NOT dyeing eggs overnight. Some colorants may seep through the shell and make the egg unsafe to eat.

3) Always return eggs to refrigerator after dyeing.

Instructions on Dyeing Techniques


The cold-dipping method creates subtle, translucent shades, but may result in uneven coloring unless the eggs are rotated vigilantly. For the cold-dipping, the eggs and ingredients are boiled separately ( in a non-stick or glass pot). After the dye has cooled and been strained, immerse the eggs for 5 to 10 minutes and pat dry with a paper towel.

The boiling technique involves boiling the eggs in the dye; as the egg heats and rolls in the boiling water, a more uniform and intense color is produced. To dye 8 eggs with the boiling technique, use 2 tablespoons of vinegar per quart of water. Place eggs in non-stick or glass pot and cover with 1 inch of water. Add natural dye ingredients, bring to a rolling boil, and reduce to simmer for 20 to 30 minutes. Rinse with lukewarm water.


1) Use only non-stick or glass cookware when boiling ingredients for egg dyes. This will prevent color-altering reactions with metallic pans.

2) Dry freshly dyed eggs in egg carton for 10 minutes before adding to display or Easter basket.

3) Always protect table and clothes from dye.

4) To shine eggs for display, rub eggs with vegetable oil. Then wipe off.

5) Add 2 Tbsp. vinegar to egg dye to help dye adhere to eggs.


1) Color eggs with wax crayons before dyeing. Write names or draw pictures. Dye will not adhere to wax.

2) Wrap hard boiled eggs in layers of rubber bands. Soak eggs in one color. Remove a few bands and dye again in another color. Continue until all the rubber bands are removed. You'll be left with a beautiful batik design.

3) Try placing various stickers on eggs before dyeing. Dry eggs for ten minutes. Remove stickers.

4) Submerge half an egg in one color of dye. Then turn egg upside-down and dye the other half in another color for a two-toned egg design.

5) Use white glue to attach bits of ribbon, bows or sequins to colored eggs. They can easily be removed when peeling egg.

Source: DianasDesserts.com

Click here to view recipe and photo of Easter Eggs-Dyeing Eggs Naturally on Diana's Desserts Website

Pretty Pastel Spring or Easter Cookies

Servings: Makes 24-30 cookies

It's fun to decorate these delicious sugar cookies. Use oval or egg shaped cookie cutters for making Easter Egg shaped cookies, and decorate with pastel colored sugars. Using decorating pens, make soft spring-colored designs. Also, royal icing may be used for decorating cookies.

1 cup (2 sticks/8 oz/226g) unsalted butter, softened, at room temperature
3/4 cup granulated sugar
3 egg yolks
1 piece vanilla bean, about 2 inches long*(see note)
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt

For Decoration and Icing:
Pastel colored sugars and decorating pens
Royal Icing (optional-see Tip below)

In a bowl, using an electric mixer set on medium speed, beat together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, about 4 minutes. Beat in the egg yolks one at a time, beating well after each addition.

Cut the vanilla bean in half lengthwise and, using a small, sharp knife, scrap the seeds into the butter mixture. Mix well.

In a sifter, combine the flour, baking powder and salt. Sift the flour mixture directly onto the butter mixture. Reduce the speed to low and beat until well mixed.

Divide the dough into 4 equal portions. Shape each portion into a ball, then flatten the balls into disks. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight (The dough can be prepared up to 3 days ahead.) Let it soften slightly at room temperature before continuing.

Position a rack in the upper third of an oven and preheat to 350 degrees F (180 degrees C). Butter 2 large baking sheets.

On a lightly floured work surface, roll out a dough disk 1/4 inch thick. Using cookie cutters, cut out desired shapes. Transfer the cutouts to the prepared baking sheets. Gather up and reroll the scraps and cut out more cookies. Repeat with the remaining dough disks.

Bake until the cookies are golden on the edges, about 8 minutes. Transfer the cookies to wire racks and let cool completely. Decorate the cookies as desired with colored sugars and decorating pens. Store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 1 week.

Makes 24 to 30 cookies, depending on cookie cutter size.

*Note: If you don't have a vanilla bean on hand, you may substitute it with 1 tsp. vanilla extract or vanilla essence.

Tip: If desired, cookies may be iced or decorated with Royal Icing. Recipe for Royal Icing can be found in "My Recipe Book", under the Frostings category on this website.......Diana

Photograph taken by Diana Baker Woodall© 2002

Source: DianasDesserts.com

Click here to view recipe and photo of Pretty Pastel Spring or Easter Cookies on Diana's Desserts Website

Simnel Cake

Servings: Makes one 8-inch cake

What is a Simnel Cake?

Now an Easter cake, this was originally given by servant girls to their mothers when they went home on Mothering Sunday. A fairly rich fruit cake, it is covered with almond paste or marzipan, often stamped with the figure of Christ and decorated with 11 marzipan balls to represent the 11 apostles (excluding Judas).

More Information and History

In the UK Mother's Day or Mothering Sunday is on the 18th of March this year (2007).
Mothering Sunday (or Mother's Day as it is called today) is not a fixed day because it is always the middle Sunday in Lent (half way between Shrove Tuesday and Good Friday).

It is a day to celebrate with your mum or the woman who raised you and cared for you.

One of the best ways to celebrate is to give them the day off. That means a break from looking after you! You could make breakfast, do some washing, vacuum the house, do some shopping, you get the idea.

Flowers, chocolates and cards are the usual thing Mums get to show them you appreciate them, whatever you can afford and what Mum would like are fine.

In Victorian times, it was a day when children, mainly daughters, who had gone to work as domestic servants were given a day off to visit their mother and family. It began as a day when they could return home for the day to visit their mothers "gone a mothering" and they often took a cake they baked themselves, called a "mothering cake", or Simnel cake. This rich fruit cake was said to test their skills as a cook. If it remained moist and maintained its taste until Easter Sunday, then they were good cooks.

The word simnel comes from the Latin word simila which means fine flour, although it's flavor is derived mostly from the generous addition of spices and fruits - most particularly the layer of almond paste that runs through the center of the cake and the bitter-sweet taste of roasted almond paste. It is decorated with eleven small balls of almond paste - made to signify all the apostles, except Judas. He betrayed Christ and lost his right to be counted among their number.

Traditionally these cakes were also decorated with fresh flowers, although these days most cooks use crystallized or edible flowers - such as violets and primroses - or fluffy chicks and colored eggs. Some simnel cake recipes call for a layer of white glaze icing which is spread on top of the baked almond paste when it has cooled.

It is a cake recipe which can trace its history back through many centuries.

3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks/6 oz./170g) unsalted butter
1 3/4 cups granulated sugar
4 large eggs
2 cups all-purpose flour, sifted
1 tsp. salt
1 cup currants or raisins
1/3 cup thinly sliced candied lemon rind
1/3 cup thinly sliced candied orange rind
2 1/2 cups almond paste* (See recipe for Homemade Almond Paster below) or use ready made store bought almond paste in cans or tubes
1 Recipe Almond Buttercream Icing (See recipe below)
11 Marzipan Balls (See recipe below) optional

For Decorating:
Wide ribbon, to tie around the outside of the cake for decoration, any color (optional)
Edible flowers (such as violets or primroses), fluffy chicks, or colored eggs

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F/180 degrees C. Butter an 8-inch springform pan and line pan with buttered wax paper.

In a large bowl cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs, one at a time. Re-sift flour with salt and add gradually to mixture. Fold in currants and lemon and orange rinds, dredging them in a little flour.

Pour half the batter into prepared springform pan. Roll out enough almond paste to make an 8-inch round circle, and put over batter and pour remaining batter over almond paste circle (may be made in 3 layers with two layers of almond paste, if desired).

Bake in preheated oven for 1 hour or until cake is golden and springs back when touched.

Ice cake with Almond Buttercream Icing (see recipe below) or roll out another 8-inch round almond paste circle for the top.

If desired make 11 marzipan balls for decorating the top of the cake and tie a ribbon around the outside of the cake to enhance its look, if you wish. You may also decorate the top of the cake with edible flowers, fluffy chicks or small colored eggs.

Makes one 8-inch cake.

Homemade Almond Paste

1 1/2 cups finely ground blanched almonds
1 cup granulated sugar
2 egg whites
1/4 tsp. almond extract

Pound the almonds, sugar and egg whites until they are smooth; flavor with almond extract. Keep in an airtight container. Use in baking as directed in recipes.

Makes about 2 1/2 cups.

Almond Paste may also be purchased in cans or tubes.

For Marzipan:
Add 1 cup confectioners' sugar, a few drops of any desired flavoring, and a drop or two of food coloring to 1 cup of almond paste. Place on a cold surface and knead 15 to 20 minutes. Mold into desired candy shapes or spread over cakes before icing.

Makes 1 3/4 cups almond paste.

Almond Buttercream Icing

1/2 cup (1 stick/4 oz./113g) butter, softened
1 (16 oz.) package or box of confectioners' sugar, divided
1/3 cup milk
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1/2 tsp. almond extract

Beat butter and 1 cup confectioners' sugar at low speed with an electric mixer until blended. Add remaining sugar alternately with milk, beating until blended. Add extracts and beat at medium speed until spreading consistency.

Makes about 3 cups icing.

Marzipan Balls

2 (7 ounce) tubes marzipan paste or almond paste (Odense Brand is good)

Roll marzipan or almond paste into 11 walnut sized balls and place around top edges of cake for decoration.

Source: Ariel Smith

Click here to view recipe and photo of Simnel Cake on Diana's Desserts Website

Gingerbread Easter Bunny Cookies

Servings: Makes approximately 3 1/2 dozen cookies

The kids don't have to enjoy gingerbread cookies just during the Christmas holiday season. Why not let them help you make these cute Easter Bunny Gingerbread Cookies for Easter or just to make for a spring time treat. So tasty, and they will really enjoy decorating these cookies with you.

1 cup (2 sticks/8 oz./225g) butter
1 cup brown sugar
2 cups molasses
1 egg
5 cups all-purpose flour
2 tbsp. pumpkin pie spice
1 tsp. baking soda

Icing (see recipe below) optional

Cream butter and sugar, add molasses and egg. Beat until smooth. Sift together flour, pumpkin pie spice and baking soda; add to mixture. Beat until well mixed. Cover and chill 2 hours.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F/180 degrees C.

Divide dough in half. Roll dough, half at a time, to a 1/4-inch thickness. Cut out dough with 5-inch bunny or rabbit cookie cutter.

Bake cookies on greased baking sheets 9 to 11 minutes or until edges darken slightly. Cool for 5 minutes then remove to wire racks to cool completely. Repeat with remaining dough. Decorate with icing as desired.

Note: You may leave cookies plain or ice with just plain white icing or use the different food colorings for a colorful cookie.

Makes 3 1/2 dozen cookies.

Icing (optional)

3 cups confectioners' sugar
1/2 teaspoon lemon juice
2 tablespoons powered egg whites
6 tablespoons warm water
Pink food coloring
Green food coloring
Blue food coloring
Yellow food coloring

You will also need:
Large resealable plastic bags
Pastry bag fitted with fine tip

1. Using an electric mixer set on low speed, mix powdered egg whites and warm water until all the water is incorporated, about 2 minutes.

2. Add the sugar and the lemon juice; mix on high speed until icing is smooth, about 5 minutes (at this point you can just leave the icing white or you may tint some of the icing). Divide icing evenly among 5 bowls. Set aside 1 bowl of icing.

3. Tint remaining bowls of icing pink, green, blue, and yellow; spoon each color into large resealable plastic bags; snip off one corner for piping.

4. Using tinted icing, pipe an outline onto each cookie then fill with base color; spread icing evenly. Let icing set until dry.

5. Place reserved white icing in a pastry bag fitted with a fine tip. Pipe designs on cookies as desired. Let icing set until dry.

Source: DianasDesserts.com

Click here to view recipe and photo of Gingerbread Easter Bunny Cookies on Diana's Desserts Website

Food Tips and Information Section

Passion Fruit

An egg-shaped tropical fruit that is also called a purple granadilla, the passion fruit has a brittle, wrinkled purple-brown rind enclosing flesh-covered seeds, something like a pomegranate (granadilla means "little pomegranate" in Spanish). The seeds are edible so you can eat the orange pulp straight from the shell. Passion fruit is more commonly sieved and its highly aromatic pulp and juice are used as a flavoring for beverages and sauces.

Native to Brazil, passion fruits are grown in Hawaii, Florida, and California. These crops, along with imports from New Zealand, keep passion fruit on the market all year. Choose large, heavy fruits. If the skin is not deeply wrinkled, keep the fruit at room temperature until it is; the leathery rind, however, will not soften much. Ripe passion fruit can be refrigerated for a few days.

Nutrition Chart

Passion Fruit/6 fresh
Calories: 105
Total Fat (g): 0.8
Saturated fat (g): 0.1
Monounsaturated fat (g): 0.1
Polyunsaturated fat (g): 0.5
Dietary fiber (g): 11
Protein (g): 2
Carbohydrate (g): 25
Cholesterol (mg): 0
Sodium (mg): 30
Vitamin C (mg): 32
Potasium (mg): 376

Source: WholeHealthMD

Classic Cheesecake with Passion Fruit Sauce

Servings: 12-16

1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs
1/2 cup granulated sugar
6 tbsp. (3/4 stick/3 oz./85g) butter or margarine, melted

4 packages (8 oz. each) cream cheese, softened
1 cup granulated sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract
4 eggs

Passion Fruit Sauce (see recipe below)

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F/160 degrees C.

In a medium bowl mix together crumbs, the 1/2 cup sugar and melted butter; press firmly onto bottom of a 9-inch springform pan.

Beat cream cheese, the 1 cup sugar and vanilla with electric mixer on medium speed until well blended. Add eggs, 1 at a time, mixing on low speed after each addition just until blended. Pour over crust.

Bake for 55 minutes or until center is almost set. Loosen cake from side of pan; cool before removing side of pan. Refrigerate 4 hours or overnight. Serve with Passion Fruit Sauce. Store leftover cheesecake in refrigerator.

Passion Fruit Sauce

1 cup water
2 cups granulated sugar
1 cup passion fruit pulp
Juice of 2 lemons

Boil water and sugar in a saucepan over medium heat for 5 minutes.

Add passion fruit and lemon juice and boil for a further 3 minutes. Remove from heat and allow to cool. Serve cooled sauce over slices of cheesecake.

Source: DianasDesserts.com

Click here to view recipe and photo of Classic Cheesecake with Passion Fruit Sauce on Diana's Desserts Website

Until Next Time

As always, I hope you enjoyed the recipes and that you will try one or two of them.

I also hope that the information on Passion Fruit was helpful to you and that you learned something new about this interesting fruit.

I wish all of you a Happy Spring and to those of you who celebrate either Passover or Easter or both, enjoy yourselves and I wish you good luck with your baking and cooking for these special holidays.

If you'd like to submit one of your favorite dessert, bread or beverage recipes to Diana's Desserts Website, click on the link below to bring you to that page on my website:

Submit a Recipe

I will be back with a new edition of Diana's Desserts Newsletter in April or May. Until then, take good care.

Sincerely, Diana

Diana's Desserts

Diana's Desserts
A Website Dedicated to Home Bakers

E-mail Address: diana@dianasdesserts.com