From My Kitchen to Yours…What Traditions Are Made of

Today is Easter 2010. What is Easter if not a religious holiday? For many it also spells the beginning of Spring. Either way Easter is about rebirth. What has died is born again. Nature plays its part by budding and blossoming. The sky is alight with rainbows as the sun and rain combine to nurture the land back to life. We follow it’s call by shedding our winter layers and bearing our skin in the hope that it will be replenished. The smells of Spring take me back to moments in my childhood when nothing was more complicated than tumbling across the grass, cycling through the streets of my neighbourhood or swinging on a tyre in our backyard.

Holidays are markers in themselves. We look back on Easters past and the days that have been filled in between them. What’s new, what’s different, what’s changed, what’s remained the same. As we get older the constants are what we hang on to as time moves faster and faster on ahead of us without even a friendly glance back. The traditions of our holidays provide those constants. For what are holidays but the memories of those gone before. It’s the inspiration from the childhood excitement and wonder such days were filled with that reminds us of how special they are.

As a child I spent the majority of my Easters in Sarasota, Florida where my grandparents lived. (That’s me in the yellow, Easter 1975!) There we experienced much-needed sunshine along with the traditions my family adopted. Wicker Easter baskets filled with multi-coloured eggs, jelly beans, candy, and marshmallow and chocolate bunnies were left by our beds. My sisters, brother and I dressed in our Easter finest bought especially for the day and after church we ate pancakes at a local eatery. We joined in with the neighbourhood Easter egg hunt and ate dinner with friends as well as family.

I may not be able to give my children all of those traditions. I’m in England and it’s the very beginning of April so it’s more likely to be filled with grey skies and drizzle than beach day sun. My grandparents are now dead and my parents often too far away to celebrate with us. I can, however, give them the sense of excitement that comes from going to sleep knowing that in the morning a filled basket will be found at their bedside. That Easter for us is a family day where we can relax and recline in each other’s company. A meal will be served cooked with care and attention. We might play some games, go for a walk, watch a movie.

I know I have been lucky in that all my childhood holidays were special times. Easter, Christmas, birthdays…their was food, people, laughter, and so many moments to pass on and on…to my children, to their children.

Wherever we find ourselves at Easter these traditions will stand firm.

Simnel Cake

as adapted from “Feast” by Nigella Lawson

I’ve been making this cake for Easter for a few years now. I have always loved fruit cake but find the Christmas version laborious with its advance preparation and continuous attention. This cake can be made and eaten on the same day. Perfect. It’s also much lighter in texture and colour so feels more like a cake you would eat in the Spring. You can use whatever dried fruit you have in the cupboards. I am not mad about Glace cherries so use dried cranberries instead. If you are not fussed about the marzipan layer on top then leave it out. The cake is perfectly lovely on its own. It also makes it less fussy and means you can make whenever you like (and not just for Easter).

Ingredients

100g Glace cherries chopped (or dried cranberries)
500g mixed dried fruit
175g soft unsalted butter
175g caster sugar
zest of 1 lemon
225g plain flour
1 tsp plain flour
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground ginger
25g ground almonds
3 eggs
2 tbsp milk
1 kg marzipan
1 tbsp jam
1 egg white

Preheat oven to 170c/Gas Mark 3. Prepare your 20cm springform cake tin by lining it with a double layer of  baking parchment on the inside and  the outside. The outside layer will need to be higher than the sides of the tin and be held in place by a piece of string. This is a necessity as the cake cooks slowly and you don’t want the top and sides getting dark before it’s fully cooked through.

Cream butter and sugar in a large bowl until light and fluffy. Add lemon zest.

Measure the dry ingredients into a bowl and combine.

Add 1 of the eggs to the creamed butter and sugar with 2 tbsp of the dry flour/spice mixture, then beat in remaining 2 eggs in the same way.

Beat in the rest of the dry ingredients. Add milk. Fold in the fruit.

Dust surface with icing sugar and roll out 400g of the marzipan into a 23cm circle.

Spoon half of the fruit cake mixture into the cake tin, smoothing it down with a rubber spatula, and then lay the marzipan circle on top. Trim any extra marzipan off the sides.

Spoon the rest of the mixture into the tin on top of the marzipan circle and smooth the top again.

Bake for 30 mins and then turn the oven down to 150c/gas mark 2 for another 90 mins.

When the cake has risen and is firm on top take out of the oven. Let it cool completely before taking it out of the springform tin.

Unwrap the lining from the cake. Roll out another 400g circle of marzipan, paint the top of the cake with the melted jam (I used marmalade) and then stick it on top.

As you can see from the pictures there are also small balls of marzipan decorating the cake. Nigella calls these “apostle balls” and they represent the 11 apostles of Christ. Judas is “persona non grata”. They have been stuck onto the cake using a lightly whisked egg white.

Best Banana Bread

I made this for Easter as well. It’s from the blog Lifes A Feast by Jamie. I thought it was appropriate to add here as she has been making this for years for her husband and sons and it is a family favourite in their house. It is super easy to make and incredibly moist to eat. I didn’t add chocolate to it as she does in her post. I thought we had all had quite enough chocolate for the day! Instead I used chopped walnuts. The banana bread was a hit and will definitely be added to our list of family favourites. So from Jamie’s kitchen, to mine and now on to yours. Isn’t that what traditions are all about?

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Comments

  1. Lollipop says,’My Daddy knows how to make a great banana bread too!’

  2. I love your matching yellow hairslide. You were born with the ability to accessorise! (And its what separates us from the animals dontcha know…)

    Great photo and love the post. Jasmine thought it was a photo of Eve!

  3. What a lovely post. I really enjoy your writing style. I agree, Easter is a special time to spend with family. The cakes look delicious! I usually make Nigella’s Simnel cake around Easter but I didn’t this year. It was sorely missed!

  4. Hope you had a lovely Easter break. I had intended for this year to be the one where I finally made a Simnel cake but alas it was not to be. At least I can enjoy looking at yours.

  5. Love your traditions – and the yellow dress. How Eastery!I love your last paragraph. So beautifully expressed. I agree, traditions are so important for they are memories.

    My traditions are here http://bit.ly/bTrteK

  6. Loved the memories and the photo! Such fun. The cake as well as the bread looks fantastic!

  7. Your posts are always full of such riches for us readers: wonderful stories and equally wonderful recipes. I grew up a few miles north of Sarasota in the 50s, when a silly Easter bonnet and white gloves were also de rigueur church togs for the big day. Hot! How glad we were to tear those off and get on to the “real” business of Easter: egg hunts and a trip to the beach. BTW, oh those pants of your brother!

    • Yes I forgot to add the part about going to the beach after church and breakfast. Great way to spend a holiday. We were there last December and got to spend Christmas day on the beach which was perfect. I hope my brother doesn’t sue me for libel for putting the pic up!!

  8. First of all, you may think I am crazy but when I saw the picture and the houses in the background I thought: “Florida?!” While you were spending Easters in Sarasota I was just a hop over on Florida’s East Coast! Fun!

    And your storytelling is beautiful! Lovely and heartwarming and yes yes yes these are what family traditions are made of. Thanks so much for sharing and thrilled that you loved our favorite banana bread (choc chips or not!). I’ve never made Simnel Cake but now I think I must! Happy Easter!

  9. We made a choclate simnel cake yummy

  10. Great photo! And I love the tradition of Easter baskets by the bedside. We kept the egg hunt tradition when we moved to the UAE but have to do it inside the house because the chocolate turns to mush by the time they find it outside!

    We made Nigella’s cut-out cookies for the first time this year and they’re just addictive.

  11. Ooh I remember seeing this in Nigella’s book. So gorgeous! :D That photo is adorable too!

  12. Thanks for bringing back old memories…loved the photo!

  13. Di (m0m) says:

    We had Easter bunch today at Bird Key with Glo, John, Bryn and Mauro. We were telling Mauro how Bryn used to come there with her gandparents and Bud and Mary.when she was a little girl. Lots of memories in that room. Thanks for sharing yours with us all. Love you.

  14. George (Dad) says:

    Those were wonderful times. Grandma Rice would be very proud of your blog and the nice memories you have of your times with her in Florida ( despite chicken for dinner every night).

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