After a long and enjoyable trip, an exhausting 24 hour travel back, a dreary and tasteless low fat airplane meal, a copious and overindulged airport Mexican snack, a painfully hot Memorial Day weekend, and a week-long jet lag recovery, I’m finally rested and ready to share with you my Romanian spring vacation. You may be a bit confused since I’ve posted a couple of stories while I was still in Romania; I thought that I couldn’t leave you guys for eight weeks without anything to cook, bake or simply assemble. Now, I’m back and, guess what, we’re talking about Easter again. I know, I know, Easter has long passed, the eggs have been cracked, the ham has been eaten, but I just can’t overlook our most important holiday or share with you some of the exquisite traditional dishes on our Easter table back home in Transylvania.
I have to admit that this year was my first time in eight years that I went home for Easter; so, it was pretty special and emotional. I was afraid that I had forgotten the Romanian way of celebrating Easter. But there was nothing to be afraid of. Once home, it all came back to me. In fact, all these traditions and feelings were still there, still strongly imbedded in my memory, behavior and faith. Perhaps, they had only been dormant for several years. I instantly recalled how relaxing and uplifting it had always been around Easter to vegetate on my grandmother’s terrace admiring the greenery and soaking up the crisp spring atmosphere. This year was no exception. On Easter day, the smell of lamb nicely roasting in the oven invaded the surroundings, the eggs were already painted and were patiently waiting to be knocked, the Pască was resting, so was the lamb haggis, while the never tiring beak of a nearby wood-pecker kept digging for food in the bark of an old walnut tree. It seemed that even the wood-pecker knew it was time for a good feast. In fact, it was time for a long awaited and beautiful holiday at home.
As expected, the food at Easter is an essential element. We didn’t put together a pretentious menu, but it was abundant, just as I remembered it, filled with all the dainties we all love for Easter. The table was colorful, plenteous and ready for us to attack.
There were red tinted eggs
Roasted lamb with green peas and creamy mashed potatoes
Fresh Bibb lettuce salad
Countless cakes and cookies
The most important part of Easter was to be there and prepare these dishes with my mom and grandma after all these years. It’s endlessly fascinating to watch my grandma cook; roaming around the kitchen with her glasses halfway down her nose, being so quiet and absorbed that you don’t dare to move an inch so that you don’t disturb her and make her lose her focus. And when you do move and make some noise, she looks up, her engrossed expression disappears for a second from her face and she sketches a smile only to regain her concentration in an instant. This year, Grandma Vicki added a new cake to the Easter menu. It was a glamorous, elegant and vibrant Vanilla and Raspberry Cake. This cake was so buttery and light at the same time, while the bright raspberries gave it a pop of color and tanginess. It was such a fantastic cake that we made it again for my grandma’s birthday a couple of weeks later.
Vanilla and Raspberry Cake
By Simply Romanesco inspired by my Grandma Vicki
Serves: About 20 servings
Ingredients for the Cake:
· 8 eggs
· 420 grams (1 ¾ cups) sugar
· 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
· 210 grams (1 ¼ cups) flour
· 1 teaspoon baking powder
· A pinch of salt
· Butter and flour to coat the pan
Ingredients for the Almond syrup:
· ¼ water
· 2 Tablespoons sugar
· ½ teaspoon almond extract
Ingredients for the Vanilla Frosting:
· 5 egg yolks
· 250 grams sugar
· 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
· 500 grams mascarpone cream
· 100 grams raspberries fresh or frozen (if using frozen raspberries, thaw them and drain them)
· Chocolate for decoration
Instructions for the Cake:
Preheat the oven to 375°F. Coat a 14 by 10-inch pan with butter and flour.
In a medium bowl, combine the flour and baking powder. In a large bowl, beat the egg yolks, sugar and vanilla extract with a hand mixer until light and fluffy. Add the dry ingredients and beat until incorporated. In a medium bowl, beat the egg whites with the salt on medium speed until they hold medium-firm peaks. Carefully, fold the egg whites into the egg yolks, sugar, flour, and vanilla mixture.
Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 30-35 minutes or until golden brown and a tester comes out clean. Cool 10 minutes in the pan on a rack, then turn out onto the rack to cool completely. When the cake has cooled completely, slice it in half using a large knife.
Instructions for the Almond syrup:
In a small saucepan, bring the water, sugar and almond extract to a boil and stir until the sugar dissolves. Turn off the heat and let cool completely. Once it has cooled, carefully spoon the syrup over both sides of the cake. Let the cake absorb the syrup for several minutes. In the meantime, prepare the cream.
Instructions for the Vanilla Mascarpone Frosting:
In a large bowl, beat the egg yolks, sugar and vanilla extract with a hand mixer until light and fluffy. Gradually add the mascarpone cream. Don’t worry if the mixture will be too runny at first; it will thicken up as you beat it.
Spread half of the frosting over the bottom half of the cake. Add the raspberries. Place the other half of the cake on top, top side up. Spread the remaining vanilla mascarpone frosting over the top and sides of the cake. Sprinkle chocolate curls or pieces on top for decoration.
It smelled, looked and felt like Easter and it felt good to be home!
Poftă Bună! (Bon Appétit!)