Growing up in a Polish-Italian-German Catholic family, Easter was a joyous event preceded by days of cooking.
We dyed Easter eggs on Good Friday but couldn’t eat them until Saturday night. Our house smelled of cooking ham and glorious Polish sausage that I couldn’t wait to eat. The suspense was torture.
Dessert was always a cake, decorated like small animal, covered in coconut. But, I never really liked flaked coconut as a child. I was just in it for the jelly beans scattered around the cake.
I inherited my grandmother’s lamb shaped pan and now make the same style cake with my children. Since I honestly never really cared for the coconut on the cake, we do keep our small animal cake coconut free.
As a young adult, I lived in Seattle, 2,000 miles from the glorious Easter celebrations of my childhood (but did not have that lamb pan yet). I set out to recreate those wonderful Easter dinners for my friends, but added something of my own.
Living in the mid-west again, my dessert preparation is similar to 20 years ago, but I have less time for the wow factor than I did back then. Now, dessert preparation needs to be easy, but still Easter worthy. At C. Rallo in O’Fallon I found pre-made cannoli shells to help cut my preparation time for Easy Cannoli.
I also rely on a few other tricks as a busy mom. I have resorted to a packaged pound cake mix for my Almond Pound Cake with Balsamic Berries. Some years, I use Tastefully Simple’s Almond Pound Cake mix. Other years, I use Betty Crocker with some additions. Costco in St. Peters has beautiful strawberries this time of year at a very reasonable price.
- 2 packages Cannoli shells (sold at C. Rallo in packages of five)
- 8 ounces Mascarpone cheese
- 8 ounces part-skim ricotta cheese
- ½ cup powdered sugar
- 1 teaspoon almond extract
- Chocolate sauce for garnish
- Slivered toasted almonds for garnish
With a handheld mixer, whip the two cheeses, powdered sugar and almond extract together until fluffy. Spoon the cheese mixture into a resalable zippered bag or a pastry bag. Cut a small hole in the corner of the bag (if using the plastic). Pipe the cheese mixture evenly into each cannoli shell.
Dip each end of the cannoli into the slivered almonds. The almonds will stick to the cheese mixture.
Refrigerate until just before serving.
Arrange the cannoli on a platter and drizzle with the optional chocolate sauce.
Almond Pound Cake with Balsamic Berries
For the cake:
- 1 box Betty Crocker Pound Cake mix, mixed according to package directions
- ½ cup ground almonds
- 2 teaspoons almond extract
- ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
- ¼ cup granulated sugar
For the berries:
- 16 ounces fresh strawberries, hulled and sliced
- ½ cup granulated sugar
- 2 tablespoons good balsamic vinegar
- 1 cup water
- Sliced toasted almonds
- Whipped topping
To make the cake:
Mix the pound cake mix according to package directions, but add the ground almonds and the extracts to the batter. Pour the prepared batter into the pan and sprinkle with ¼ cup granulated sugar. Bake according to package directions. The cake can be made one day ahead. Be certain to cover the cooled cake if you are keeping it overnight.
To make the berries:
Several hours (or up to 24 hours) before serving, mix the berries, sugar, vinegar and water in a container.
To serve the cake:
Slice the cake and plate. Spoon the berry mixture evenly over the top of each cake slice and garnish with whipped cream if desired.