Leading up to the celebration day, a traditional Easter baked good served for Good Friday breakfasts, and one with a very long history, is the hot, crossed bun. In London in 1592, the Clerk of the Markets decreed that bakers were allowed to sell such spiced breads only at burials, the Friday before Easter, or at Christmas.
Hot Crossed Easter Buns
These round, soft, yeast buns are flavoured usually with cinnamon or mixed spices, and have sultanas kneaded into the dough before baking. There are many variations to the recipes with some adding currants, citrus peel, and other dried fruits, such as apricots, as well.
As the name suggests, the top of the bun has a simple decoration of a cross. Sometimes the cross was incised with a knife before baking; often it was made by adding strips of pastry. In modern times, it is likely that the cross shape is piped on with icing after the buns have cooled slightly.
If baking Easter buns is a bit out of scope for you, then another great Easter baking idea is biscuits, also a wonderful tradition.
Easter Egg Biscuits
Easter biscuits can be quite elaborate, if the fancy strikes you. For something simple, an easy idea for including children in the preparations is to start with a plain arrowroot biscuit.
Give each child a blunt butter knife and dishes with different coloured icing, as well as a bowl containing lollies, jelly beans, shredded coconut or sprinkles. They can use the lollies and sprinkles to decorate the biscuits they have spread with the icing mixture so it looks like an Easter egg.
Icing can also be spooned into a small snap-lock bag. Snip off a tiny corner of the bag and the children can use it to pipe stripes and other designs onto their biscuits.
Home-baking your Easter biscuits will add more options to your decorating as you can cut the homemade, rolled dough into the shape of bunnies, chicks and crosses.
Baking an Easter Cake
A little bit outside of the box for Easter baking, but always a favourite, is an Easter carrot cake. Carrot cakes can be very rich and a small slice will make a full serving. The recipe below is an adaption of this favourite in a loaf form that makes the dessert easier to transport or to give as a gift.
Easter Carrot Cake
2 carrots (about 300g)
1 1/2 cups (225g) self-raising flour
1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1/2 tsp ground mixed spices
1/2 cup (80g) brown sugar
1/2 cup (125ml) oil
1/2 cup (125ml) golden syrup
1 tsp vanilla essence
Optional: chopped walnuts, up to 1/2 cup, or sultans, up to 2/3 cup
Preheat oven to 170°C. Lightly oil a loaf pan and cover the bottom with parchment paper. Wash and grate two carrots, set aside. Sift flour, bicarbonate of soda and mixed spices into a large bowl. In a separate bowl, whisk together eggs, brown sugar, golden syrup, oil and vanilla. Carefully stir the oil mixture into the dry ingredients. Then mix in the carrots being careful not to over stir. Pour the batter into the prepared loaf pan and bake for approximately 75 minutes. Cool the Easter cake completely before icing.
Cream Cheese Icing
250g spreadable cream cheese
2 teaspoons lemon juice
1/2 cup pure icing sugar
1 teaspoon cream of tartar
Beat the first three ingredients together until smooth. Add the cream of tartar and beat for an additional minute. When the cake loaf is cool, spread with icing.
You can then decorate the cake with Easter themed items such as purple and white flowers (sugared violets can be nice), sprigs of rosemary, 11 small chocolate Easter eggs around the outside (to represent Jesus's disciples minus Judas) and a larger egg in the centre.