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Bake something special for Easter, Passover

Kenny Kemp
Toasted coconut "nests" cradle miniature candy eggs to form a spring time topping for miniature cheesecakes.

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Easter desserts make me think of pineapple, strawberries, lemon and coconut. Oh, and that Easter Bunny cake you make cutting a round cake into ears and a bow tie, adding them to a round cake. Or those green-tinted coconut "nests" with tiny colored candy eggs or jelly beans in the middle. And chocolate bunnies, of course.

I've made lemon-blueberry pound cakes, strawberry short cake and pineapple upside down cakes for Easter, but was looking for something a little different. Both Coconut Cheesecake Nests and Strawberry Cream Tart are more decadent desserts than I usually make, but I reasoned that they would be fine for a special occasion. Besides, there will be several thin teenage boys with obviously high metabolisms around who will probably polish them off quickly and reduce temptation for the rest of us.

Skillet Pineapple Coconut Banana Upside Down Cake combines tropical flavors layered and baked in a cast iron skillet for a surprisingly lighter option.

Passover begins this year at sundown on the Friday before Easter. It's a challenge to find sweet recipes for this occasion because bakers must follow special dietary laws during Passover, in addition to kosher laws. During Passover, observant Jews do not eat leavened products containing wheat, barley, oats, rye or spelt.

Norene Gilletz, a cookbook author and food writer from Toronto, explained that potato starch is often substituted for flour. She included Dr. Ruth Westheimer's recipe for Passover Nut Torte in the cookbook "Healthy Helpings." Her recipe is printed below.

Reach Julie Robinson at or 304-348-1230.Strawberry Cream Tart

1 1/4         cups flour

1 1/2         tablespoons sugar

1/2            cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, well chilled

1               egg yolk, lightly beaten

1               tablespoons very cold water

1               8-ounce package cream cheese, (1/3 fat is fine)

1               tablespoon fresh lemon juice

1               teaspoon grated lemon zest

3/4            cup sugar

1               cup whipping cream

1/2            pound fresh strawberries, sliced

1                pound whole fresh strawberries, stemmed

GREASE 9-inch tart pan.

COMBINE in food processor 1 1/2 tablespoons sugar and salt, if desired. Add butter and process until mixture resembles coarse meal. Combine egg yolk and water. Gradually add to flour mixture and process until dough just holds together.

PRESS dough into a flat disk and wrap tightly in plastic wrap. Chill 30 minutes.

HEAT oven to 375 degrees.

ROLL OUT crust dough on floured surface, using a floured rolling pin. Press into bottom and sides of prepared pan. Line crust with foil and fill with pie weights or dried beans. Bake until edges are slightly browned, 15 to 18 minutes. Remove pie weights and foil and continue baking 5 to 8 minutes, until gold brown. Remove from oven and cool on rack.

PROCESS cream cheese in food processor until fluffy. Add lemon juice, lemon zest and 3/4 cup sugar. Process until smooth, scraping down sides of bowl as necessary. In a medium bowl, whip cream to soft peaks. Fold cream cheese mixture into whipped cream.

PLACE half the mixture into prepared and cool pastry. Layer sliced strawberries over cream mixture and cover with remaining half of the cream mixture. Arrange whole strawberries, pointed ends up, over entire tart.

CHILL 3 to 5 hours before serving.

Adapted from a recipe in Colorado Collage

Coconut Cheesecake Nests

1            8-ounce package cream cheese, softened (1/3 fat is fine)

1/4         cup sugar

1            egg

1            cup cookie crumbs (chocolate sandwich or graham)

3            tablespoons butter, melted

2            cups coconut

Mini  candy eggs

HEAT oven to 350 degrees. Line a muffin pan with paper cups and set aside.

MELT the butter and combine it with cookie crumbs. Press 1 tablespoon of the mixture into the bottom of each muffin cup. Bake for 8 minutes, remove from the oven and allow to cool.

WHILE the crust is baking, beat cream cheese, sugar and egg with a handheld mixer, until well blended. Spoon cream cheese mixture over baked cookie crust.  Bake for 20 minutes, or until center is set.

WHILE mini cheesecakes bake, place the coconut on a baking sheet and bake for 4-5 minutes, rotating the pan half way through. Once the coconut is lightly browned, remove from the oven and allow to cool.

SPOON coconut over the cheesecake filling and top with mini candy eggs.  Repeat with the remaining cheesecakes. Place in the fridge and serve cold.

Source: Adapted from a recipe from

Skillet Pineapple Coconut Banana Upside Down Cake

Yield: 10 servings

2           tablespoons butter

3/4        cup packed brown sugar

1           15.5-ounce can pineapple slices in juice, undrained

1           cup flaked sweetened coconut

1           cup all-purpose flour

1/2        cup granulated sugar

1           teaspoon baking powder

1/2        teaspoon baking soda

1/2        teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/4        teaspoon salt

1/2        cup mashed ripe banana (about 1 banana)

2           tablespoons vegetable oil

1           large egg

HEAT oven to 375 degrees.

MELT butter in a 9-inch cast-iron skillet; sprinkle evenly with brown sugar. Drain pineapple slices over a bowl, reserving 1/2 cup juice. Place 1 pineapple ring in center of cast iron skillet. Cut remaining pineapple rings in half; arrange around center pineapple ring. Sprinkle evenly with coconut. Set aside.

LIGHTLY SPOON flour into a dry measuring cup, and level with a knife. Combine flour and flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon and salt in a large bowl. Combine reserved juice, banana, oil, and egg in a separate bowl, stirring with a whisk. Add pineapple juice mixture to flour mixture, stirring until combined. Pour flour mixture over coconut.

BAKE at 375 degrees for 30 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Invert onto a wire rack.

SERVE warm or at room temperature.

Nutritional Information: Calories 301; Fat 9g; Saturated fat 4.9g; Protein 2.5g; Carbohydrate 54.8g; Fiber 1.4g; Cholesterol 27mg; Iron 1.4mg; Sodium 231mg; Calcium 55mg.


Dr. Ruth's Favorite Passover Nut Torte (Non-Gbrochts, Dairy)

Yield: 10 to 12 servings

Potato starch for dusting pan

12               large eggs, separated

1 1/2           cups plus 2 tablespoons sugar

2                 tablespoons lemon juice

3                 cups finely ground walnuts

16               ounces heavy cream

4                 teaspoons sugar

8                 ounces heavy cream

2                 tablespoons sugar

2                 tablespoons cocoa, sifted

1                 teaspoon instant coffee granules

HEAT oven to 325 degrees. Grease three 9-inch round cake pans with removable bottoms. Line each pan with parchment paper, grease again and dust with potato starch.

BEAT yolks on high speed with electric mixer until thick. Add sugar and lemon juice and beat until light yellow. Mix in nuts.

BEAT egg whites in separate bowl at high speed with electric mixer until stiff peaks form. Fold gently into yolk mixture.

DIVIDE batter into pans and bake until golden brown or until tester inserted in center comes out clean. Loosen edges with knife immediately after removing pans from oven.

COOL completely. Remove from pans and peel off parchment.

WHIP the 16 ounces heavy cream at high speed with electric mixer until soft peaks form. Add two teaspoons sugar and beat until stiff to make first filling.

COMBINE 8 ounces heavy cream, 2 tablespoons sugar, 2 tablespoons cocoa and 1 teaspoon instant coffee granules and whip at high speed with electric mixer until stiff peaks form to form mocha filling.

PLACE one cake layer on plate and top with scant half of first filling.

TOP with second layer and spread with mocha filling.

TOP with third layer.

FROST top and sides with remainder of first filling. Decorate with chocolate curls and chill until serving.

Source: Excerpted from Healthy Helpings (Whitecap Books) by Norene Gilletz.


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