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Published: Tuesday, 3/22/2005

Easter desserts: Make lighter, fruitier, or festive finales

BY KATHIE SMITH
BLADE FOOD EDITOR
Hippity Hop Cupcakes combine the popular flavor of carrot cake with a hint of peanut butter. Top them with icing and frosting carrots. Hippity Hop Cupcakes combine the popular flavor of carrot cake with a hint of peanut butter. Top them with icing and frosting carrots.
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Spring desserts come to the table ushering in the taste for lighter, fruitier, and more festive finales. Behind us are the heavy desserts of winter and ahead of us are the cool desserts of summer.

What better time to unveil your spring repertoire than at Easter dinner? It's a holiday when most people find the lightness of coconut and fresh strawberries popular for cakes and pies. And lemon meringue or banana cream pies are sure signs of spring.

Give a new twist to traditional desserts with Linzertorte and carrot cake.

Linzertorte has ground almond crust and raspberry filling. It can be made ahead easily and does not need to be refrigerated. I found that it holds for several days, although I expect yours will be too popular to last that long.

To trim sugar and calories, this Linzertorte recipe uses a no-sugar-added fruit spread in place of traditional raspberry preserves; still, it has plenty of sweet flavor. Instead of a traditional butter and ground almond crust, oats are added to the ingredients. At first, you may wonder if a dough made with oats will roll with a rolling pin; it does, although it is tender and you have to work carefully. But it bakes beautifully - imperfections fade - in a springform pan. The cookielike crust and lattice topping cut fat and boost fiber.

Linzertorte is a delicious springtime dessert. Linzertorte is a delicious springtime dessert.
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This is a dessert meant to be sliced into small wedges and served. It is a great dessert to take if you are traveling because it doesn't need refrigeration and it can't spill. Leftovers can be packed for lunches after Easter.

Carrot cake is said to be as American as apple pie. And there are many versions. In the 1960s, home and restaurant chefs started combining carrots, walnuts, raisins, and spices to make a fruit-and-nut-style cake that is smothered with a cream cheese frosting. I've seen recipes made with grapes, apricots, ginger, and a variety of nuts from pecans to macadamia nuts. Some have chocolate or coconut, so the idea of adding a little peanut butter is not surprising.

Fun for the whole family are Hippity Hop Cupcakes. There's a subtle flavor of peanut butter in the carrot cake as well as the peanut butter cream cheese icing, which kids and adults will like.

After frosting each cupcake, decorate each with a frosting carrot. If you are able, make your own orange carrot and green top with homemade icing. Otherwise, stores such as Cake-Arts Supplies, 2858 West Sylvania Ave., have a few frosting carrots (about an inch long) left at 20 cents per carrot or in packages of 24. They can be special ordered two weeks in advance.

Or incorporate Easter candy into the decorations. Fashion each cupcake like a miniature Easter basket; on top of each frosted cupcake, place green-tinted coconut grass filled with a few jelly beans and then extend a green pipe-cleaner from side to side to form a handle.

You can also make a two-dimensional bunny cake with a cake mix or two-layer cake recipe. Make one layer 8 or 9-inch square and the other one 8 or 9-inch round. When baked, transfer the layers to a tray or cookie sheet large enough to hold both: the round one becomes the face and the square is cut into two ears to be placed above the circle and a bowtie underneath the chin (circle).

There are forms for bunny cakes and egg-shaped cakes. A dear friend had another tradition: She always made a lamb cake with coconut frosting.

The Toledo Country Club's pastry chef, Sandra Booth, will make a display bunny cake for the country club's annual Easter brunch, which has two seatings. To get a three-dimensional bunny cake, she makes two 10-inch cake rounds that are sandwiched together for the back of the bunny and two 8-inch cake rounds for the front of the bunny, cutting one of the rounds to make the ears. She coats the cake with coconut frosting and decorates it with jelly beans. Festive cupcakes surround the display bunny.

You can also take inspiration from the desserts on restaurant menus. In New York City, Tavern on the Green's three-course Easter menu includes desserts designed to appeal to children and adults: a chocolate Easter egg composed of dark chocolate mousse in a chocolate nest and spiced carrot cake with cream cheese frosting.

In our area, Chef Timothy Coonan of the Hathaway House in Blissfield, Mich., has found great success with a chocolate mousse dessert. He's been serving a Triple Layer Chocolate Mousse in oversized martini glasses, which has been popular. For the a la carte Easter menu, he's planned a three-layer Lemon Chiffon Cake with a variety of fresh berries between the layers and the seasonal favorite, Chocolate Chip Pecan Torte. He describes the latter as "a pecan pie with chocolate chips, bourbon, and caramel."

Ms. Booth at Toledo Country Club also will serve chocolate mousse on the Easter brunch buffet. She plans to have a chocolate sack spilling out with chocolate mousse and fresh berries for guests to serve themselves. "Our members haven't seen this yet," the pastry chef says.

It's an idea that can be adapted at home if you can find or make individual-size chocolate bowls to hold the chocolate mousse and berries.

Two weeks ago, when I mentioned Lime Chocolate Delicious in my column, a number of readers asked for the recipe. This chocolate crumb crust has a frothy green gelatin filling that is more air and color than anything else. It melts in your mouth after a holiday meal, but is as welcome in the summer as it is in the spring.

With all the chocolate Easter candy and confections in the Easter basket, the holiday meal begs for a lighter take on dessert. These recipes deliver.

Kathie Smith is The Blade's food editor. Contact her at:

food@theblade.com or 419-724-6155.



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