And speaking of blasphemy, heresy, and general poor form, I rarely post anything related to religion or politics. I rarely speak of such topics, except among my closest friends. And Rusty. Rusty loves to hear me grumble about politics . . . or perhaps not.
Anyway, it's the Easter season, or Semana Santa here in Costa Rica. Most commercial enterprises close, and tourists flood our little village. But let's not forget that it's also Passover, without which we'd have no Easter . . . and no Ramadan, which begins next month. We'd also not have Eid al-Adha, aka Tabaski, which, in my experience, is the best party in West Africa. True, sad though it may seem, the massacre of a sheep or lamb is often involved.
And speaking of massacre, on with today's tale. In thinking about springtime religious holidays I realized that most of my friends are either Catholic or High Episcopalian. I have a few Jewish friends in the U.S. and several Muslim friends in Africa. I, myself, tend to embrace all religions with my any excuse for a party ideology; but the reality is that Easter isn't as special for us as is National Pet Day, which was Tuesday.
There . . . I've said it.
Now don't hold me to each of these facts, but this I believe to be true:
- As long as I've known Rusty, as far back as our high school years his Episcopalian mom prepared a lamb cake as dessert for Easter dinner.
- Jackie was given her lamb cake mold by her mother, so that makes it a valuable antique, circa 1918. Think Downton Abbey.
- As Rusty's mother swooned, Rusty and his brothers would annually massacre that poor coconut-covered lamb nesting in green-dyed coconut that mimicked grass. Since Jackie appeared so surprised and appalled each and every year, why my darling mother-in-law prepared the little lamb for slaughter remains a mystery. Well, to you good Catholics and High Episcopalians, obviously not that much of a mystery.
- Rusty and I inherited the original cast iron lamb mold and shipped it to Costa Rica.
- Rusty and I shipped the mold more as a sentimental item than as a practical cake pan since neither of us celebrate Easter solely for religious reasons. Granny and Jackie kept hand-baskets for us (knowing even in those early years where we were headed) while the good children and grandchildren in the family received candy-filled Easter baskets.
One cannot fill the lamb mold with just any cake batter. Even pre-massacre, its head and ears are wont to fall without a stiff batter. . . . or without countless toothpicks and/or wooden skewers or dowels. Pound cake batter works best, though it has been tried with red velvet just for the effect of the massacre. You get the idea.
Oddly enough shredded coconut is not ubiquitous here in this land of coconut palms and pipa fria. But during the Easter season one can find small (really small) bags of shredded coconut, though it's rarely snowy white. So last year we brought out the butter and made a pound cake batter with which to fill the lamb mold. The finished cake was presented to our friends, Cynthia and Lubos, merely to show them a North American Christian tradition (and likely European, too). They looked at us as if we had lobsters coming out of our ears. I cannot vouch for the flavor of that cake, and it barely made the mountainous, rocky-road drive to their home without losing its head and ears . . . even prepared with pound cake. These lamb cakes are trickier than you'd imagine.
This year we discussed baking the traditional cake and decided that we really didn't want to foist an entire baked lamb on any friends. Also, I was not about to make a pound cake in the middle of my sewing mania. So an entire lamb was ruled-out and cake pops were discussed.
What is the deal with cake pops?! I think that the fad was invented by the same person who invented Pinterest . . . meaning that the entire concept is essentially an overblown scheme to make one feel craft-empowered, while in reality it's largely a lie-filled plot to instill some self-deprecating end game. I will concede, however, that cake pops, aka cake balls, when done correctly, do have a place in polite society. Absolutely any party gains that extra wow-factor with cake pops. Why, I made cannon ball cake balls for our annual International Talk Like a Pirate Day party . . . if you can call that polite society.
If you can dream it, any design or theme can become a cake pop -- from monsters to bunnies. Here's my complaint about a cake pop: they're nothing but baked-then-completely-crumbled cake mixed oh-so thoroughly with rich frosting. Yuk! Now I'm as fond of a traditional cake or cupcake as the next overweight gal, but the cake pop doesn't qualify as cake. Neither is it a candy, though I have made ganache into truffle balls, inserted the lollipop stick, and decorated them. Talk about wow-factor!
Here's the point: 62-tiny, daintily-piped royal frosting spots later and I had a cake ball with the appearance of fleece. A ball . . . one single ball! Forty-seven to go . . . and by the second ball the dots of fleece on the first lamb had melted in the humidity of an Easter weekend in Samara. What was I thinking?! This called for a quick batch of Italian meringue . . . my newest and favorite delivery system for an instant case of salmonella. I'm kidding . . . in theory the hot simple syrup in an Italian meringue kills any salmonella in the egg whites.
So the next challenge was the harsh reality that Italian meringue looks nothing like fleece, though any maven of meringue can see the potential. The answer? Swirl those meringue-dipped cake pops in coconut for a fur, if not fleece, effect. I called for Rusty's immediate help; and despite four hands pressing fleece into meringue, it didn't work.
The only success of the afternoon came from the 30-minutes of uncontrollable laughter as we reminisced about 30-plus years of lamb cake massacres, our blasphemous attitude about this most holy of Christian holidays, and the fact that our darling, deceased Jackie was probably rolling over in her urn at the thought of our blasphemy. We gave the coconut lamb pops to our friend Peter. Hippitus Hoppitus, Naeta, Easter's on its way. Lo que hay.