Apr 9, 2012

An alternative to Easter eggs

By Leah Ashton

Every Good Friday, my mum's (Croatian) side of the family get together for lunch. We always have bakalar (salted fish) dishes - a rice soup made with the fish stock, and then the main bakalar dish, which is made with potatoes and a *lot* of garlic. Like forty cloves of garlic - seriously!

I love this very traditional lunch, and this year I decided to find out if there was a traditional Croatian Easter dessert. And, it turns out, there is! So I made Croatian Easter cake, or Pinca - here's the recipe I used: Traditional Easter Cake.

I do enjoy baking, but this cake is more like a bread - it used yeast and needed a lot of rising time. So I was a bit worried about how it would turn out, and in fact I totally underestimated the rising time and ended up driving to my mum's place with the cake still raw and rising in the car :) But, thankfully, it turned out beautifully:

My version of a traditional Croatian Easter Cake

(If you read the recipe you'll see I gave up on the idea of plaiting the dough! And, it turns out, my boring loaf is more traditional, anyway :) ).

My grandmother is 89, and she immediately recognised the cake, but called it something different - Sirnica. I googled that, and it turns out, yes - that's the same style of cake! She also said there is another cake, called Lumblija, which is made for All Saints Day. I googled this, too - and it originates from Blato, a town only a few kilometres from where my family is from (Vela Luka) on the island of Korcula. I know exactly where that is, as I visited in 2010. So - now I have another cake to try in November :) Plus - my family all devoured the Sirnica, and it was agreed it would be a regular on our Croatian Easter menu.

Pinca/Sirnica isn't the only traditional Easter cake around - I found a few more:
  • Simnel Cake - From the UK, this cake is decorated with 11 almond paste balls to represent the 11 true apostles.
  • Easter Dove Cake - From Italy, I love the shape of this cake! I might try this one :)
  • Kozinjak - From Macedonia - this looks amazing, and very similar to Sirnica.
My Sirnica, and behind it are prsurate (the round balls)
and hrstule (twisted pastries).
Plus the traditional (Australian!) hot cross buns :)
In my June US release, Secrets & Speed Dating, my hero's mum is Croatian, and I managed to squeeze in a few of my favourite Croatian meals into the story. But - none of the desserts! So, I guess I'll need to write another Croatian hero or heroine in the future, so I can spread the word - not only about Sirnica, but also hrstule and prsurate, my grandmother's staple traditional (amazing!) desserts for every occasion. Hmm, I may need to make those for a future LoveCats post :)

So, does your family have a traditional Easter meal? I'd love to hear about it!


  1. Leah, thanks so much for sharing your pics and the information about your family Easter cooking traditions. Love it, especially that last pic of the outdoor feast.

    Our Easter tradition is roast lamb and, as we were out most of yesterday, visiting, we had it very late but it was still wonderful. Hot cross buns for us too. I was talking to my sister in law yesterday about her Easter last year - visiting relatives in Greece, where they had spit-roasted kid for their special meal. Sounds like they had the most marvellous time.

  2. Hi Annie! We were lucky this year, Good Friday was just glorious here in Perth, so perfect for an outdoor lunch!

    Roast lamb sounds devine! I've been eating Hot Cross Buns all weekend, too - those choc chip ones are dangerous :)

  3. Leah, there's nothing better than a great big family feast - and I'm not talking KFC lol I cooked easter buns for the first time when my oldest dd was maybe 9 months and had just starting to crawl. I was finishing up kneading when she disappeared around the corner. By the time I washed my hands off, she had disappeared! Panic set in rather quickly. I couldn't find her anywhere. I even checked the downstairs toilet bowl! Ended up she'd crawled up over twenty stairs to the top floor. Never for a moment had I thought she capable. When I found her teetering up the top, I was SO relieved. Needlness to say I never cooked Hot Cross Buns again. =)

  4. Oh my goodness Robyn! I'm not surprised you haven't attempted Hot Cross Buns again :)

  5. Hi Leah --
    Wow, your Easter baking looks amazing. Well done. No traditions in our house (a baker I am not) but my Lindt gold bunny was yum.

    And after Robyn's story (I have a fast crawler almost ready to toddle) I have an extra excuse not to bake!

  6. Hi Leah
    I've made all sorts of Easter things over the years: hot cross buns, plaited Greek Easter bread, with dyed red eggs in the plaits, dyed and painted eggs... But my current Easter tradition is one that isn't borrowed from old culture, but new.

    Every year, our church has an Easter vigil at 5.30 in the morning and afterwards, the brave souls who get up for it share breakfast in the garden.

    The second year we did it, I made cinnamon scrolls, which I heated up and iced on the morning and a tradition was born. I am reliably informed that some people only come to that service so they can have a cinnamon scroll afterwards. So now my Saturday before Easter tradition is making four dozen cinnamon scrolls!

  7. Anna - would you believe that I don't like Lindt chocolate? I love chocolate, but there is a distinctive taste to Lindt that I don't like. I know... I'm so ashamed :)

    Imelda - Your cinnamon scrolls sound amazing! And four dozen - oh my!! I also love the idea of the red eggs within the Greek Easter bread, I might try that one year, too :)

  8. The cake looks lovely, Leah, especially lovely because I have lots of Croatian friends that I can test it on. Yum!

  9. Oh yes, definitely try it Cheryse! It was really easy, I've never cooked with yeast before and it turned out perfectly :) I was a bit worried when I added the cranberries as the dough went a bit funny... but it all worked out :)

  10. Leah, the only traditional food in my house at Easter is chocolate. :)

    Just checked out the recipe for your Sirnica and it looks great. Dh loves hot cross buns but I always find them a bit boring - so your Sirnica could be something that satisfies us both!