Prep. time: 15 minutes + 1 hour draining time
Refrigeration time: 8 hours
Cooking time: A few minutes
This is the traditional Russian Easter cake that is made in a pyramid-shaped mold. On the side, spelled out in pieces of candied fruit, were the letters XB, representing the Cyrillic letters for "Christos voskres" -- "Christ is risen." .
Creating this delight took hours - it requires weighing down "pot cheese" with a heavy board to drain the moisture and then pressing it though a sieve before the other ingredients were added. A Russian princess told a 19th century reporter a version where she added no nuts or currants, but the zest of one lemon. Depending on the household, it is decorated with almonds and candied fruit, or served with a slice of almond bread (in the Baltic states) or with walnut and raisin bread.
*The mold should have a hole in the bottom to allow the cheese to continue to drain. If you don't have a pashka mould, use a terra cotta flower pot, which will also provide the proper shape.
- Drain the cheese by placing it in a strainer and putting a weight on top - otherwise the loaf may not keep its shape;
- in a bowl, macerate the candied fruit with the vanilla;
- break up the cheese with the back of a spoon; mix in the butter;
- in a saucepan, heat the cream until bubbles start to form around the edges;
- in another bowl, beat together the eggs and sugar; pour in the hot cream; return the mixture to the saucepan and return to the heat; cook gently over low heat, stirring constantly, until the mixture thickens - do not let it boil or it may turn lumpy;
- remove from the heat; add the candied fruit; place the saucepan into a large bowl of ice water and stir until the mixture has cooled;
- add the cheese and the almonds; put the mixture into a mould*; cover with a muslin cloth and place a weight on top; refrigerate at least 8 hours before unmoulding; decorate and serve.
- To slice, slide your knife through to make horizontal slices, saving the top slice and replacing it: it's more attractive that way.
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