Happy spring, I hope everyone’s made it through the other side of winter okay! We just had Daylight Savings Time (worth every minute of evening light, in my opinion) so the warmer days and lighter nights have made everything so much better. Sometimes I think I could be a winter person, finding the season more pleasant with each passing year. Then the first warmer, light days of the year come and it’s like, nah.
It was another weird March. The virus is still raging around us here in Czechland, and in fact, the first half of the month, we were bound to our own municipalities. Fortunately just in time for the Easter holidays, we are now able to leave our cities (yes, this is what it has come to) and move about our district (kind of like a county) for leisure purposes. Not that there’s been a lot of time or interest to do that up until now, anyway. But things aren’t so good. The Czech Republic had more COVID deaths this March than any other month. One of our dear friends was in the hospital as his symptoms progressed (fortunately, he’s out now and feeling a bit better). It’s easy to fret these days, which is why this first bout of spring weather couldn’t have come at a better time. Over six months of lockdown (everything closed, 9pm curfew, social-distancing) has taken its toll. I find myself feeling sad and having a cry more often than I’ve ever felt here. It’s to be expected. Living through this… in the city… with no end or vaccine in sight is taking its toll. I don’t think we should discount our own experience of living through all of this.
I’m finding myself offline a lot more these days. It’s a combination of having so much to do (How the hell am I going to read Obama’s 700+ page book between studying four subjects and working full-time if I don’t step it up a bit?), but also not a lot of interest in the constant social media chatter. Frankly, it’s hard to hear other expats complain that their country is experiencing such slow vaccine roll-out when it could not. be. slower. here. I don’t know of anyone vaccinated here who is under 70, not a doctor or without a preexisting condition. Behind the former Iron Curtain, we don’t live in Europe’s influential West and enjoy as many privileges. Goods and trends never come to us here as quickly, our salaries our lower, our population is lower. Mail sent from the United States that would take about three weeks to arrive in Germany comes to Czech Republic in three months in our current pandemic postal situation. (not a joke, but also curiously, the problem doesn’t seem to be on the side of Czech Post at all) it’s no wonder that the vaccine would come to us so slowly, but it is a crying shame how it’s all panning out. I can barely stand to read another comment about it.
Someone just complained to me that the nearest Krispy Kreme for their free vaccination donut is an hour away. Yes, I murdered them.— Tessa Approves (@tessaapproves) March 25, 2021
I’m starting not to remember how life was outside of lockdown. What’s traveling like? Remember sitting at tables at outdoor cafes? (yeah, we don’t even have those!) Thanking the lord this all is temporary (I guess).
But now, turning towards happier things like this lovely long Easter weekend! Our annual tradition (aside from the two years we went on city getaways) is to hike all over our beautiful South Bohemia. I’d also planned on baking my first ever beránek (aka, lamb cake). It’s my ninth Easter in the Czech Republic, I think it’s time! I’m really pleased with how it turned out, and if you need any ideas for Easter sweets, maybe you could manage one, too. The only really necessary thing is that you need a beránek form (mold). You can often find metal or silicone versions, but the best is ceramic or borrowing one from a neighbor or friend (nearly every Czech has one in their kitchen!).
Here’s my recipe for a light, springy yellow cake, which you can also bake in a normal cake tin or bundt cake mold. The special feature here is using tvaroh (you could use mascarpone or quark cheese as a substitute) and a bit of lemon zest for that bright spring flavor.
One note on baking the halves together or separately — there is no doubt that the better presentation option is to put the two lamb halves together while baking, however, it is far harder to tell if the cake is done if you do this. If you’re unsure or inexperienced, you may want to bake the halves separately and stick them together afterwards.
Czech Easter Lamb Cake
- 125g butter, softened
- 250g white flour
- 200g sugar
- 250g tvaroh cheese (or mascarpone, quark)
- 4 eggs
- 7g baking powder (in CZ, this means one packet)
- 1 tsp vanilla extract or 1 TB rum or medovina 🙂
- 1 tsp salt
- zest of 1 lemon
- 1 tsp lemon juice
- 2 whole cloves, candies, etc (for the eyes – I like cloves for a natural look)
- powdered sugar (for sprinkling)
1. Preheat the oven to 175°C (155°C fan oven) or 350°F. 2. Separate the egg whites from the yolks. (You can easily do this by cracking an egg in half and passing the yolk back and forth between the two cracked egg halves while letting the whites fall in a bowl). Set the egg whites aside for now. 3. In a large bowl, mix the egg yolks and sugar together well, then add in your softened butter and mix until there are no lumps. 4. Mix the flour, baking powder and salt together in another bowl, then sift into the yolk/sugar/butter mixture. Add the tvaroh cheese, vanilla or rum, lemon zest and juice. Mix well until creamy. 5. Whip the egg whites (by mixer, food processor or hand) until stiff peaks form. Gently fold the egg white fluff into the batter and mix a bit until evenly distributed. 6. Grease your lamb (or any other) mold or pan. If using the lamb, use a lot of butter (don't under-do it) and then give the mold a light dusting of flour over it. Get every nook and cranny! 7. Depending on kind of mold, you might now choose to spoon the batter equally into both halves of the lamb mold and either put the mold together, or decide to bake each halves separately. Put in the oven and bake for 45-60 minutes (an inserted toothpick coming out clean can help test for doneness). 8. After removing from the oven, let the cake sit 10 minutes before attempting to separate it from the mold - even longer, if possible. 9. After removal and cooling, stand the lamb up, add the cloves for eyes, dust with powdered sugar using a sieve and perhaps a colorful ribbon for presentation.
The above photo is from a hike we did yesterday, starting in Řimov (11km south of Budějovice). The trail was worryingly busier than I’d ever seen it… until I realized we had started on the Pilgrim’s Way… on Good Friday… that’ll do it. Fortunately we broke off from the crowds and had a nice solitary time in the forest. I’m not sure why we came across this “Big G” on the cross as it far after we left the Pilgrim’s Way… but you never know what’ll turn up in a Czech forest.
Sending Happy Easter wishes to you and hoping you are doing okay during these strange times.