Chocolate Angelfood Dessert. Source: Lynn Gardner / Flickr
Finally, it's Easter! Христос воскрес! Christ is Risen!
The main Orthodox Easter service is the Easter Vigil, which begins just before midnight on Holy Saturday and lasts into the early morning hours of Easter Sunday. I'm not much of a night owl, but I have managed to attend the Divine Liturgy on Easter a few times.
The most memorable of these was at St. Nicholas Cathedral in Washington, DC. The congregation of this church, which is an Orthodox Church of America (OCA) cathedral, was made up of Americans, Russians and Georgians, and the liturgy was conducted in English, Russian and Georgian consecutively.
I will never forget the singing of the main Easter hymn – Christ is Risen From the Dead – at midnight as the bells rang out. I always wondered how the church made peace with its neighbors, who couldn't possibly sleep through this Easter celebration. Maybe they gave them kulich!
I have never been a big fan of kulich, the traditional Russian Easter cake. To me, it just tastes like a very dry fruitcake. The best part of any kulich is the icing, and I'm not a big fan of icing in general, so I don't find this particularly tempting. The best kulich I ever had was made by my former boss and the reason it was so good is because it wasn't cooked completely through.
Before I started observing the Orthodox fast, I always gave up chocolate for Lent, and for Easter I always made this old family recipe – a dessert that features plenty of chocolate, dairy and religious symbolism, which makes it the perfect treat for Easter Sunday.
1 angelfood cake (recipe below); 2 cups semisweet chocolate pieces (350 grams); 2 egg yolks; 2 cups heavy whipping cream; ½ cup sugar; 1 cup pecans
Melt chocolate chips over low heat. Stir until smooth. In a separate bowl, combine egg yolks and sugar. Add mixture to melted chocolate. Cook over low heat 2-3 minutes. Remove from heat and cool to room temperature.
Fold cream into chocolate. Mix in nuts.
Tear cake into small pieces. Layer pieces of cake and chocolate mixture in a large bowl or baking dish. Let sit overnight. Serve chilled.
In the U.S., you can buy an angelfood cake at any supermarket, but it isn't a common dessert in Russia, so you'll have to make your own. Here is a classic angelfood cake recipe.
2 1/2 cups sugar; 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour; 1/4 teaspoon salt; 2 1/2 cups egg whites; 1 tsp cream of tartar; 1 tsp vanilla extract; 1 tsp fresh lemon juice
Preheat oven to 190° Celsius (375° Farenheit). Line bottom and sides of a 13-x9-inch pan or an angelfood cake pan with aluminum foil, allowing 2 to 3 inches to extend over sides of pan. (Do not grease pan or foil.) Sift together first 3 ingredients.
Beat egg whites and cream of tartar at high speed with a heavy-duty electric stand mixer until stiff peaks form. Gradually fold in sugar mixture, 1/3 cup at a time, folding just until blended after each addition. Fold in vanilla and lemon juice. Spoon batter into prepared pan. (Pan will be very full. The batter will reach almost to the top of the pan.)
Bake on an oven rack one-third up from bottom of oven 30 to 35 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center of cake comes out clean. Invert cake onto a lightly greased wire rack; let cool, with pan over cake, 1 hour or until completely cool. Remove pan; peel foil off cake.