Easter is the main festival of the Russian Orthodox church, a time when families come together, when a great deal of food is consumed, when rejoicing is general. Paskha (pash-kah), a luscious dessert made from cream cheese, sour cream, almonds and fruit, is an integral part of the feasting. A special pyramid-shaped perforated mould, called a paskha mould, is traditionally used to make this dish, but a flower pot or colander with suitable perforations may be substituted. Paskha is usually decorated with nuts and crystallized fruit. Cottage cheese may be used instead of the cream cheese.


2 lb. cream cheese

4 oz. butter, softened

4 fl. oz. sour cream

4 oz. sugar egg yolk

1 teaspoon vanilla essence very finely grated rind of

1 lemon

1 tablespoons sultanas or seedless raisins

2 tablespoons raisins

2 tablespoons slivered almonds

1 tablespoon slivered almonds, toasted

1 tablespoon chopped glace cherries

Place the cream cheese in a large wire strainer set over a small mixing bowl. Cover the cheese with a clean cloth and place a heavy weight on top. Leave the cheese to drain for at least 12 hours.

Discard any liquid in the bowl. Trans-fer the cheese to a large mixing bowl. With a wooden spoon, beat the butter into the cheese, a little at a time, and continue beating until the mixture is well blended.

In a medium-sized mixing bowl, com-bine the sour cream, sugar and egg yolk with a fork or spoon, beating until the sugar has dissolved. Gradually add the sour cream mixture to the cream cheese mixture, beating constantly. Beat in the vanilla essence and grated lemon rind. Fold in the sultanas or seedless raisins, the raisins, almonds, toasted almonds and glace cherries. Set aside.

Line a paskha mould, if you have one, or some similar perforated mould with cheesecloth or muslin. Spoon in the cream cheese mixture and smooth the top with a flat-bladed knife. Cover the mould with a clean, damp cloth and place a heavy weight on top. Place the mould, on a large plate, in the refrigerator to chill for 8 hours or overnight.

To serve, remove the weight and cloth from the mould. Place a serving dish, inverted, over the mould and reverse the two, giving the mould a sharp shake. The dessert should slide out easily. Remove and discard the cheesecloth or muslin. The paskha is now ready to decorate and serve.