Easter parade (+ recipes)

By Donna Hay

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Choc-caramel Easter slice.
Choc-caramel Easter slice.

Easter isn't just about foil-wrapped chocolate eggs. Be creative and carry the theme through an array of chocolate treats. With a few clever decorating ideas, you can turn simple sweets into stunning crowd-pleasers. Think cupcakes topped with elegant nests, a studded caramel slice or marshmallow-filled biscuits and those shiny eggs will be forgotten in no time.

CHOC-CARAMEL EASTER SLICE

1 cup plain flour, sifted
2 Tbsp cocoa, sifted
2/3 cup caster sugar
1 cup ground almonds
185g butter, melted
1 egg, lightly beaten
2 x 395g can sweetened condensed milk
1/3 cup golden syrup
120g butter, extra, chopped
1 x 280g packet chocolate-coated malt balls (use mini chocolate eggs if you cannot find malt balls).

Preheat the oven to 180C. Place the flour, cocoa, sugar and ground almonds in a bowl and mix to combine. Add the butter and egg and mix well to combine. Spoon into a lightly greased 20cm x 30cm tin lined with non-stick baking paper and press to flatten. Bake for 20 minutes or until firm to touch.

Set aside. Place the condensed milk, golden syrup and extra butter in saucepan over medium heat and stir to melt butter. Reduce heat to low and cook, stirring, for 6 minutes or until thickened slightly. Pour caramel mixture over the base and top with the malt balls. Refrigerate for 2-3 hours or until firm. Slice to serve. Makes 16.

CHOCOLATE NEST CUPCAKES

125g butter, softened
3/4 cup caster sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 eggs
1 cup plain flour, sifted
1/4 cup cocoa, sifted
1 tsp baking powder, sifted
1/2 cup milk
White fairy floss and mini candy-coated chocolate eggs, to serve

Chocolate icing
2/3 cup pouring cream
200g dark chocolate, chopped

Preheat oven to 160C. To make the chocolate icing, place the cream and chocolate in a saucepan over low heat and stir until melted and smooth. Set aside and allow to cool completely. Place the butter, sugar and vanilla in the bowl of an electric mixer and beat for 10-12 minutes or until light and creamy. Gradually add the eggs and beat well. Add the flour, cocoa, baking powder and milk and beat until combined. Spoon into 12 x 1/2- cup-capacity muffin tins lined with cupcake papers. Bake for 18-20 minutes or until cooked when tested with a skewer. Cool on wire racks. Spread the cupcakes with the icing and top each with a fairy floss nest and eggs. Makes 12.

Tip: To make the fairy floss nests, gently twirl a strand of fairy floss into a ring and place on the icing. Arrange eggs in the nest.

MARSHMALLOW EGG BISCUITS

125g butter, softened
1/3 cup caster sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 egg yolk
1 1/4 cups plain flour, sifted
2 Tbsp cocoa, sifted
14 white marshmallows, halved
200g dark chocolate, melted

Preheat oven to 180C. Place the butter and sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer and beat for 10-12 minutes or until light and creamy. Add the vanilla and egg yolk and beat well. Add the flour and cocoa and beat until a smooth dough forms. Divide into 2 pieces, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes or until firm. Roll out each piece of dough between two sheets of non-stick baking paper to 3mm thick. Use a 6cm oval cookie cutter to cut 28 ovals from the dough. Place on baking trays lined with non-stick baking paper and bake for 10 minutes. Top half of the biscuits with the marshmallows and bake for a further 1 minute. Sandwich with remaining biscuits and allow to cool on the trays. Dip half of each biscuit into the melted chocolate and place on a tray lined with non-stick baking paper to set. Makes 14.

Tip: You can use a mixture of white or pink marshmallows for a colourful look.

TIPS AND TRICKS

THE DAY BEFORE
* Bake the cupcakes and allow to cool before storing in an airtight container.
* Make the marshmallow biscuits, dip in the chocolate and store in an airtight container.
* Make the choc-caramel slice, refrigerate.

EASTER MORNING
* Make the chocolate icing 1-2 hours before icing the cupcakes to allow it to cool completely. Ice and decorate the cupcakes.

- NZ Herald

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