In the West Country of England there are a lot of different biscuits, cakes and puddings that make their appearance at Easter. Some of the Cornish biscuits are referred to as “cakes”, because they mimic the huge traditional feast cakes with their dried fruit and spices. These Easter cakes were traditionally made and eaten at Easter in the West Country from Gloucestershire, Avon, Wiltshire and Dorset westwards. Traditionally they are served after church on Easter Sunday, and are presented in a bundle of three biscuits to represent the Holy Trinity. They are eaten alongside hot cross buns, simnel cake and copious quantities of chocolate eggs as part of Easter festivities. The feasting comes at the end of Lent, so the taste of rich foods is supposed to come as a treat. Similar biscuits eaten before Lent commences are known as Lenten biscuits, and are made to use up eggs, sugar etc. in the way that the Shrove Tuesday pancake does.
All Easter “cakes” contain spice and fruit. The fruit is either solely currants, or can be currants with a little candied citrus peel. Some recipes add grated lemon zest. Biscuits made commercially may have oil of cassia added. Cassia is a part of the same (laurel) family as cinnamon. Its flavor is similar to cinnamon but stronger and more bitter. There are several regional versions of Easter biscuits. I use the name Eostre, the name of the Goddess for which Easter is named to refer to my version of these biscuits:
1/2 cup butter
3/4 cup sugar or berry sugar
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
2 tablespoons currants or sultanas
zest of one lemon
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon mace
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 tablespoons Amaretto or brandy
a little extra icing sugar
Whisk flour, spices, baking powder and salt together in a bowl. Cream the butter and sugar together in a large bowl until fluffy. Beat the egg to the butter mixture. Add the lemon zest, amaretto and currants. Add the flour mixture and combine to form soft dough. Take pieces of dough to form golf ball sized balls. Flatten these out to make cookies and line them up on a baking tin lined with parchment paper. Bake for 20 minutes at 350 F (180 C) until golden brown. Another variation that I like is to substitute a 1/2 teaspoon of ginger for the mace and two tablespoons of Jamaica rum for the Amaretto.
You can check out this and other ancient recipes in my cookbook, Ancient Recipes for Modern Kitchens at smashwords.com.