When made from homemade cottage cheese, pashka is at its best. The homemade cheese is smooth, creamy and has just the right slightly sour taste. If using farmer's cheese, try to use Friendship brand, available at most supermarkets. Serve pashka with slices of Easter coffee cake.
In a large bowl, combine the cottage cheese or farmer's cheese, sugar, cream cheese, and egg yolks, stirring to mix.
In batches, process the mixture in a food processor, adding an equal amount of cream to each batch, until completely smooth. Transfer back to the bowl.
Stir in the ground almonds, lemon zest, lemon extract, and vanilla extract. Scrape the seeds from the vanilla bean and add them to the cheese mixture along with the raisins. Mix thoroughly.
Line a clean, unused 8-cup flower pot with a double layer of rinsed and squeezed-dry cheesecloth. Spoon the cheese mixture into the lined pan, then fold the ends of the cheesecloth neatly over the top. Place a saucer on the cheesecloth, then a 2-pound weight, such as a can, on the saucer. Put the flower pot in a bowl large enough for the liquid to drain into. Refrigerate for at least 12 hours.
Empty the bowl. Unmold the pashka onto a serving plate and carefully remove the cheesecloth. Decorate with candied fruit, pressing some of the fruit into the pashka to form the letters XP, which stands for Khristos voskres ("Christ has risen").
Recipe courtesy of Anya von Bremzen, Please to the Table: The Russian Cookbook, Workman Publishing, 1990