Since I was a very little girl, Easter for me was less about baskets and more about bunny cake. I am not sure when she started making them, but my grandmother made them just about every Easter while she was still baking. The cake was always referred to as “he” and varied little year to year. It was always a yellow cake. The frosting was the same frosting every year (though how she made it I don’t know). Every year the ears had pink insides and were covered in coconut. For some reason only the ears had coconut. (Was it because some picky people–likely a younger me–didn’t like coconut? Later I would learn to love coconut by eating this cake.) Each year the eyes were made of jelly beans (preferably Russell Stover pectin jelly beans) and the whiskers were made of cut strawberry Twizzlers. As a kid, my brother and I would often get to take home the leftover candy–an added bonus to bunny cake!
One of my favorite parts about the cake was that my grandfather would describe him to us either before we arrived, when we got there, or by phone for the years I was not home for Easter. Some years he would say he looked too good to eat. If his eyes were a little too small, he would often say of the cake, “He looks a little malevolent.” This was a frequent description. When Gram was cutting it always seemed a shame to ruin her creation, but it tasted too good to resist. She would ask everyone if they wanted a piece of ear (with coconut) or from the face. Sometimes my brother and I would request specific parts of the face so that we could have a piece with the candy we wanted. We were spoiled that way.
My 2011 version of the Bunny Cake
At some point the Bunny Cake duties shifted to me. That first year I felt the pressure to get him just right. It was hard to achieve the same effect. What color jelly beans did she use? How did she get the whiskers to look just right? Did he have a mouth? (Most often yes, but I don’t always include one.) Some years Easter would overlap with my Mom and Grandfather’s birthday (they share a birthday). One year I put candles in the Bunny Cake and wished I had come up with a clever way to incorporate them into his design.
If you would like to try this at home, it couldn’t be easier. Make your favorite cake in standard cake pans. Cut one of the cooled cakes in half. Arrange the cake in the shape of a bunny head on a tray or cookie sheet (full round at bottom, two halves on top). Make your favorite white frosting. Put some frosting in a separate bowl and tint pink. Frost the head and edges of ears with the white frosting. Frost the inner ears with the pink frosting. Sprinkle coconut on the whole cake or just the ears. Arrange candies to make eyes, nose, mouth, teeth, and whiskers (whatever you like). This would be a great project to do with kids. Then simply enjoy. I am hoping that this tradition will continue and that my new nephew, Ben, will anticipate the bunny cake like I did on Easter.