Had I posted this before Easter, I would have titled this post “Easter Bunny cake,” but alas, since Easter has passed and I still wanted to share, I changed the title…It still works, since Spring has just arrived and we’ve seen so many little bunnies hopping around here.
My favorite Easter tradition
My favorite Easter tradition dating back to 1980 something, was making the Easter Bunny cake. We have made this faithfully, every year, since the idea was published and circulated by Baker’s and Pillsbury in the newspaper and Mom clipped it.
We made it the year our cousins came to visit. We made it in college, inviting friends over to make “the bunny cake.” When we were in that awkward post-college, pre-kid phase, the neighbor kids came over for a few years to give us a reason to bake the cake. Now we have five kids in the kitchen, helping decorate.
One year…we did deviate from the bunny pattern. The advertisement and coupon that circulated sometime a few years later was for a chick cake with the same decorating principles…lots of frosting and dyed coconut. I am sure my mother has this pattern filed away with the bunny cake, although I didn’t think to ask last weekend. A quick google search shows you just how fancy bunny cakes have become.
That’s a lot of sugar…
And while I love making the bunny cake every year, Mon Cœur (MC) expressed her dislike for coconut, and I found collecting and using all the different decorating ingredients – frosting, dye, coconut, chocolate chips, licorice, jelly beans – a bit more work than I wanted to do.
This year, I knew in advance that we would be making a cake at our home as well as one with my Mom, my Sister and her family. Two bunny cakes in one weekend? Why not? But let’s make things interesting. For our bunny cake this year at home, I decided on a carrot cake recipe from Food Network. My reasoning? It’s “healthy,” (hello, it is chock full of carrots and I used some whole wheat flour) so…I am able to justify eating a very large portion (read: ALL) of it.
The recipe called for a cream cheese icing, and the original recipe is for a three tier cake, so naturally I made a bunny and a chick, and had lots of extra icing.
I’ve adjusted the recipe amounts for one bunny, below. If you want to make a chick, simply divide the recipe in half and use one round pan.
The “healthy” bunny cake
For the cake:
- ½ cup vegetable oil, plus more for the pans
- ⅔ cup all-purpose flour
- ⅔ cup whole wheat flour
- 1 heaping teaspoon baking powder
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- ⅔ teaspoon salt
- 1 heaping teaspoon ground cinnamon
- ½ cup granulated sugar
- ⅔ teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
- 3 large eggs
- 2 cups shredded carrots (about ½ pound carrots)
For the frosting:
- one 8-ounce package cream cheese, at room temperature
- 4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 1 cup confectioners’ sugar
- 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- Pinch of salt
Make the cake: Preheat to 350 degrees F. Brush two 9-inch-round cake pans with vegetable oil.
Combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, and granulated sugar in a large bowl. In another bowl, whisk the vegetable oil, lemon zest, and eggs. Stir in the carrots, then fold the carrot mixture into the flour mixture until just combined. Divide among the prepared pans and spread evenly (it won’t look like a lot of batter, but the cakes will rise in the oven – seriously!). Bake approximately 20 to 25 minutes. Transfer the pans to racks to cool.
Make the frosting: Beat the cream cheese and butter in a bowl with a mixer until smooth. Beat in the confectioners’ sugar, lemon juice, vanilla and salt until smooth.
Cut the cakes and position the pieces: One circle stays whole (bunny’s face) the other, you’ll cut like the design of a baseball – the outer pieces are the two ears, and the inner piece is the bow tie. Because YES, bunnies wear bowties. At least for auspicious occasions such as Easter. Dye frostings if you wish to have a color for the inner ear, the bow tie, nose, etc. Frost and use extra carrot shavings as decoration if you’d like. They make pretty fine whiskers for bunnies, and beak decoration for chicks.
Refrigerate until ready to enjoy! (Seriously. Unless you want green “FUNfetti” aka. mold, you should refrigerate.)
Toddler chef lessons
MC had many learning opportunities for this kitchen adventure:
- What a peeler and grater is and how to peel and grate carrots. (And yes, she tried both!)
- The highest speed on the stand mixer, and not to start at that speed with powdered sugar that had just been added and not yet mixed. (This was an independent experiment conducted – surprise!)
- How to make and dye cream cheese icing and how to ice a cake. (But her favorite part was licking the icing off the mixing paddle)
Toddler Version 2021
Mom’s Bunny was a FUNfetti version, all fun and coconut shavings, with rainbow twizzlers and chocolate chips. We have always followed the directions exactly – delicately dying the coconut pink and green, precisely placing each chocolate chip one at a time, trimming the twizzlers to the perfect whisker length. Except this year I was distracted, and didn’t do my “teacher’s best” to introduce the cooking activity and explain what was going to happen.
A serendipitous oops happened – four girls pitching in, using their creativity and teamwork. They took artistic license, adding alphabet cookies and not giving a care in the world for the picture directions.
I checked in on them at one point and told myself the following:
- That’s not what the picture looks like (Mom will be surprised!)
- They are decorating so nicely together though (Leave them be!)
- Goodness gracious, that’s a whole lot of sugar…(oh my, oh my…)
An afterthought occurred for next year’s bunny cake – the girls all had their own decorations for the cake, we could make cupcakes and cut and assemble two to make personal sized bunny cakes that each could decorate, make, and take home.
What is your favorite Easter tradition?