As a child, I was not a big fan of coconut. Until the Easter Bunny Cake.
As a child, I was not a big fan of cooking. Until the Easter Bunny Cake.
At some point during every Lent and Easter season, my memories take me back to the first cake I ever made and the lessons learned standing in my mother’s kitchen.
My mother was an excellent cook who, for some reason, never encouraged me to cook with her. I professed loudly to not liking to cook, and she simply accepted that as fact and moved on. She loved for me to sit at the counter that rimmed our kitchen and talk to her while she cooked, but she rarely handed me a mixing bowl or eggs to crack. The bowl would get passed to lick, but the actual cooking was her territory.
Looking back, it was probably a combination of two reasons. One I never showed any inclination to want to cook and made it clear it wasn’t something I had any desire to learn. Second, cooking was my mother’s thing. It was her time, culminating in her gift to the family of a great meal. I think she cherished that time and wanted to keep it somewhat to herself.
But one Friday before Easter when I was about 11 years old, mother sat me on the kitchen bar stool and announced that I was making the dessert for Easter dinner.
I was less than thrilled. First of all, it was beautiful outside and school was out for Good Friday.
Second, the recipe card she handed me was a bunny cake, and it had quite a bit of coconut on it. I tolerated coconut, but it certainly wasn’t a favorite food.
And third, the dang cake looked hard. The bunny was flat on the pan, with a wide round bunny face and straight cake ears, a little gumdrop nose and a bow tie. It looked hard, unless Mom was going to hand me a tie-shaped and bunny ears-shaped pan to just pour some batter in.
But mother, perhaps through some guilt at not passing on the cooking genes to her daughter, had decided that it was time for me to bake, and the bunny cake was my debut.
I figured it would also be my swan song. And I hated to fail -- at anything. The day was not shapping up to be a good one.
The cake was, in reality, very simple. Two round cakes, with one of them cut very simply to form two ears and a bow tie.
Mother did allow me to use a “mix,” not something my grandmother would have allowed. The frosting, however, had to be made from scratch.
So we baked, my mother and I. She tied an apron around my waist, scooted over and made room for me at the counter, and we baked a Bunny Cake.
My brother would wander in from time-to-time, mostly interested in any scraps of cake that would be left when we started carving the round layer to make our bunny ears and bowtie.
My cake was beautiful.
I know why I remember that Bunny Cake so vividly. I did something that I wasn’t usually very good at, and it turned out beautifully. I was so completely proud of the results, and my mother carried on as if it were the only Easter Bunny cake ever baked. The whole family had to come by and admire it -- and they did, lest Aunt Fran get peeved and leave them out of Easter dinner. For her part, Mother bragged and lauded my talents for all the world to hear.
And that was before the cake was ever cut! I remember it tasted almost as good as it looked, even with the dreaded coconut decorations. On Easter afternoon, I took a big piece of the ear, not being able to cut up Mr. Bunny’s funny face.
I guess this story would have a more poignant ending if the bunny cake led me to a lifetime of baking cakes or a career as a famous New York restaurateur. It didn’t. It simply gave me an afternoon sharing something with my mother that she loved and I didn’t. And the unexpected success in the kitchen gave a concrete example of the mantra I heard from her over and over: Don’t be afraid to try. You can do anything.
Even bake a bunny cake.
(For directions on the very same Bunny Cake I made, go to