Sunday, April 16, 2017

The Bunny Cake

JENN: How do I get myself into these things? This was the question I asked myself every Easter Eve when I was in my kitchen with my frosting shooter strapped to my hip, getting ready to decorate the annual bunny cake. Yes, I did say frosting shooter -- it's like a gun but for frosting. Personally, I think all guns should only shoot frosting but that's just me. 

How did the bunny cake come about? It all started when the hooligans were toddler sized mess makers and I bought a cake pan in the shape of a bunny. Why? No idea. My best guess is that it was on sale and I thought a cake in the shape of a bunny would be cute. It was. 




          Once. 

















             Twice. 













     Three times. 
(Yes, the hooligans
shirts match the bunny cake - the height of my 
Martha Stewarting).


And then...it became expected.

Because stuffing baskets and hiding eggs all over the backyard late at night wasn't enough to do, baking a cake in the shape of a bunny was added to the list as well. Debates ensued over what flavor of cake the bunny should be. Vanilla vs. chocolate became the annual argument and a hooligan protest erupted when I went radical and made a carrot cake. I still say that was the most logical choice.

And then, a few years ago, my frosting shooter died. The trigger simply would not lock and load the frosting. The bunny was doomed to be naked. We all agreed this was unfair to the bunny. I suppose I could have used a pastry bag, but I was really partial to my gun. I have not made a bunny cake since and, honestly, I kind of forgot about it. 

Recently, we began the process of decluttering the house, that whole does it bring you joy thing, and while I was cleaning out my baking cupboard guess what I found? The bunny pan, buried behind an ancient muffin tin and a giant silicone cupcake cake mold. As I held the bunny pan in my hands, I realized it did bring me joy. 

There were so many memories of the hooligans helping mix the batter, watching the bunny cake bake through the glass window of the oven, decorating the bunny with jelly beans, and licking the beaters from the frosting bowl. The nostalgia was pretty thick and it made me want to revisit those days. So, guess how I will spend this Easter Eve? Yep, baking a bunny cake and decorating it with a pastry bag full of frosting. The hooligans have already started debating the flavor of cake and the color of the frosting...and so the tradition lives on. I'm pretty happy about that even though I still miss my frosting shooter.

Now it's your turn, Reds. What family traditions does your family have? How did they come about? Do holidays or gatherings feel wrong or less than without these personal rituals?


64 comments:

  1. Happy Easter!
    I am properly impressed with the bunny cake, Jenn.
    When Jean and I were young, my mom used to make two cakes on our birthday and we each picked the kind of cake and the color of the frosting. I always remembered how special that felt and so I thought my children ought to have special cakes for their birthdays, too. And that’s how we got into special decorated cakes.
    I never made a bunny cake. . . and I was relegated to a pastry bag since I never had a frosting gun . . . but the special cake always made its entrance to the strains of “Happy Birthday.” I don’t remember all their requests for their special cakes, but they included a carousel, an airplane, a ladybug, a cupcake, ice skates, a teddy bear, a princess, and a book. No matter how much work the cake turned out to be, it was worth all the effort just to see their excitement when they blew out the candles.

    As far as Easter is concerned, the annual tradition here is a decorated, braided Easter Egg bread that only takes a little more than half a day to make. But Easter dinner simply wouldn’t be same without it . . . .

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    1. So sweet Joan--those cakes will be remembered forever! Does the Easter bread have whole eggs baked into it?

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    2. Joan - that bread sounds fantastic! And, oh, I would love to see pictures of those cakes. Now I am impressed!

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    3. Yes, Lucy, the braided dough is shaped into a circle and five colored eggs are tucked into the braid . . . . Here’s a link to a picture I found online: http://blog.swagbucks.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/03/easter-bread.jpg

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    4. Joan, that bread is cool.

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  2. My mom used to make a fabulous stand-up Santa cake - she used a two-sided mold and then icing-glued the sides together. She was a whiz with the pastry bag. And I made on-request birthday cakes for my sons for years, including a building cake, a fire engine, a bug, a soccer ball (that one was easy), and so on. Today I'm doing my traditional cold poached salmon and hosting Easter brunch (as I always do) for 16! Happy Easter to all.

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    1. 16? Get to work, Edith! I'm kidding. You can probably do it in your sleep. That is the upside to traditions - once you get them down it's all muscle memory - pastry bag or frosting shooter!

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  3. Happy Easter, everyone. My mother was an art teacher, so we always had tons of crayons, rubber cement, and glue on hand. Plus we were thoroughly conversant in color theory by kindergarten. That meant dying Easter eggs was an artistic challenge. Waxy crayons would create areas that the dye resisted, but what color dye to layer under which color crayon? Rubber cement could protect the egg from dye but be rubbed off later, so layers of yellow and blue dye could shine through the eventual green egg. Elmer's glue could create ridges, and wouldn't take the dye once it was dry so . . . you get the idea. We had striped eggs, embossed eggs; we even had plaid eggs one year. About 20 years later, I was explaining all this to my husband, who confessed that his family had never dyed eggs. We remedied that immediately, and he had at least as much fun as an adult as I always had as a child.

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    1. wow so fancy Gigi! We happily dyed eggs, but no artistic talent in view:)

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    2. I make plaid eggs, Gigi. But I use Q-tips dipped in food coloring to draw on the lines.

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    3. We used to use melted wax - Russian style - to do elaborate scrollwork on the eggs. I never knew about rubber cement - I have to try that. I love that your Hub enjoyed it, Gigi!

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    4. Your method sounds ever so much easier, Karen! To be honest, my older sister is the artist in the family. She'd do some kind of perfectly detailed Chinese dragon on her eggs, and mine would be covered with blurry squiggles where I smudged the dye, rubbing off the rubber cement. Egg dying was fun, but not my finest artistic hour.

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  4. Love your bunny cake, Jenn... it's a lovely tradition. Our tradition revolves around cake, too. Birthday cake. In our house the birthday person gets to choose the flavor of the cake and the frosting. I bake it. And then the person gets to decorate it with whatever their little heart desires. Vanilla cake and vanilla frosting decorated with sStrawberries and rainbow sprinkles for Miss Franny Lou whose 4th birthday we celebrated Friday. Chocolate cake, chocolate frosting with miniature nonpareils for her mother. And I usually forget to by birthday-cake candles so very often the birthday cake has Hanukah candles on top.

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    1. Too funny, Hallie!

      I bought some Hanukah candles once, because they were on sale. And then spent years looking for some kind of holder that was not a Menorah, with no success. I think they finally got donated to Goodwill or some such.

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    2. Hallie - those sound wonderful! We do the same here with the Hub and hooligans picking their cake and frosting. I always forget candles. I even had to use sparklers on the Hub's once - he's a July baby so very appropriate!

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    3. I LOVE this! Thinking of instituting it 'round here!

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  5. and Jenn, advice on frosting? I like the kind that's delicious(!) all by itself (not crisco and powdered sugar) - recipe??

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    1. I love whipped cream frosting, but it doesn't hold its shape as well so it's all buttercream for the bunny, which is easily made into cream cheese frosting if you substitute one part of butter (see below) for eight oz of cream cheese.
      Ingredients:
      1/2 cup butter, softened
      1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
      2 teaspoon clear vanilla extract (brown is okay but frosting won't be as bright)
      4 cups confectioner's sugar
      3-5 Tablespoons of milk
      Directions: With mixer, cream butter. Add vanilla. Slowly mix in sugar, adding milk as needed. Beat at medium speed until light and fluffy. Makes 3 cups.

      And here's my fave whipped cream frosting:

      1/2 cup heavy whipping cream, chilled
      4 Tablespoons powdered sugar

      Whip the cream on med-high speed for 3 minutes. Sift the powdered sugar into a small bowl. Add the sugar to the whipped cream, and whip on med-high until stiff peaks form. Frosting should be able to stand on its own.

      I have made a lot frosting with the cupcake books - peanut butter, pistachio, cherry cola, honey brown butter, raspberry, chocolate ganache, etc. My personal favorite is Dulce de Leche (caramel), so here's the recipe (and the I'll stop, promise).

      4 oz cream cheese, softened
      1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
      3 cups powdered sugar
      1/2 teaspoon salt
      1/2 cup dulce de leche (you can find it in cans next to the condensed milk)
      Sea salt
      Turbinado sugar

      In med bowl, beat cream cheese and butter on high speed for three minutes until light and fluffy. Mix in powdered sugar and salt until fully combined. Lastly, add the dulce de leche. Spread or pipe onto cake. Sprinkle with sea salt and turbinado sugar.

      It's soooooo good!


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    2. One last bit about the whipped cream frosting. I'm a buttercream gal myself, but worked for a caterer for years. And the number of brides who had outdoor August weddings and wanted whipped cream frosting on their cakes--oy vay! So, you stabilize that puppy--adding just a pinch (and an extra pinch for every five degrees of outdoor temp beyond 75F) of unflavored gelatin. Knox. But it's not vegetarian. It does set the frosting, though. And until you're trying to keep whipped cream solid in 95-degree heat, you can't taste it. Above that, it'll taste like a hoof. Serves them right.

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  6. Love the bunny cakes Jenn--and the matching shirts! We concentrated on the Easter baskets full of candy and trinkets. Though like many of you, birthday people get to choose their cake. My family is very big on chocolate, though one son-in-law calls for carrot. This year I made my own cake, as I'm the baker in the family. It was a homemade yellow cake with mocha whipped cream frosting. Mmmmm... Happy Easter!

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  7. So adorable, Jenn! And you are so wonderful to keep it going. Yes, we had a bunny cake too! It was freestanding, and standing up, and my mother made it in a big cast-iron pan. She covered it with white frosting of some kind, and then coated it with coconut. It was actually kind of weird because it looked a tiny bit real.

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    1. LOL - the real look might put me off. Nah! Who am I kidding? It's cake! Of course, I'd eat it.

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  8. Happy Easter all! Bunny cakes, how delicious. Almost too pretty to cut. In my first marriage my husband was allowed to select any birthday cake he wanted. I struggled through Frankfurter Kranz and Schwarzwälder Kirschtorte (and I had to Google the spelling of both). They were great successes, but I did NOT bring that tradition to my second marriage). When my second husband and I were first married we carried on the tradition of formal holiday dinners while my father was alive, but as the family dwindled to just the two of us, and we moved from Maine to Florida where running the oven all day turns the house into a sauna, we decided to put holiday dinners on hold until we return to Maine so for now we traditionally cook out and I make sure Peeps are available for dessert. Gotta love marshmallow!

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    1. Peeps! I've met a Peep I didn't want to eat. I love the cook out tradition - so less stressful.

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  9. Oh, Jenn. I adore your family and I'm smiling here that you found your Bunny pan. I hope to see another Bunny Cake in your future. When the hooligans are grown and gone and have families of their own, they are going to have THE best stories to share. And you will always win the prize for "Best Mom."

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    1. You are so sweet, Kaye. Thank you. Hub and I've tried to make their childhood fun and creative and goofy but, yeah, I have a therapy fund just in case. LOL!

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  10. Happy Easter, everyone! I have learned as a parent that if you do something once on a holiday it's a weird new thing, and if you do it twice, it's an inviolable tradition. I'm frankly amazed you were able to get away with NOT making the bunny cake, Jenn!

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    1. Me, too! But now it's baaaack - I may need to lose that pan again.

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    2. Oh, agreed. Brian left out gold foil chocolate coins one year at St. Patrick's day (leprechaun gold) on a whim and ever since then, heaven help us if there aren't chocolate coins!

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    3. You don't need to permanently "loose" the pan again. You just need to store it until one of the Hoolies presents you with a daughter-in-law. Then you pass down a valued family tradition.

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  11. Rhys: Jenn, im so impressed with your bunny cakes! My tradition I can't escape from is writing a trail of clues to the Easter baskets. They used to be simple. Things like look under something that rhymes with bear. Now my grandkids want clever coded messages so I have a challenge ahead of me

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    1. The treasure hunt!!! We did that for a couple of years as we weaned from the Easter egg hunt to just baskets. Lord, I do not miss stuffing eggs! Rhys - I can imagine how clever your clues are. Mine were "Where would you wash your socks?" types of things but they did love it. Huh. I may to bring that back next year.

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    2. Rhys, I think that's such a great lot of fun, coded messages to the Easter baskets. I'd love to hear one of them.

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  12. An Easter/Birthday tradition for my children was a pink rabbit blancmange, not made by me but by my English sister, Pauline. She is gone now, and it's been decades since the kids had a Pauline original, but I've bought them each molds and encouraged them to make their own. Somehow the magic is gone though.

    Now the Easter meal includes something Julie's mother always made, green jello with pineapple, cottage cheese, and mayo. No kidding. All the family will be here in a couple of hours for ham, potato salad, baked beans and green jello. Plus steamed broccoli and baked ziti. There are a lot of traditions combined here. I wanted to make a glorious dessert, but Julie insisted on a Weggie cake, half chocolate, half vanilla (which I would call white but whatever). It is liberally decorated with buttercream Easter bunnies and flowers and eggs. I didn't have to lift a finger.

    Happy Easter and Happy Passover to all

    Ann

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    1. This sounds perfect, Ann! Enjoy your day!

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    2. Does anyone EAT the jello thing?

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  13. Just remembered that I used to make this bunny cake, but mine wasn't nearly this fancy.
    http://www.pillsburybaking.com/recipes/happy-bunny-cake-2270

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    1. That is a happy bunny! Now I really want my cake first.

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  14. Jenn, just so you know:

    https://www.amazon.com/Wilton-415-850-Dessert-Decorator-Pro/dp/B0000VM782/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1492359121&sr=8-2&keywords=frosting+gun

    And that's just one option!! So, next year...

    I am mortified to say how cake deficient my family is. My mom used to make German chocolate cake for my dad's birthday, but she didn't pass on the recipe and that's about it. I have made one of two cakes in my life and they were really UGLY. The problem is that I don't like cake enough to practice.

    My family, however, dyed eggs, although not quite as elaborately as Gigi's. It's been quite a few years since we've done that. While we will be putting some plastic eggs in the back lawn for Wren this year (fingers crossed it doesn't rain!!!!) I think we'll wait until next year to dye them, when she can actually appreciate the process. She is getting an adorable stuffed rabbit from Grammy, and I'm sure she had an Easter Basket this morning. That's a family tradition.

    I cooked two briskets overnight. We are doing a potato casserole, and roasted asparagus. No cake:-( But I bought a gorgeous mixed berry tart, which we will have with lots of whipped cream!

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    1. P.S. Thanks for the frosting gun link - LOL!

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  15. Debs, I can forgive your lack of interest in cake because...tart! I had the best raspberry tart in Bath when I was over there. Okay, now I want a tart. I hope Wren has a lovely Easter. Your meal sounds fabulous.

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    1. Yeah, thanks for that. Now I want both cake AND tart.

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  16. Jenn, what a wonderful tradition your bunny cake was, and how sweet that you found the bunny pan and it gives you joy. For my family, it was just having the Easter baskets and church and an Easter egg hunt at my parent-in-law. My father-in-law passed some years ago, but we are still having an Easter egg hunt at my mother-in-law's, now for the granddaughters. How to get a sixteen year old to do an Easter egg hunt with a seven-year-old? Put money in the eggs. Hahaha! I'm pretty much in charge of filling the eggs still. When our kids were little, we did do the Easter egg dyeing, but I can't say that I miss that one bit. Easter dinner has gotten easier. We actually had it yesterday, and we had light, summertime fare of chicken salad, potato salad, ham, deviled (dressed) eggs, and ice tea. I just found out something about deviled eggs that makes the peeling easier so that you have nice, smooth eggs. Don't use really fresh eggs; older eggs are better.

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    1. I'm on deviled egg duty again this year, and I have found that peeling them under cold running water, about as soon as they are cool enough to hold makes peeling much easier.

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    2. Older eggs? Really? I always get deviled egg duty. I am absolutely trying this. I'll try your tip, too, Gigi. Seriously, I hate it when I have to chip, chip, chip the shell off.

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    3. Good question, Hank. I guess ones that have been in the refrigerator more than a week? Not ones you've just bought. Gigi, I run them under cold water, too, which seems to help. Jenn, do you hit the egg on a paper towel all the way around, making cracks, before you start to peel?

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  17. Happy Easter & Passover to all!

    We basically have chaos as a family ritual, but there are a couple of things that stand out. First, my husband, daughter, and I all have birthdays within a week (March 30 - April 6). That is Birthday Week. My son has his birthday in September, which has always been a double-edged sword for him - exclusion from birthday week vs. being special. In any case, typically during birthday week, Brian (who is first) gets a low-key cake; Gracie (second on 4/2) gets whatever she wants (she's a kid, after all), and then, by the time it's MY birthday, everyone is sick of cake. I never thought this was fair. So this year I basically asked for two things for my birthday - cake, and a clean house.

    I got the cake.

    I also got some decent mysteries, so that's okay, but I REALLY wanted the clean house. Ah, well. Maybe next year.

    Also, until this year, I had a tradition of making April Fools' Day pretty cool. The best year, IMO, I waited until 11:59 on 4/1 (so everyone thought I forgot), and then I turned all the furniture and everything ON all the furniture upside down.

    This took some doing, I admit. I started out intending just to do a couple of things, but then it became sort of a mania, and I kept going... chairs, coffee table, kids' papers ON the coffee table (these I put on the now up-side of the bottom of the table, inverted from however they were), books in the bookshelves, medicines in the medicine cabinet, coffee maker... anything that could stand to be upside down was upside-downed.

    My daughter walked straight through the living room and put her shoes on for school before she noticed.

    My son came out and yelled, "Did we get robbed?"

    My husband, who knows me arguably the best of all of them, was simply astounded that I'd put in the effort (and wanted to be sure that I'd put it all in again to right all the stuff once more).

    Other than those, really, it's just pretty much chaos. Christmas trees fall over, frozen turkeys fall out of freezers injuring people, the dog eats two pounds of Easter chocolate and needs rescuing (again).

    Thanks, all!

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    1. I love your chaos! My favorite Christmas of all time was complete madness. It's still int he family lore. HA HA HA on the April Fools - you are clearly my people.

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  18. BTW, Jenn, I LOVE the bunny cakes.

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  19. If you all are taking requests, can you talk some to gauging how much suspense to inject into your MS's? I'm editing mine now (much thanks to Hallie) and I keep thinking, "needs to be scarier" vs "do I really want to scare the holy heck out of people?"

    So. If you ever run out of topics... :D

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    1. Good topic. We have a nice variety of mystery writing styles here, too. Will think on it.

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    2. Good topic! As Donald Maass says what's the worst thing that could happen? Do that. And then make it worse. And worse. And if you're worried about scaring the holy heck out of people, ask Jeffery Deaver and Stephen King how that's worked for them. And remember--violence doesn't mean scary. Suspense means scary.

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  20. The bunny cake is awesome, Jenn! We don't have any big Easter plans, but I did wake up to find an egg (a real uncooked one) on my keyboard this morning. The bunny has a sense of humor!

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    1. That's hilarious. Next time tell the bunny you want it in an omelette.

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  21. My grandma used to make lamb cakes, with coconut in the white icing. I'm enjoying your suggestion of all guns being icing guns, and adding it a my student's slogan, "Drop pies, not bombs." We could make the world a much happier place. ;-)

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    1. Oh, yes, we could cure a lot of ills with pie.

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  22. My mother used to make individual egg-shaped cakes, about six inches end to end. She would cover them with a special candy-like frosting and decorated each one beautifully and would say Happy Easter, Joey (or whatever your name was). My favorite was made with yellow cake and chocolate frosting. I loved them. Everyone that came to visit during the Easter weekend had their own. Really was nice. One of my grandmothers was Polish/Russian and made the most gorgeous easter eggs you've ever seen by painting them with food color. She sometimes used wax in creating the design. She died very young, so I never learned her secrets. I love buying beautiful pastries for guests to bring home. I no longer feel that home made is best.

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    1. Oh, I wish I could see those eggs - they sound amazing!

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    2. Thank you, yes, and a great childhood memory!

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  23. Jenn, your bunny cake looks yummy. It reminded me of your yummy books :-) Since I read three series by you, I call them the Hat Shop books, the Library books, and the yummy books.

    Traditions? I remember going on Easter Egg hunts when I was little. One year we visited my grandfather on Easter weekend. When I woke up on Easter morning, I was hoping the Easter Bunny left toys or something like that. Instead, the Easter Bunny left cash. I did not understand the concept or importance of money at that time. Ha ha.

    I did not know that Easter was a religious holiday until I was in college. I always thought of Easter as the Easter bunny, cookies and chocolate bunnies.

    One year I was working at the White House (another lifetime ago) and I volunteered at the Easter Egg Roll. That was so fun! The kids got wooden Easter Eggs.

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