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Easter Menu and Bunny Cake

 “What do you want for Easter dinner? Anyone like to suggest a new menu?” Husband’s sister sent this message. She organizes family gatherings and makes sure we don’t all take potato salad.

Easter dinner is actually lunch, served sometime around noon. True southerners know this. I’m surprised Sister thinks anyone would like a new menu. What’s Easter dinner without ham and rolls and potato salad and broccoli salad and deviled eggs and an Easter bunny cake? Husband’s siblings, with children and grandchildren, gather for a family egg hunt and dinner. And maybe the menu can change, but no matter what, I’m baking a cake.

Two weeks ago, my 8-year-old Grand asked, “Gran, when are we going to make the Easter bunny cake?” Not, will we? Not, can we? When? I’ll bake a two-layer cake in round pans. And then the Grands, who want to, will help ice and decorate it. Ten years ago, when our oldest Grand was almost two, I invited him to help spread icing and make the bunny’s face. I never imagined that something so simple would become a tradition.

You know the bunny cake that has a big round face, long ears, and a bowtie. Every year I pull out the 3 x 5 index card that has a small picture of the finished cake and a diagram of how to cut one layer into almost thirds. For the bunny’s ears, I cut two elliptical shapes from each side, leaving a bowtie shape in the middle.

The picture shows a round bunny face, covered with white icing and coconut. Short red, narrow licorice candy stings form the mouth and whiskers. A green jellybean for the nose. Two pink ones for the eyes. Pink tinted coconut colors the ears. And about a dozen jellybeans decorate the bowtie. Our bunnies are sloppy, glitzy cousins to this one.

My Grands don’t like coconut. And I provide many jelly beans. After all, when three or four Grands want to help, the bunny is divided into parts so that everyone has the freedom to decorate one part. My Grands have created a rotation and they know whose turn it is to decorate the favorite part, the face. Others choose an ear or the bowtie. Our bunny’s ears and bowties are laden with color. Sometimes in a pattern. Sometimes random designs. Sometimes a single color. Always completely covered with candy and the ears never match.

Sometimes our bunny smiles. Sometimes frowns. Sometimes has an open mouth. He’s even had tears. What else would you call yellow jellybeans below red eyes? He’s had eyebrows and purple jellybeans whiskers and bugs in ears. Black jellybeans do look like bugs.

“Gran, don’t forget. The bunny is chocolate. Not that yellow cake,” I was told. One year, I absentmindedly baked a yellow cake. You just don’t mess the flavor of the bunny cake. But maybe we could change the other Easter dinner dishes. Anyone like to suggest a menu?

Easter Eggs

 

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Brown eggs don’t dye pretty colors like white eggs – except for purple.  Brown eggs dipped in purple water turn a beautiful dark wine color.  Most colors – yellow, green, blue – made brown eggs look like a clod of dirt.  Granny’s chickens laid brown eggs and Mom certainly never considered taking only wine colored eggs to the church Easter egg hunt.  That’s why, when I was a kid, Mom bought white eggs to color.

 

Each church family took colored eggs for the egg hunt.  On Saturday afternoon before Easter Mom boiled several dozen eggs – some white from the grocery store and some brown from Granny’s henhouse.  Mom and I, and my brother if Mom could rope him into helping, (teen-age boys think they’ve outgrown such childhood activities) colored each egg.  We used the Paas dye – tablets that dissolve in water.

 

Mom didn’t like plain one-color eggs.  We did half blue and half green eggs and tri-color eggs.  We’d color an egg all yellow and then dip each end in blue or red.  Using a paraffin pencil we’d draw designs that wouldn’t absorb color before dunking an egg in a color solution.  We decorated with glitter and sequins —anything to make an egg look fancy.

 

We colored a few brown eggs in red and purple liquid dyes and used crayons to draw designs on most.  Mom drew rabbits and simple flowers.  My favorite way to color brown eggs was with multi-colored stripes and zigzag lines and circles.  We spent what seemed like all afternoon sitting together at the kitchen table.

 

I dyed eggs with my children and now with my Grands.  Next week I’ll throw a plastic tablecloth over my kitchen table and bring out boiled eggs and coloring supplies.  The box of Paas dye hasn’t changed – except for the price – in 50 years.  And I’m glad.  There’s something magical about dropping a small colored tablet into three tablespoons of white vinegar and making brilliant colors, before diluting the solution with a half-cup of water.

 

And ever year, someone asks, “Why do you have to add the vinegar?”  Because the directions say to isn’t a good enough answer.  The vinegar creates an acid solution so that the colors bond with the calcium in the shell. And sometimes there’s more ‘why’ questions.

 

I know that plastic eggs are cheaper than real eggs and prizes or candy can be put inside each plastic one, but I like real Easter eggs.  The ones you boil and color.  And in the process, it’s a time to talk and laugh and create.  It’s not just about coloring eggs; it’s about the shared experience.

 

A few days ago, my seven-year-old Grand asked, “Gran, when are we going to color Easter eggs?”  I like that.  She didn’t ask, “Are we going to color Easter eggs?”   She asked, “When?”  Then she said, “I’m going to draw designs with crayons on some.”   Good, because I have some brown eggs to be colored and I don’t like Easter eggs that look like a dirt clods.

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