When I was a little girl, my mother used to make a bunny cake for us at Easter. She cut the instructions for assembling the cake out of Parade magazine in 1968 (photo below), which showed a finished cake as well as diagrams for cutting two round cakes into the shapes necessary to make two ears, a head, body, and four paws, and for assembling the pieces. She saved the instructions in her recipe box, carefully folded and taped to hold it together, but it's been many years since she made one. Now that I have children and we go to visit my parents around Easter time, she decided to revive the tradition and on Sunday we all made a bunny cake together. The boys were very excited about the cake, and my oldest helped with the decorating. Let's just say there was lots of coconut everywhere! I don't remember ever helping my mother make the Easter bunny cake when I was young, so it was especially heartwarming for me to watch my children help her.
To make the bunny, you bake two 9-inch round cakes using whatever cake recipe you choose, though it should be a cake that isn't too soft because you need a texture that will stand up to carving and frosting on the open cut sides. We tried a Five Flavor Pound Cake recipe but skipped the soaking syrup, and it tasted great and worked very well for carving and frosting. (I plan to make that cake again with the soaking syrup and post about it separately.) After the cakes have cooled thoroughly, cut each cake according to the diagrams below and then place the pieces together.
We used a plastic bowl as the pattern to cut the circle piece, then just cut the large ring into eight pieces. After frosting the cake, decorate with flaked coconut, jellybeans, and licorice. Instead of adding a bow, we made a "pearl' necklace out of jellybeans and named our bunny Pearl.
The instructions call for a two-egg white Seven Minute Frosting, a simple frosting made from sugar, egg whites, water, cream of tartar, and vanilla and mixed in a double boiler over medium heat. The recipe comes from an old cookbook that my paternal grandmother used for many years, and it makes enough to frost two 8-inch cake layers, so is not quite enough for this cake. I recommend making extra, perhaps another half batch if you don't want leftovers, or just doubling the batch if you want copious amounts of frosting.
My grandmother's cookbook is called The Pocket Cook Book, a small paperback published in 1942 with about 500 pages and 1300 recipes. Some of the pages have notes written by her and the spine has been taped several times. The book was published during a time when frugality was encouraged due to the need for materials during World War II, and the book has some references to that time. On the very first page before the title page, there is a message in italics, which reads, "In order to cooperate with the government's war effort, this book has been made in strict conformity with WPB regulations restricting the use of certain materials." WPB stands for War Production Board, an organization established by executive order in 1942 which was responsible for regulating materials necessary for the military efforts during World War II. There is also a chapter called Penny Stretchers, which has a list of all the recipes in the book that can be made on a budget, "For all those dark moments when the kitchen cash box is almost empty and inspiration for appetizing economy dishes seems to have fled forever..." And it closes with the admonition, "Waste nothing! The promise to war against waste is part of our government's Consumer Pledge. Be sure nothing wholesome or edible ever sees the inside of your garbage pail." The pledge the book refers to is The Consumer's Victory Pledge created by the Office of Price Administration which was tasked with protecting the war economy from rampant inflation through price controls. Homemakers were asked to sign a pledge stating:
As a consumer, in the total defense of democracy, I will do my part to make my home, my community, my country ready, efficient, strong.
I will buy carefully--and I will not buy anything above the ceiling price, no matter how much I may want it.
I will take good care of the things I have--and I will not buy anything made from vital war materials which I can get along without.
I will waste nothing--and I will take care to salvage everything needed to win the war.
Looking through the book and my subsequent readings on food and materials rationing during that era has been an exercise in peering into the minds of my grandparents, and gives me more of an appreciation for what it was like to have food rationed and to truly work to make your food dollar go as far as possible.
I went to visit my parents this week knowing that I would make a cake which would bring back wonderful memories, but not knowing that it would lead me down a path of research into an era that profoundly influenced my grandparents and my parents. Apples & Thyme is a food blogging event that celebrates time in the kitchen with our mother's and grandmothers, and making this cake with my mother was certainly a celebration of some wonderful food memories. Visit Vanielje Kitchen for more information on the event and to read the inspirational stories from other food bloggers.
Make it Gluten-Free or Dairy-Free
Use a gluten-free or dairy-free cake.
Easter Bunny Cake
- 2 (9-inch) round cake pans
- half sheet pan or cardboard cake base
- hand mixer
- double boiler or pot with a bowl that will fit tightly in the pot without touching the water
- small bowl
- 2 9-inch round cakes (gluten free or other, choose your flavor, completely cooled)
- 12 ounces frozen coconut flakes (thawed)
- ½ cup sweetened flake coconut
- 2 drops red food coloring
- gluten-free jelly beans (red or pink)
- gluten-free string licorice (red or black)
Frosting (make 1-½ to 2 batches)
- 2 egg whites (room temperature)
- 1½ cups confectioners sugar
- ¼ teaspoon cream of tartar
- pinch salt
- ⅓ cup water
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- In the small bowl, stir the sweetened flake coconut (not the frozen coconut) with the drops of red food coloring until all of the coconut flakes take on a pink hue. Set aside.
Carve and Assemble
- Cut the cakes according to the diagrams below. Use the square as the body of the bunny and the cuts from the square as the ears. Use the small circle as the head of the bunny and the cuts from the circle as the feet.
- Bring water to a boil in the pot of the double boiler. Mix together the egg whites, sugar, salt, cream of tartar and water in the bowl. Place the bowl over the boiling water and beat with the and mixer for about 7 minutes, or until the mixture turns white and fluffy and has soft peaks. Stir in the vanilla extract and frost the cake immediately.
- Sprinkle the thawed frozen coconut all over the surface of the frosted cake. Add the pink coconut for the inner ears, nose, and the paws. Add cut strings of licorice to the paws, mouth, and eyes. Add jelly beans for the mouth, eyes, and nose. You can add a bow as in the original or some other decoration around the neck.
Wow... you've brought back memories! My mom made this cake for my 7th or 8th birthday... whichever one fell on Easter Sunday. Thanks for bringing this back...I'm looking forward to trying this in MY kitchen.
african vanielje says
Andrea this is a really interesting post, thank you, and a great cake too. Well done to your boys and your mother. I think that being careful about what you buy and not wasting valuable resources in wartime has a lesson to teach us about not wasting our ever diminishing resources now. Real food for thought. Thank you. Hope you have a peaceful easter. xxInge
A 'pearl' of a lesson (and post!) for sure! Happy Easter!
How absolutely darling! I've always been impressed by shaped cakes like this.
I love those old WWII cookbooks--they really offer some interesting insight into keeping a frugal kitchen, not to mention some fun recipes (like how to cook a raccoon).
Susan from Food Blogga says
Ooh, this cake brings back so many memories for me. I used to make a similar bunny cake but I had licorice whips for whiskers. Now, I want to make one again after seeing how precious yours looks!
Patricia David-Smith says
THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU!!! I misplaced my copy many years ago and my daughters have been wanting to make this bunny cake for their daughters. Thanks to you an old Easter tradition will continue!!
your cake is very nice.
I remember this cake, but the one we did most often was the Easter basket one. You did a 3-layer, 9-inch round, iced the sides with basketweave, tinted coconut green for Easter grass, and then made a handle and pushed it into the cake. Then my mom would have me die my eggs and put those in "the basket". That one came from the newspaper in 1979.
This is the same picture I used for almost 40 years with my kids and grandkids. It came from a Cut-ups cookbook pamphlet and I am sure it was from Angel Flake coconut too. It is stained and well-worn, but we loved making the tradition last. I was sending it to my daughter in Tenn. and was trying to find one similar to it with a picture. Yours was exactly what I needed. Thanks!
Making memories is the best part of family!
After looking for about 3 hours for cute bunny cakes, I found yours. I think I will try to brave it tomorrow, for my family. I'm nervous about frosting bare cake, but.... It's a very cute cake. Thanks!
What a great post! I love the tape on the article...:) A true sign of a well loved, often used recipe.
What fascinating information from those cookbooks and the wartime. I love reading that kind of history.
The bunny cake is too cute. I love that you keep those old recipes and still make them. Thanks for participating!
Great post. Brings back great memories. I remember my mom making this cake 30 years ago or so for Easter. I know she got the pattern out of the weekend edition of the newspaper. She made a lot of cakes for us that were decorated with coconut.
Teri Greaves says
I too have been making this cake every year since 1968 - now my daughters and grandchildren do the cutting and decorating!! My recipe was called "Baker's Bunny Cake" but looks exactly like the "taped" one above. Secret tip: freeze the two layers ahead of time - this makes cutting and frosting much easier - and cake can be done ahead of time this way. (I even have a "special" board cut to fit cake that I line with foil each year - have added "green coconut" grass and sometimes jelly bean flowers in the grass! Another tip - I used to use an elaborate carrot cake and frosting recipe - one year when I ran out of time I used a boxed carrot cake (with pineapple, coconut and nuts added) and canned whipped cream cheese frosting - everyone raved it was "best ever" - so guess what I have used ever since! We love holiday traditions - enjoy and have a Blessed Easter!
This cake is so adorable! I would really love to make it for Easter, but have family members who do not like coconut. Would icing alone work or are there any other suggestions? (whipped topping,...) Thanks!
My mom had the cookbook that you got the bunny from. What is the name of it? where can I get a copy?
I'd buy a photocopy from you, if you can't help me find an original copy.
Hi Loren. My mother found this recipe in Parade Magazine, but it was published in a pamphlet from Baker's Coconut called Baker's Coconut Cut-Up Cakes, I believe the 1965 version. It's occasionally available from sellers at the Amazon Marketplace.
Chez Us says
OMG! I have to pull out my childhood photos - my mom made that cake for one of my birthdays, I think my 4th one. I completely remember it and I even remember my outfit - red dress and white go-go boots! LOVE it!!!!
I so want to make that cake for easter!
The boys look forward to this cake every year. 🙂
I just googled bunny cake and found you. This is the bunny cake my mom used to make when I was little. I"m 56, so this was a LONG time ago!