My boss had been talking about Easter since the end of April. Last year. Since we’d been planning our evening of Easter crafts for almost an entire year, it’s no surprise we went a little bit overboard with the amount of projects we undertook to make.
At the office, we each have a favorite holiday, barring Christmas, of course, since everybody loves Christmas. Mine is Thanksgiving, Ellen’s is Halloween, and Shaun’s is Easter. So far, we’ve done a great job of celebrating them all – I hosted my traditional Thanksgiving potluck, and we even threw a Halloween party where all our guests had to dress up as fairy tale characters.
But Easter is something special for Shaun, partly because of a long-ago childhood trauma involving sugar eggs. Let’s go back in time to a sepia-colored San Francisco, where a little 5th grade Shaun is eagerly anticipating the day the entire class gets to make sugar eggs and sell them as a fundraiser. For years, he’s watched the older kids spin sugar and decorate their eggs with pretty pastel icing and sprinkles, for years he’s been looking forward to this moment. And he’s so excited when his teacher stands before the class to make the announcement that the time has come… to make pizzas.
What a betrayal. Our protagonist is crushed. But this Easter, we strove to give back what was taken from him so long ago: Crafts.
Though we don’t all suffer the same Easter trauma, we’d all been looking forward to our crafts night for weeks. One internet search turned up another, and by the time we were ready to start, our roster was pretty full:
Bunny butt carrot cake
Bunny butt cupcakes
Rainbow Jello eggs
Rainbow pastel meringues
And on top of that, we decided to make traditional Easter enchiladas. (What, that’s not traditional where you’re from? Huh…)
It was set to be an epic night, so we enlisted the help of Shaun’s friend Deborah – partly for her charming personality and partly for her superb baking skills.
The evening was off to a good start. Shaun put finishing touches on the enchiladas while Deborah mixed gin and tonics made with her own homemade tonic. And while the tonic was an odd, murky brown, it tasted so much better than any store-bought tonic I’ve had – slightly sweet and spiced with warm cardamom.
While dinner was a rousing success on the one hand – the enchiladas were perfectly spicy and cheesy, the chicken, which had simmered all day on the stovetop, rich and juicy inside its crepe blanket – it was an uphill battle to begin our crafts, as we struggled to resist the onset of a happy food coma.
But battles needed to be fought. Old wounds needed to be healed. We had to make rainbow Jello eggs.
In the kitchen, we broke up into stations. Ellen and I are tackled the cakes, Shaun whipped up meringue, and Deborah started on the Jello eggs. We were focused and efficient and there was food coloring everywhere.
Slowly, surely, the many disparate parts began to look like things. The cupcakes were finished first, and suddenly we had an army of little marshmallow bunnies sticking their butts in the air. Ellen and I attacked the bunny butt cake with renewed vigor.
I never was very good at arts and crafts. Whatever it looks like on the internet, mine will look nothing like that, which is why I was not surprised that our bunny butt, perilously held together with toothpicks, was looking pretty sad. But as we began to cover it with frosting, sealing over the cracks between cupcake legs and half-dome body, and then when we started slathering it with frosting, I began to be more optimistic. It did actually look a little bit like a bunny. By the time we shaped our last marzipan carrots, I was so darn pleased with the whole thing I didn’t even care if it tasted like burnt tofu. (It did not, by the way – it was dangerously delicious.)
Over in corner number two, Shaun was paddling brightly-colored clouds of meringue into a pastry bag and dotting a baking sheet with shimmery-hued puffs. The Jello eggs were taking shape.
Evening had turned into night and we were slowing down. We finished the last pastry bag of meringue, and still, the Jello eggs were at rainbow layer 5 of 12. Even brave Easter warriors tire, and Ellen and I laid down our pastry knives and said goodnight.
The next morning, the sun seemed to shine brighter. We knew that waiting for us was a giant pink bunny covered in coconut, a herd of bunny cupcakes, sweet pastel meringues, and – we presumed – perfectly striped rainbow eggs. Easter could arrive. The lamb could be roasted, the new potatoes drizzled with olive oil and rosemary, the asparagus wrapped in prosciutto.
We learned some things during this year’s foray into Easter crafts. Not to tackle four projects, for instance, if we plan to start them at 7:00 p.m. Or that red food coloring really sticks to things. In any case, this year was just the warm up. Next year, we’re doing sugar eggs.
Bunny Butt Carrot Cake
While a bunny butt is certainly novel, and definitely fun, this carrot cake is absolutely delicious – dense, spicy, and moist – even without a tail and construction paper ears. Though you may impress less people that way.
For the cake:
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 ½ tsp. baking soda
2 ½ tsp. baking powder
½ tsp. salt
3 tsp. cinnamon
½ tsp. nutmeg
1 ¼ cups vegetable oil
1 cup white sugar
1 cup packed dark brown sugar
2 tsp. vanilla
3 ½ cups grated carrots
1 cup walnuts
Non-stick cooking spray
For the frosting:
8 oz. cream cheese, softened
1 stick butter, softened
2 cups powdered sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract
Special equipment & decorations:
Half-sphere cake pan
6 ½ cups shredded coconut
Red food coloring
Green food coloring
Orange food coloring
Green shoe string licorice
Two shades of pink construction paper
Round platter (preferably with a lip)
Preheat oven to 325º F (165º C). Spray form and two of a cupcake tin’s cupcake holes (is there actually a word for this?) with non-stick cooking spray.
In a medium-sized bowl, mix together dry ingredients: flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Set aside. In a large bowl, whisk together eggs, oil, sugars, and vanilla for about a minute, until well blended. Add dry ingredients and whisk for another two minutes. Fold in grated carrots and nuts.
Pour batter into prepared cake pan and muffin tin. The cake will need approximately 60-70 minutes to bake, the cupcakes about 30 minutes. The cupcakes/cake are done when a toothpick inserted into their center comes out clean. When the cupcakes/cake are done, remove from oven and allow to cool in the form(s).
While the cupcakes/cake are baking, prepare your decorations. Add a few drops of red food coloring to 4 cups of the shredded coconut. Wearing plastic gloves (to avoid looking like you’ve recently axe-murdered someone), knead the food coloring into the coconut until it is a uniform, soft pink. (We left ours a little speckled, which looked nice, too.) Set aside. Add a few drops of green food coloring to 2 cups of the shredded coconut and repeat the process. You may want to wash the gloves or don a new pair to avoid creating pink-green grass. Set aside.
Make marzipan carrots: Wearing either a new or washed pair of plastic gloves, knead marzipan and orange food coloring together until the marzipan is evenly orange. Shape into a small carrot. Insert green shoe string licorice into the top of the carrot (we used a toothpick to fasten the two together). Make as many carrots as you like. Set aside.
Make construction paper ears: It is harder to describe how to cut out construction paper ears than anticipated. So… Look at the picture and figure it out. You’re smart. (Hint: Use a glue stick to paste two pieces of paper together. Novel!)
Make cream cheese frosting: Beat together cream cheese and butter until creamy. Add powdered sugar and beat for another minute. Add vanilla and beat for another minute. Add just a small drop of red food coloring and stir with a spoon.
Once the cake is cool, carefully flip it over onto the platter and remove it from the rounded pan. Remove cupcakes. With two toothpicks, attach one of the cupcakes to the cake just slightly below the top of the cake. This will be the bunny’s tail. Cut the other cupcake in half. Use toothpicks to attach the halves to the base of the cake (cut side down on the platter). These will be the bunny feet.
Completely cover the cake with frosting, making sure to fill in any gaps between the bunny’s body and appendages. Sprinkle white coconut on the bunny’s tail, covering as much of it as possible. Sprinkle pink coconut all over the body of the bunny, leaving the tail white. Clean up any excess pink coconut/frosting on the platter.
Cut pink gummies to look like a foot pad (one larger pad and three smaller pads for the toes). Press into the feet. Fill the platter with green coconut.
Insert ears into the front of the cake. Garnish with carrots. Impress everyone.