aking decorative Easter treats can be a lot of tasty fun. Aside from the colorful bounties of an Easter basket, there are lots of food possibilities that double as decorations.
One favorite is a cut-up cake. You bake a cake using pans that you probably already have at home, cut the shape you want and decorate it. I am perfectly aware that there are some wonderfully cute pans out there that will mold your cake into the shape you are seeking and the outcome is very nice. However, I don’t often follow that path because that would require planning ahead. I would have to make a trip to the store — one that carries such pans — and purchase it. Next, what is the likelihood that I will want to make a bunny cake again in July or October? I will have to find a place to store said pan until the next year. I also may not decide to make a bunny cake again the next year, but the pan lingers on and I would again have to plan ahead, do the shopping and find the pan I want that year. In addition, I don’t want to spend money for a pan I will probably only use once. I call it being thrifty — others may call it being cheap.
If I choose to make a cut-up cake, I can decide some evening to flip on the oven and bake the cake. Then the next day I can decorate it. Odds are pretty good that I will already have the powdered sugar and seasonal candies to decorate it — or will soon be getting them anyway.
Then there are the Easter eggs. Whether or not you subscribe to the concept of eggs dropped off by a rabbit, the colors of decorated eggs add to the season. We could go into a treatise on the virtues of eggs in the human diet and make ourselves feel very good about eating such nourishing food, but we won’t. Realistically, we make and eat Easter eggs as a tasty tradition and because they bring back our own old Easter memories.
Decorated eggs probably originated in pre-Christian times as a symbol of fertility. This connection between eggs, fertility and rebirth was pretty universally picked up by civilizations around the world. But most of us today aren’t particularly concerned about decorated 60,000-year-old ostrich eggs still found in Africa. Nor do we consider the 5,000-year-old gold and silver ostrich egg representations found in the graves of ancient Sumeria or Egypt as we decorate chicken eggs in our kitchen. It is all about the fun of creation and the memories that go with it.
There must be hundreds of ways to color eggs from food-coloring dyes and food coloring tablets that dissolve in hot water to vegetable dye designs and waxes and dyes used to create Pysanky eggs.
My daughter, Heather, showed me another nifty trick to dye eggs that she found online. It involves scraps of silk, hot water and vinegar. The process is simple and the outcome can be lovely. There is a little guessing involved, because not all silk-dyed patterns are created equal. Some create lovely impressions on the eggs and others are less effective.
The basic concept is to gather from your own supplies a tie, scarf or other fabric item made from pure silk bearing an attractive pattern. If you don’t have something already on hand, pay a visit to a thrift store. Polyester and blends won’t do the job, so check labels. Each piece of fabric probably makes only one dyed egg, so plan accordingly.
If you are using a tie, undo the seams and open the tie up. Remove any lining in the tie. The important point is to end up with just one layer of pure silk fabric.
The basic recipe is below. If you need more details, the link to the website is http://www.ourbestbites.com/2012/03/silk-dyed-eggs-aka-tie-dyed/. If that doesn’t take you there, go to www.ourbestbites.com and do a search for silk dyed eggs.
Silk Dyed Easter Eggs
Cut pieces of 100 percent silk large enough to cover an egg. Wrap as smoothly and tightly around a raw egg as possible, with right side of fabric facing in and secure with a twist-tie or piece of string. Enclose the silk fabric by wrapping with a plain piece of lightweight fabric, like an old white pillowcase or sheet following the same steps as the silk fabric.
Place eggs in a large stockpot and cover with water at least 2 inches above eggs. Add 1/4 cup white vinegar. Bring pan to a boil and reduce to simmer. Simmer for 20 minutes and then use a pair of tongs to remove eggs and lay them (still wrapped) on layers of paper towels or an old dishtowel. Let cool to room temperature and then remove the fabric wrappings. Store in the fridge until ready to display. If desired, rub with a small amount of vegetable oil for shine.
Easter Bunny Cut-Up Cake
Mix your favorite cake recipe. A more dense cake is preferable to avoid crumbling. If you are making a lighter cake or if using a cake mix, freeze the cake before frosting for easier handling.
Great Chocolate Cake
3/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon shortening
1 1/8 cups sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon cocoa
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon soda
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 3/8 cups sour milk
Cream together shortening and sugar until very light. Blend in vanilla and cocoa powder. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Mix flour, soda and salt. Add flour mixture alternately with sour milk, mixing well after each addition. Put some of the cake mix into a floured and greased cupcake pan to bake for about 15 to 20 minutes.
Pour remaining batter into two greased and floured 8-inch round layer cake pans or use parchment cut to fit the inside bottom of the pan. Bake for about 30 to 35 minutes. Time may vary according to the pan size and oven differences. Check for doneness using a toothpick.
Allow cakes to cool about 10 minutes in the pan, then remove and place on cooling rack until completely cool. Freeze cake if using a cake mix.
Turn one layer over and frost the flat side. Place the other layer on top. Then cut the cake exactly in half and stand each half on the cut side. Frost the exposed parts of the cake with soft frosting. Press coconut “fur” onto the frosting. Frost the bottom and sides of a cupcake to make a tail, and place on one side of the rounded upright cake. Secure in place with toothpicks.
Frost and press coconut onto the frosted cupcake. Repeat with the other cake. Decorate the “face” end of cake with round candy eyes and nose making whiskers of licorice whips. Cut colored paper to make ears. Make two v-shaped slits in the cake with a knife and slip the ears into the slits.
Put about 3/4 cup of coconut into a glass jar and add two or three drops of green food coloring. Shake until the coconut is dyed an even green color. Scatter the coconut “grass” around the base of the rabbit and add candy eggs and other decorations.