This weekend is Easter and this cake has been a long standing tradition in my house – both growing up and since I became an actual adult to make a coconut bunny cake. It was the first dessert I brought to the first Easter brunch we were invited to in Charleston. Even in the South amongst the stiff competition of easter puddings and the fruit trifles, this cake became a major topic of conversation. Something about it makes me and everyone who sees it just… happy. My cousins used to spend every Easter at our house and after tearing through our Easter baskets and several pounds of candy, this was the sugar high we looked forward to after Easter brunch just as we were coming down from our Peeps. I think the recipe was torn from some early 80s magazine and though I now have it memorized, I remember the way it was stapled to an index card in my Mom’s recipe box, We were fiercely loyal to the bunny cake – not so much for its flavor (although it is pretty good) but for its look, its texture and its comforting consistency of presentation year after year. The acid green coconut “grass,” the jelly bean eyes, the chocolate chip trim… My Mom would store it in what she referred to as the “cold closet” after it was prepared and the cream cheese frosting had a great chill to it when you finally dug in to it. It was even good as leftovers a couple days later with a cold glass of milk. It is remarkably easy to make… and of course, fun.
Also, proof that I am not lying when I say I have been making this forever, this is me at age 7 or 8:
What you need (for the cake):
- A box of chocolate cake mix
- 3 eggs
- vegetable oil
- two 9″ round baking pans
- two bags of sweetened coconut divided into three bowls
- jelly beans
- Twizzlers pull and peel
- semi-sweet chocolate chips
After baking two 9″ chocolate cakes (and banging them loose from the pan – Daphne’s favorite part) keep one fully intact for the “head,” then, cut the second cake in three pieces, the “bowtie” that is the middle part of the circle and the two “ears” that make up the negative space once you cut out the bowtie.
All four pieces should then be carefully transferred onto a separate tray or platter. If it is not done perfectly, it is not a big deal because it all gets covered in icing.
What you need (for the icing):
- stick of butter
- 16 oz. cream cheese
- 1 box of confectioners sugar
- vanilla extract
We always made it with cream cheese frosting (ingredients listed above, basic recipe can be found here). It seems to go best with the flavor of the coconut and chocolate once completed. The entire head, ears and bowtie should be covered in frosting. Then, take the white coconut first and cover all the frosting in a layer of white coconut. Once a layer of white coconut has been added, pink coconut should be used to fill in the ears and bowtie. (This should be made in advance in a separate bowl using red food coloring). Once sprinkled inside the ears and bowtie, use the chocolate chips (evenly spaced) to outline the pink areas:
Jelly bean accents work well for the eyes and nose and Twizzlers pull and peel make the perfect bunny whiskers:
The most fun part is the last step… sprinkling the “grass” – the dyed green coconut – around the giant bunny head:
And our finished bunny!
Good enough to eat… Happy Easter!