A family tradition that gets sweeter with time
I'm fortunate enough to reside in a section of the country where I can enjoy all four seasons that Mother Nature so generously provides. Each has its own sounds, smells, and unpredictable weather patterns. Last week, we were surprised by a snow shower out of the blue.
Though I love every season—the lazy days of summer, the crispness of a fall morning, the stillness of a winter night—there’s one that outshines the rest. It lifts my spirits like nothing else. It's spring. When the acropolis tulips and grape hyacinths begin popping up in my yard, pushing through the bitter, cold soil, a sense of hope encompasses me. If my "girls," as I affectionately refer to any flower I come across, have the audacity to put themselves out there in the face of the harsh, unforgiving elements, what am I capable of?
As much as I adore the floral gifts that this glorious season bestows upon me each year, I believe the actual reason it has such a particular place in my heart is due to a simple tradition passed down to me on an April afternoon decades ago. A "tradition," according to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, is the oral transmission of information, beliefs, and practices from one generation to the next without the use of written instructions. I couldn’t have said it better myself.
Easter was a favorite holiday for my grandmother, Ovaleta, or Granny, as we called her. Every spring, she was always busy with holiday preparations, and nothing made me happier than the opportunity to assist her. We would spend hours dyeing dozens of eggs at her dining room table, which was piled high with newspapers and teacups filled with food coloring, for our church's annual egg hunt. It was our special time together, but that was just the beginning. After we spray painted the gold and silver eggs (they were containers of L’eggs stockings), we would head to her kitchen. It was time for the tradition. Our tradition, spending the afternoon making dozens of our beloved bunny cakes.
I began making these delectable concoctions when I was five years old, around the time I could hold a mixer in my tiny hand. I can't recall a single spring in the last forty-five years (yes, you can do the arithmetic) when I didn't make a batch. I've made hundreds for friends and neighbors. But most importantly, for my family. Though my sons enjoy eating these seasonal treats, they've never been interested in learning how they're made. My daughter, Ansley, however, was ecstatic about the prospect of working as my sous chef. She has never missed an opportunity to devote a couple of hours in pursuit of the perfect bunny cake, offering up new ideas as well. Like the year she persuaded me to make individual fondant lacrosse sticks to go along with the cakes she was preparing for her school team. There were fifteen of them, to be precise. That was an adventure, but above all, it was a memory. We still have a good laugh over it.
Ansley never met my grandmother, yet she pays tribute to her every spring when she decides to carry on this family tradition with me. The one that began half a century ago in a Kentucky kitchen. Because of my daughter, Granny's bunny cakes will live on in the future. That brings a smile to my face, filling my heart with gratitude!
Do you have a favorite family tradition? Please share it in the comment section below!
Until next time…
Ovaleta Gibbs’ Bunny Cake
This recipe makes two cakes and years of cherished memories.
1 package of vanilla cake mix (or any flavor you like)
2 containers of vanilla frosting
2 packages of coconut
10 drops of green food coloring (more if needed)
2 purple jelly beans
1 pink jelly bean
1 piece of white construction paper
1 piece of pink construction paper
1 roll of tape
1 package of decorative chocolate Easter Eggs
Follow the directions on the mix box and pour batter into two 9-inch cake rounds that have been lined with parchment paper. Bake according to the instructions.
While the cakes are in the oven, pour one package of coconut into a large bowl, and mix with the green food coloring (this will become the grass around the bunny.) Set aside.
Allow the cakes to cool completely, at least two hours.
Once cooled, flip one cake upside down onto a plate. Cut the cake in half down the middle, and spread about 1/3 of the frosting on one side, then put the halves together. Place the cake upright, flat side down.
Cut a small notch on one end (this forms the head) and move the excess to the back (this forms the tail). Carefully, frost the rest of the cake.
Gently press handfuls of the second bag of coconut onto the cake, covering it completely. The thicker, the better (this becomes the fur).
Cut out two long semi-circles for the bunny ears with the white construction paper, while cutting smaller semi-circles out of the pink paper. Use the tape to secure the ears together and pinch the bottoms. Insert the ears at the top of the head.
Use the purple jelly beans for the eyes and the pink one for the nose.
Sprinkle the “green coconut” around the bunny (this makes the grass) and add the chocolate eggs.