The Bunny Cake

By Sally Loesch
on March 27, 2017

Spring is officially here and with Easter fast approaching, we're busy sewing bunny hats! That, and the fact that I spent much of Saturday watching The Great British Baking Show, got me in the mood to bake a Bunny Cake. (Spoiler alert, my cake decorating skills would get me sent home from a baking competition in the first round.) But The Bunny Cake is a simple, lovably kitschy spring dessert that kids will enjoy helping to bake, decorate, and eat. My husband grew up eating this cake every Easter, and we love carrying on the tradition.

You can use any kind of cake you like; white is traditional, carrot would be fitting, but chocolate is my absolute favorite, so that's what we're going with today. You can print the recipe here. And before you start, set out 2 sticks (1 cup) of unsalted butter for the icing. You'll need it at room temperature.

Start by brewing some fresh coffee - you'll need one cup. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and grease and flour two 9" round cake pans. In a large mixing bowl, measure out 2 1/4 cups flour, 2 cups sugar, 2 teaspoons baking soda, 2 teaspoons baking powder, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and 3/4 cup baking cocoa. I like to then sift everything together to get rid of any lumps.

In another bowl, mix together 3/4 cup canola or vegetable oil, 1 cup milk, and 2 large eggs. Mix the wet ingredients into the dry, beating until combined. Then, with a mixing spoon, gently stir 1 cup of hot coffee into the batter. It will take a minute, so even if it seems like the coffee's not mixing in, just keep at it. When the batter is well combined, pour it evenly into the two cake pans and bake for 30-35 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cakes comes out clean.

 

 

 

 


Let the cakes cool for a few minutes, then turn them out of the pans onto a rack to finish cooling. When they're cool, cut one of the cakes to make two ears and a bow tie, as in the picture. The other cake will be the bunny's face. Arrange the pieces on a large platter or cutting board.

Make the icing by beating one cup of softened butter until it's smooth. Then sift in 3 cups of powdered sugar and beat until combined. Add 1/2 a teaspoon vanilla extract and 2 tablespoons of milk, mixing again until combined. At this point, you can add up to 1 more cup of powdered sugar, stopping when you're happy with the icing's consistency.

When you've finished the face and ears, add food coloring of your choice to the reserved frosting and use it to decorate the bow tie. You can decorate the face however you'd like. I believe jelly beans are the traditional choice for eyes. I used a little of the blue frosting left-over from the bow tie for the eyes on this one, and piped some melted chocolate to make the nose, mouth and whiskers. Polka dots on the bow tie always look good.

I love fancy desserts; puff pastry filled with a little crème pâtissière and home-made jam is high on my list of absolute favorite foods. But there will always be room in this house for the beloved Bunny Cake. I hope you enjoy making it. Have fun, and share your pictures with us!

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Homemade Fruit Juice Jellies

By Sally Loesch
on February 23, 2017

       Jello occupies a special place in the world of quick and easy desserts. Many of us have fond childhood memories of it and the fun of molding it never gets old. You can serve it in individual dishes, cut it in squares or with cookie cutters, or use any shape mold you can find. While the commercial variety contains artificial flavors and colors that would be best avoided, making a gelatin-based dessert from scratch is almost as simple as preparing one from a box. Using fresh fruit juice and adjusting the sweetener to your own taste produces a beautiful and delicious dessert that’s a great choice for families who are trying to reduce the amount of sugar and artificial ingredients they eat. And you can get creative too! Try different juices, add fresh fruit pieces, and of course have fun with shapes. Here’s my recipe for homemade fruit juice jellies.
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Freezer-Friendly Meat Pie Recipe

By Sally Loesch
on February 10, 2017

Who doesn’t love stuffed pastry? Pierogi, dumplings, samosas, pasties, empañadas; people all around the world have created delicious ways to turn humble ingredients into little packets of sunshine. And besides being delicious, these dishes can be very easy meals when they’re prepared in advance. Which brings me to the reason we’re talking about them here on a blog about babies. Of course cooking dinner from scratch is difficult with a new baby. Especially if a family has a preemie and parents are back and forth to the NICU every day, having something already made that can be thrown in the oven on a moment’s notice is the best. So whether you know a family with a newborn, or are pregnant and looking for recipes to fill your freezer before the baby is born, I hope these pies make their way to someone who could use a home-cooked meal. This is my recipe for individual meat pies, a product of my Midwestern upbringing, love of pastry dough, and marriage to a Pennsylvanian (they love pasties where he's from).

You’ll want to start by preparing the filling so that it can cool a little before you’re ready to assemble the pies. Chop one onion and cook it in a couple of teaspoons of olive oil over low-medium heat until it’s nice and soft, about 5-10 minutes. In the meantime, set a medium pot of water to boil and peel and chop 2-3 medium potatoes and 2 carrots into small cubes. When the water’s boiling, add the potatoes and carrots and simmer for about 15 minutes until they’re tender, but not falling apart. When the onions are soft and translucent, increase the heat to medium-high and add about 12 ounces of ground beef. Season it with a pinch of salt and pepper, break the meat apart, mixing it with the onions, and cook, stirring occasionally, until the meat is browned. When the vegetables are soft, drain the water and add them to the meat mixture. Add a couple of tablespoons of chopped fresh parsley and season with salt and pepper. At this point, you can taste it to see if it’s seasoned satisfactorily. Set it aside to cool.

To make the pastry, measure out 3 cups of flour and stir in 1½ teaspoon of salt. Cut in 1 cup of cold lard (or shortening) with a pastry blender or fork until the mixture looks like coarse crumbs. Slowly add up to ½ a cup of cold water, mixing with a fork, just until the dough comes together in a clump that’s not too crumbly to work with. (You may not need all of the water.) Divide the dough into 3 portions, working with one at a time and keeping the rest covered and in the refrigerator so that it doesn’t dry out. Gently form a rope about 1½ inch wide, without overworking the dough. Cut the rope into 6 equal pieces, about 2 inches long. Gently form each piece into a ball and, on a well-floured surface, roll them into circles about 5 inches in diameter. Place about 2 tablespoons of the cooled filling on the bottom half of the circle, wet the bottom half of the circle’s edge with a little water, and fold the top over the filling. You can crimp the edge with your fingers or the tines of a fork. Carefully cut a couple of small slits in the top of the pies and place them on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper to cook or freeze. This recipe makes about 18 pies.

Brushing them with a little egg wash before putting them in the oven makes them look extra lovely. If you want to cook them right away, they’ll take about 35 minutes in a 375 degree oven. If you prefer to freeze them, place the whole baking sheet in the freezer until the pies are solid, then transfer them to an airtight container. Straight from the freezer, they’ll take about 45-50 minutes in a 375 degree oven. The pies are done when they’re a nice golden brown.

I hope you enjoy them; let us know how they turn out! Here's a compact form of the recipe to share:

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