Bunny Cakes and Other Sorrows

My sister’s birthday is in April. When we were little, our mother used to make her a bunny cake for her birthday parties. Being two and a half years younger, I was always on the sidelines at those parties, but I wasn’t alone. I had what my mother used to call “the green-eyed monster” for company. Oh, how I coveted those bunny cakes.

I have vivid memories of those carefully crafted delicacies, with their little pink ears and their jelly bean noses and eyes, the way they perched, Sphinx-like, on a nest  of green cellophane. I don’t remember if it was a carrot cake (doubtful, but oh, the irony) or some other kid favorite, but it pretty much looked like this one from Betty Crocker:

bunny cake 

Adorable, isn’t it? Full of the joyous promise of spring and surrounded by brightly-colored sugary jelly beans. A child’s dream, with lots of frosting. An added touch of the exotic with the coconut.

And now this:

Thanks to a search through the photo archives, my sister found some pictures from one of her bunny-bedecked birthday parties. I’m amazed to have blocked out the memory of not one, but TWO bunnies at her party! The mind reels.


Mom’s serving; my sister, on the far left, eagerly awaits a hunk of that bunny.


Even in black and white they’re pretty damn cute. Bunnies on the tablecloth too. My family didn’t celebrate Easter, by the way. Go figure.



Note the candles attached to the eggs surrounding the bunnies. A nod to the process of “candling eggs,” which was something my father did to help out with my grandfather’s egg wholesaling business in the 1930s. The man in the background is the Egg Man himself, aka Grampa Mike.

I have a recipe for making bunny cakes in the big black binder full of yellowed newspaper clippings that go back to the earliest years of my marriage. The composition and method of construction in the bunny cake recipe I have vary from my mom’s version–calling for ears made from sections of cake, which is a foolish idea in my opinion. The paper ones look better and do not waste valuable cake real estate on extraneous appendages.

Not that I’ve ever made the cake. But there it is in the binder, followed by an Easter Basket Cake, which I have made. Same green-tinted coconut and jelly beans; no ears, no frosted bunny tail.

Here’s the rub: My birthday is in November. No, my mother didn’t make me a turkey cake. I don’t remember her making any specially shaped cakes for my birthday parties, but I do remember the hats. Mom had taught school and loved teaching in the lower grades and pre-school, where you have to have an impressive backlog of holiday-related craft projects to keep little hands busy. Which is why everyone at my birthday parties ended up wearing brown paper bag pilgrim hats.

Brown paper pilgrim hats (even with doily trim) vs a bunny cake. Not hard to figure out which is cooler.

The thing is, November does not, as a rule, lend itself to cuteness. Unlike spring, which is all cherry blossoms, tulips, robins, pastels, puppies and bunnies. Autumn is more melancholy: “The Autumn Leaves” and “September Song.” “The days dwindle down to a precious few,”. . . the falling leaves, the days grow long, old winter’s song. Blah, blah, blah. Eeyore is the mascot of Autumn.

But seriously, there is nothing cute about paper bag hats, no matter how adorable the wearer might be.



Me, 3rd from left, squinting in the November sun, with my sister and my cousins

Me, 3rd from left, squinting in the November sun, with my sister and my cousins

It’s not that I’m bitter, to quote the quotable Gina Barreca. At my pity party, there will be cake, trust me.

I like having a birthday in November. I just wish there were cuter cake options back when cake was the major reason for having a birthday.

A tip of the paper hat to all the lucky ones who have birthdays in spring. Maybe someone will make you a bunny cake.



4 Responses to Bunny Cakes and Other Sorrows

  1. That’s awesome that you have those photos and memories. My sister’s b-day is the day after Valentines so she always had a heart cake. Oh, the things we remember.

  2. Sheila Hardy says:

    My February birthday was celebrated with a checkerboard cake with boiled frosting….. Labor intense…I have made more than a few.

    • Risa Nye says:

      Sheila, I used to make a star-shaped cake for Bruce’s birthday in June (Flag Day!). Red, white and blue frosting also. Kind of hard to frost all those points, but worth it.

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