With Easter approaching, I’ve been thinking a lot about that sacred 1990’s Easter tradition — no, not the egg roll. I mean that horrifying, shaved coconut monstrosities that are bunny-shaped Easter cakes. You know the one, with the bowtie and lopsided ears and threatening smile made out of black licorice that no one will eat. It’s a staple of childhood memories.
As with most people who watch full seasons of The Great British Bake Off in one weekend, I found myself itching to try out my own amateur baking skills. For the past few months, my sister has been baking up a storm: muffins, cakes, bread, scones, biscuits, and more. We’ve got a full blown bakery operating out of our kitchen, and so, egged on by her success in the kitchen and my ever present need for Mary Berry’s approval, I set up a challenge of our own: The Great Easter Cake Bake Off.
Katie, 31, Fairfax: Katie is an experienced amateur baker who actually knows that the hell she’s doing, and chose to create a speckled blue egg cake made out of a pink champagne dough. Katie enjoys Paul Hollywood’s eyes, baking by weight, and does not use chocolate. This was Katie’s first American-style cake attempt.
Hope, 24, Fairfax: Hope is an amateur baker who’s is best known for making a banana bread with sugar instead of flour, and a New Year’s Cake with salt instead of sugar. For this cake, Hope is attempting a three layer funfetti and strawberry cake with sugar cookie ears.
For her bake, Katie chose to make her cake from scratch, first making a pink champagne cake base, utilizing cupcake champagne and light pink food dye to get a delicate color on her cakes. Her workspace looks extremely impressive.
On the other side of the kitchen, I compiled a funfetti mixture from a box, and attempted to mold sugar cookie icing into shapes resembling bunny ears. Unfortunately, I forgot that dough expands in the oven, so my rabbit ears look a little….swollen.
The Reveal: Speckled Hen
Left: Speckled Egg Cake/ Right: Katie’s Cake
Katie’s three-layer cake featured egg-shaped candies, teal frosting, and small flowers. As it turns out, doing the chocolate “speckle” is a lot harder than it looks, and ends up vaguely looking like bird droppings. Adding champagne to the batter made the cake a bit denser, more akin to a pound cake than a traditional fluffy cake.
The Reveal: Neon Bunny
Left: Bunny Cake/ Right: Hope’s Cake
My three-layer cake turned out way better than I expected, frankly. The strawberry cake filling was low key revolting, but funfetti remains the best cake flavor ever (sorry). The ears, which I made out of sugar cookie dough, ended up being way too heavy for the cake, and caused the already lopsided cake to topple a bit. I ended up having to hold it up with toothpicks. Also true to life, one of my bunny’s eyelashes looked way better than the other.
Let’s Talk About Frosting
I think I speak for everyone when I say that frosting is the worst. It’s too sweet, it gets everywhere, and it can mask the taste of the cake at times. Katie made her own icing in a brilliant teal, so it was quite a bit tastier (and less sweeter) than mine, which was store bought. But enough about the taste. Let’s talk about the goddamn nightmare that was getting the icing to actually go on. About 17 icing contraptions were used in this process, to smoothing knives to piping bags. We refrigerated after the crumb layer! And yet, it still went on both of our cakes as an uneven, sticky, murderous substance that belongs in the far reaches of hell.
So, cake baking is 1) expensive, 2) time consuming, 3) really hard. I have a bad habit of watching things and thinking, “I can do that!” Turns out I can’t. While my cake was edible (no salt!) and ended up pretty decent, it’s not an experience I’ll be repeating any time soon. Katie’s cake looked substantially grander, but she too was not eager to repeat the process. She’ll be sticking to breads; I’ll be sticking to eating them.