When Rachael and her older sister, Maria, were growing up in Upstate New York, Easter was full of sweet surprises. Their grandfather would arrive bearing 4-foot-tall hollow chocolate eggs filled with Italian Easter candies. Dozens of family and friends would gather at their house for a ham or lamb feast prepared by their mom, Elsa, followed by a fun dessert, like this adorable bunny cake. These days, Maria is the family baker. She’s made pony, lizard and ladybug cakes for her kids’ birthday parties, but the bunny cake, which she learned to make alongside her mom, is still her favorite. “It feels like home,” she says. “It’s familiar and comforting and reminds me of all of those good times.”
Photography by Will Styer. Food styling by Maria Del Mar Sacasa. Prop styling by Sarah Guido-Laakso
Coconutty Bunny Cake
Prep 25 min
Bake 30 min
Assembly 30 min
3 3/4 cups cake flour
2 1/2 cups sugar
2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1 1/2 cups buttermilk, at room temperature
2 sticks butter, melted and cooled slightly
9 large egg yolks
5 tbsp. vegetable oil
1 tbsp. pure vanilla extract
4 large egg whites
3/4 cup rainbow sprinkles
3 sticks butter, at room temperature
5 3⁄4 cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted
1⁄4 cup whole milk, plus more as needed
1 tbsp. plus 11⁄2 tsp. pure vanilla extract
1. Position racks in the top and bottom thirds of the oven; preheat to 350° for light pans and 325° for dark pans. Grease and flour three 8-inch cake pans.
2. In a large bowl, whisk the flour, 2 cups sugar, the baking powder, salt and baking soda. In a medium bowl, whisk the buttermilk, butter, yolks, oil and vanilla. (If you really like coconut flavor, use 1 tsp. coconut extract and 1 tsp. vanilla extract.)
3. In a medium bowl using an electric mixer on high, beat the egg whites until very soft peaks form, about 2 minutes. Gradually beat in the remaining 1/2 cup sugar; beat until stiff, glossy peaks form.
4. Using an electric mixer on medium, gradually beat the buttermilk mixture into the flour mixture just to blend. Using a rubber spatula, fold half the egg-white mixture into the batter until almost blended. Fold in the remaining egg-white mixture and the sprinkles. Divide the batter among the pans.
5. Bake the cakes, switching the pans between the top and bottom racks halfway through, until a toothpick inserted into the centers comes out clean, about 30 minutes. Let cool in the pans on a wire rack, about 15 minutes. If needed, run a thin knife around the edges of the pans to release the cakes, then invert onto the rack and let cool completely.
6. For the frosting, in a large bowl using an electric mixer on medium, beat the butter until smooth. Add the sugar, 1 cup at a time, mixing to blend between additions. Beat in 1/4 cup milk and the vanilla. Increase the speed to medium-high; beat, adding milk by the tablespoon if too thick, until smooth and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Assemble and frost the cake as shown here.