The Great Easter Dichotomy

My childhood Easters are divided into two distinct categories: very religious and incredibly secular. I was raised Catholic by a woman who loves being Catholic. Easter season meant going to school with ashes on my forehead and being signed out early to attend Stations of the Cross. My mother was such a regular at church that she arranged for me and my siblings to receive our First Communions not with our second grade classes, but during Holy Thursday mass. Very fancy.

At the same time, my mother loved making every holiday a big production. With crucifixion being a little on the heavy side, my mother embraced the idea of the Easter Bunny, egg hunts, dying eggs – the whole nine yards. For reasons unbeknownst to me and my siblings my mother chose to make our Easter Bunny rather mean spirited. In most homes, kids wake up to an Easter basket sitting at the foot of their bed. Not us. We had to hunt for our candy filled eggs and Easter trinkets. This sounds innocent enough, but we lived in the same house our whole lives, and there were limited hiding places. Every year, my mother would find more and more obscure hiding spots that made finding our treats like finding the Holy Grail itself.

Each Easter, after an hour or so of hunting, my siblings and I would get frustrated and start asking for hints. My mother would sit on the couch with her coffee and cigarette, a wry smile on her face, and say, “No.” Here’s where my siblings and I, usually fiercely competitive with each other, would start to work together. “Did you find the kites? They were stuffed up the chimney.” “Thanks. Did you check on that little ledge under the dining room table? There’s jelly beans there.” “Great. Tell Jen to get the chocolate bunny out of the dishwasher. I saw one left there.”

Of course, my mother didn’t keep a list of the items she hid. We’d often find treats months later tucked away in crevices, usually melted or deformed from the heat. One summer, my parents had a photographer come to the house and take pictures of us kids. We had to move a love seat to take advantage of some natural light. When my dad and the photographer picked it up, there were dozens of jelly bunny bunnies under it, treasures we missed from the previous Easter. My siblings and I squealed with delight and scrambled to pick up as many as we could, just like on Easter morning. My mother nodded and said, “Oh yeah! Jelly bunnies! Forgot all about them.”

I initiated the Easter hunt for my daughter when she was very young. My husband thought it seemed like a lot of work. “Why don’t you just put an Easter basket on the foot of her bed?” Sure, that’s easier. But where’s the fun in that? I have at least learned from the Great Jelly Bunny Debacle of 1974 to keep a list of everything I’ve hidden. I also give hints. My daughter loves Easter and looks forward to it every year.

We started our own Easter tradition about ten years ago. We bake Easter cupcakes and decorate them with coconut dyed green (to look like Easter grass), jelly beans (these look like Easter eggs) and Peeps (because Peeps are awesome). We leave a cupcake out for the Easter Bunny much like cookies for Santa.

Two weeks after Easter, we make S’mores using the stale, leftover Peeps at our annual Peeps Cremation/S’mores Creation Evening Under the Stars. Dee-lic-ious! I’m so happy to add on to the tradition my mother started over 40 years ago. I can’t wait to see how my daughter adds on to it with her family.

For the Cupcakes

This recipe is from the Magnolia Bakery cookbook. We loved going to Magnolia Bakery when we lived in New York. The line would be out the door and around the corner for their yummy homemade desserts.

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened

2 cups sugar

4 large eggs, at room temperature

1 ½ cups of self-rising flour

1 ¼ cups all-purpose flour

1 cup milk

1 tsp vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Line 2 12-cup muffin pans with cupcake papers.

In a large bowl, on medium speed of an electric mixer, cream the butter until smooth. Add the sugar gradually and beat until fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Combine the flours and add in four parts, alternating with the milk and the vanilla extract, beating well after each addition. Spoon the batter into the cups about three quarters full. Bake until the tops spring back when lightly touched, about 20-22 minutes. Let cupcakes cool in pans for 10 minutes, then cool completely on wire racks before icing.

For the Icing

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, very soft (I leave it out over night)

8 cups confectioners’ sugar

½ cup milk

2 tsp vanilla extract

Assorted food colorings

Place the butter in a large mixing bowl. Add 4 cups of the sugar and then the milk and the vanilla extract. Beat until smooth and creamy. Gradually add the remaining sugar, 1 cup at a time, until icing is thick enough to be of god spreading consistency (you may not need all of the sugar). Divide the icing into bowls. Add a few drops of food coloring to each to make desired colors.

For the S’mores

Leftover Peeps of all colors

Graham crackers (we use traditional and chocolate)

Hershey bars


Break two graham crackers in half. Break a Hershey bar in half.

Pierce a Peeps with a skewer and roast over an open flame until burnt on the outside.

Assemble the double decker s’mores: graham cracker, Hershey bar, Peeps, graham cracker, Hershey bar, Peeps, graham cracker.

Smoosh down and devour!

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