Man cannot live on jellybeans alone, as much as he might like to.
I recreated and taste-tested three vintage Easter recipes for a (traditionally) untraditional holiday dinner. But as they say, don't put all your eggs in one basket—in fact, for your own sake, please don't put any of your eggs anywhere near this basket.
Bun Bunny Bake (1975)
This recipe serves 10 bunnies, which is more bunnies than anyone needs. The Bun Bunny Bake is clearly intended as the cornerstone of a bun bunny-baking party, with "games to play while bunnies rise and bake" named as a must-have in the recipe. Given that this is a one-person bunny-baking party, I scale the ingredients down for five bunnies—they look more to me like nipple-headed gremlins, anyway—and the number of games down to zero.
I prepare the dough (flour, eggs, shortening, sugar, salt, and mashed potatoes) in advance. It's really dry. The recipe directs me to knead it until it's "smooth and elastic," which I can only hope was code for "blobby and unpleasant."
After the dough spends two days in my fridge, I form it into five evenly sized blobs. This is arguably the best my bun bunnies will ever look, so enjoy.
The recipe specifies how to apportion each blob: One third for the ears and tail, one third for the head and arms, and one third for the body. This straightforward instruction proves to be either a shameless lie or a pathetic delusion, because the resulting proportions are far from bunny-like.
At this point, the bunnies look more like off-brand Pokémon than anything to do with Easter.
I let the dough rise for an hour and a half, only to find that many of the bunnies' limbs have separated from their bodies during this period—and, in some cases, seemingly flung themselves several inches away—as if in an unsuccessful escape attempt.
The cracks in the dough have grown even deeper, like the bunnies have been crudely mummified by the elements.
I go off-book from the recipe here, stabbing the arms in place with toothpicks while praying that I'm not unintentionally Voodoo doll-ing a poor deformed bunny somewhere in the wild.
I smush an egg—I accidentally bought brown instead of white to match the recipe's, but if you like, we can pretend I dyed them—into each bunny's belly, having resigned myself to the fact that their puny arms don't have a shot of hugging their eggs the way they do in the General Mills photo. Even bunnies made of bread must contend with unrealistic beauty standards.
Next come butter and egg yolk, which I was technically told to brush on, but I don't have a brush. When you "brush" with a fork, it turns out, you're really achieving more of a "splatter."
Three raisins form each bunny's face, a cosmetic procedure that leaves some of them looking like koalas (below, left) and others looking like a pastry representation of The Scream (below, right).
I bake the bunnies at 350° for less than the recipe's recommended 25 minutes, but they still come out a little over. (Rude.)
If at this point you're wondering what's happening inside those eggs—which the recipe did not ask me to pre-cook—you are not alone.
Some of the bunnies survive the oven better than others.
Much better than others.
Fried Noodle Basket with Creamed Ham and Eggs (1942)
My favorite thing about this recipe, from an advertisement for the now-defunct shortening company Spry, is that it's written in the voice of their folksy mascot Aunt Jenny. Out of context, Jenny sounds a little like a family member from around the dinner table in The Texas Chainsaw Massacre.
"Watch 'em open their eyes when you bring it on," the ad copy reads. "Hear 'em smack their lips when they taste it."
I boil "narrow noodles" (I used angel hair pasta) for one minute, then drain and dry them. Usually, in preparing vintage recipes, the worst thing that could possibly happen to me is accidentally consuming a fatal amount of gelatin powder. But I'm genuinely nervous about the prospect of frying these noodles in hot oil—two to three inches of hot oil, Aunt Jenny recommends—which seems like the sort of thing that would like nothing more than to scald my face and/or limbs and/or every other part of my body.
This is the amount of shortening I naively start out with, though I'll end up using something like three times this much.
Before I begin frying the noodles, my fear of injury drives me to put on an improvised hooded sweatshirt-and-sweatpants hazmat suit, complete with oven mitts and thick wool socks, despite the fact that the oven has been on in my small kitchen all day and—to paraphrase the fully formed version of Aunt Jenny who now lives in my brain—it's hotter 'an a junebug's armpit at the Devil's own debutante ball.
I have a wire strainer, but its handle makes it impossible to evenly submerge in the oil. I end up jamming it in the pot at a 45-degree angle, occasionally rotating the mass of noodles with tongs.
To my pleasant surprise, not only do I avoid a trip to ER, but the noodles actually come out looking like a pretty convincing nest.
Come at me, nature.
But ask any bird: What good's a nest without a heaping pile of creamed ham and eggs inside it?
It felt wrong to soil any part of a nice, actual ham by including it in this recipe, so please say hello to this can full of questionably sourced ham I bought on Amazon. The future is now!
The contents look, unsurprisingly, something like Spam.
I collect a cup and a half of chopped ham from the can. Lucky for me, I have plenty of leftovers.
Into another pot goes the ham, even more shortening (this is a shortening company-sponsored recipe, after all), flour, milk, and three sliced hardboiled eggs. Just like Aunt Jenny used to make.
I discover that every photo I take of the creamed ham looks kind of blurry, its ridiculously high fat content reverse-engineering the Vaseline-covered lens effect you might use to shoot a White Diamonds commercial.
Easter Egg Cake (1969)
Like the ill-fated snowman cake before it (which was also brought to you by a purveyor of coconut flakes), the Easter Egg Cake starts out simply enough, with one box of cake mix baked in an eight-inch pan and a nine-inch pan.
High-school geometry is an unspoken prereq for the Easter Egg Cake, which I probably could have pulled off better with the help of a graphing calculator, or at least a protractor.
I am a serious professional—and I have very little faith in my ability to effectively ballpark these measurements—so I make use of my (chef-approved) tape measure.
When assembled, the hatching chick looks reassuringly like he should, especially if you don't examine his neck too closely.
What is concerning, though, is just how uneven the cake's height is. A topographical map would have come in handy here.
Fortunately, to smooth out those carby outcroppings, the recipe demands four and a half cups of icing, much of which is dyed pink.
Next, I tint shredded coconut yellow, pink, and green, staining my hands with festive Easter colors that'll last for the next 24 hours.
The yellow coconut decorates the bird's head and beak, the green coconut decorates his nest, and the pink coconut decorates his egg in a diamond pattern, or what is (ahem) theoretically supposed to be a diamond pattern.
Apparently, I was also meant to reserve some plain white coconut to cover the rest of his shell, but I ran out. I'm sorry that your very first moments of life outside your egg are filled with such disappointment, little hatchling.
A handful of jellybeans and one mangled Twizzler later, he's finished.
Congratulations, Gonzo and Big Bird: It's a boy.
The taste test
There is something sort of biblical about my Easter spread, although it puts me less in mind of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John than the Book of Revelation. As always, my boyfriend Sam serves as my reluctant taste tester.
Sam is conceptually disturbed by the bun bunnies: "Why do they have eggs? I know it's Easter, but bunnies don't lay eggs." Which, fair: It's a little like a pumpkin riding a broomstick, or a bald eagle wearing Uncle Sam's top hat.
I expected the bunnies to be horrendously dry, but—while they are admittedly overbaked—they're not that bad. The bread finishes sweet, and it's easy to reach for another chunk of ear or tail once you've finished your first.
While we both agree that the buns look more like marsupials than rabbits (Happy Australian Easter!), I got positive reviews on their appearance. Sort of. "They're cute, in that they look homemade," Sam says. "They look like a child made them."
The eggs prove to be totally safe to eat, having baked nicely atop the buns—they're also, by no small margin, the most Sam has ever enjoyed any part of any vintage recipe I've ever made. The raisins, however, were burned and gross. Would not recommend.
As proud as I am of the nest's appearance, this dish is disgusting. The egg salad concoction is winningly salty (what can I say? I love Spam and all members of the extended Spam family), but the grease level—especially when combined with the super-fried noodles—is intense to the point of being inedible. I mean, look at it.
Aunt Jenny led me astray.
I, for one, think my version is kind of cute, but Sam couldn't even distinguish what each section of the cake (nest, egg, chick) represents. "It looks more like a piñata than anything else," he says.
As for the taste, it's made of boxed cake mix and prepackaged frosting, so needless to say—with your eyes closed—it's delicious. But given that I know firsthand that this unnaturally neon dessert is composed of about 60% food coloring, 40% food, it's a little less than appetizing.
Molly Fitzpatrick is senior editor of Fusion's Pop & Culture section. Her interests include movies about movies, TV shows about TV shows, and movies about TV shows, but not so much TV shows about movies.