When we were growing up, my sister and I always got Easter egg cakes on Easter. They came from a bakery and had our names across the tops in delicate icing script. I insisted on chocolate frosting, which meant mine was always a very un-Easter-like dark brown while hers was pink or yellow. But that egg cake was The Thing in our house. Now, I see them at New York City bakeries for an unforgivable amount of money. I could bake my own with a special egg-shaped pan, but I don't have room in my cupboards for a pan I might use once or twice a year. So I set out to make egg cakes with nothing more than a loaf pan and a sharp knife.
I'm not saying these egg cakes are as perfectly shaped as those that come out of the special pans. Yours may look better, they may look worse. What I can tell you is that an egg is really not the hardest of shapes; we're not talking pirate ships or castles, or even an anatomically correct Lego here.
I also practiced, experimenting with two different types of cake. A pound cake is your best bet, in my opinion, for two reasons. One, it's baked in a loaf pan, which lends itself well to getting three individual eggs, and you don't have to guess how much batter to put in (as you would with a recipe that's not meant to be baked in a loaf pan). Two, it's firm, which means it's easier to carve.
This is what you'll need:
• A good pound cake recipe. I used this Lemon Pound Cake from Gale Gand, minus the glaze.
• A sharp, serrated knife.
• A firm frosting recipe. I like this Swiss Buttercream from Smitten Kitchen, which is easy to work with and isn't drippy.
• Food coloring, for the frosting.
• A piping bag or plastic bag with the tip cut off, if you'd like to monogram your cakes. Set a bit of the white frosting aside before you add the food coloring.
• Uses for leftover, crumbled pound cake that you carve away from your eggs. It's great over ice cream, or you can mash it up and make cake pops.
Here are the steps:
1. Let your pound cake cool completely. Cut it into three equal pieces. It may be easier to carve if you put it in the freezer for about 15 to 30 minutes.
2. Take one piece. Place your knife almost parallel to the top of the cake (slightly angled), about 2/3 of the way from one end. Slice forward, with your other hand pressed lightly on top of the cake to give some pressure, and create a slope, all the way to the end. You want to create a shape like the hood of a car.
3. On the other end of the egg, slice down each side, cutting off the corners to create a roughly rounded shape. (Here I'm using the middle third of the cake. When you carve the end pieces, you may want to slice off some of the crustiest parts before you start shaping.)
4. Cut away the corners on either side of the slope, creating a slightly rounded front. This will be the front/slimmer end of your egg.
5. At this point, you want to soften all of the pointy corners. Go slow. And keep your free hand on top of the bits of cake you are shaving off; it'll keep the knife from snagging off an errant chunk. Delicately shave off the pointy edges of the front "slope," and trim the points on the back so that it's rounded. You may want to take more slivers off of the top to get a more pronounced curve. As you trim, pat down extra crumbs and use your hands to (lightly!) press and mold the egg.
6. Once you have the shape you like, cut two divots at the bottom of each side, at about a 45-degree angle. You want to leave plenty of cake to provide a stable foundation but still give your egg a rounded look, so that it's not square at its base.
Here's my finished egg, pre-frosting:
7. Now it's time to frost it! I put on a crumb coating, a very thin layer of frosting to settle the bits of cake and hold them in place. I put it in the refrigerator to set for about 10 minutes, then added the final layer of frosting.
8. Remember when I told you to put aside some white icing, before you add the food coloring? I forgot to do it. So I "monogrammed" my egg with the same color, a little tone-on-tone decorating, if you will.
If you're up for a little baking project this weekend, these cakes are really not very complicated and would look so pretty lined up on a silver tray... Happy Easter!
Related: Rice Krispie Easter Eggs from Bouchon Bakery
Originally posted April 10, 2009.
(Images: Elizabeth Passarella)