There are family traditions we choose keep and family traditions we choose to leave behind. And somehow there are family traditions that we sort of slip out of--one year we don't have the time or means to do it and the next year we kind of don't think about it as much and then, whoosh, it's gone.
At least until your mother sends you a package with several butter cream eggs and you give your sister a call and end up talking about butter cream eggs and then find yourself at 9:30 at night experimenting with flavors of butter cream egg fillings--the ones you remember your mother making for the church fundraiser, the ones you got big as an ostrich egg in the center of your basket every Easter. Back then my favorite was peanut butter (tell me it's a shock). As of today it's got some stiff competition.
(peanut butter, coconut, chocolate)
And here, let me take a little moment to give my mother a call out and a thank you. Thank you, Mom, for sending me those butter cream eggs with all their happy memories. Thank you for making them all those years--for us and the church fundraiser. Thank you for all the effort you gave to providing 5 kids with lots of happy holiday memories--food and otherwise. And thank you for every care package you ever sent. They have all been cherished and I hope you know that.
The butter cream eggs we got as kids were huge. You certainly couldn't eat them in a day. I remember slicing slivers off of mine each day and storing the rest carefully wrapped in the refrigerator (I was one of those kids who was just finishing off Halloween candy when Easter rolled around.) My kids will not be so lucky. The ones I made today are small. (Sorry, kids.) There are a couple of reasons for this (they're so cute, there's more chocolate coating...), but the big one is that my kids get candy all the time. I do not remember having any Easter candy (or any other candy for that matter) before Easter. Also, I walked uphill to school both ways. Also, my parents didn't go nuts with the candy. We got our butter cream egg, one Cadbury egg (it was the only one we saw all year), some peeps (yuck), and jelly beans and robin eggs. It was certainly plenty; it was more than plenty. But these days (and, yes, I know when people start saying 'these days' they are old) kids get more candy. My kids have had a frightening amount of it all week. And so they will receive a miniature version of my beloved childhood favorite. But small or not, they will be given with the same amount of love; and plenty of chocolate coating. Viva tradition.
Butter Cream Eggs
Makes about 30 1 1/2 inch long eggs
Prep time: 30-40 minutes, but there's some wait time while things harden/set.
Cost: $3.05 and if you flavor it with coconut, peanut butter, or chocolate that will add another $.50-1.00
(sugar: .60, butter: .40, chocolate: 2.00, other: .05)
2 1/2 C powdered sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1/3 C butter, significantly softened (Note: The original recipe calls for this to be equal parts margarine and butter, but I didn't have margarine, and all was well with all butter. I mean, how could all not be well with all butter?)
1 tsp vanilla
2-3 Tbsp milk (or cream, if you're a stickler about keeping the 'cream' in your butter cream--I used milk and it was very good)
1 bag (12 oz) semi-sweet chocolate chips (or melting chocolate or white chocolate or whatever shivers your timbers)
Combine all ingredents except chocolate by hand. If it's too dry, add a bit more more milk.
Now you can leave it at that. Or you can add some other flavorings (I highly recommend other flavorings; I find the plain buttercream a little uninteresting). I tried coconut, peanut butter, and chocolate. (The chocolate was my favorite, but I thought they were all very good.)
For Coconut: Add 1 1/2 C shredded coconut (You can also substitue the vanilla extract for 1/2 tsp coconut extract if you wish).
For Peanut Butter: Add 1/2 C peanut butter.
For Chocolate: Add 5-6 Tbsp cocoa powder.
What I haven't tried, but think would be awesome:
1) Orange or lemon--1-2 Tbsp juice and 1-2 tsp of zest ought to do it.
2) Peppermint--add 1/2 tsp peppermint extract and a couple drops of green food coloring.
Refrigerate the filling and then when it's nice and firm, shape it into egg-shaped balls.
Get a sheet of wax paper ready because you're going to coat the eggs with chocolate. Melt the chocolate chips in the microwave by microwaving in 20-30 second intervals until chocolate is mostly melted. When it's nearly melted, take it out and mix it until the last bits of chocolate melt (this method sort of tempers the chocolate--it's not an exact science; I guess I'm not an exact science kind of a girl, but it will help keep your chocolate from getting white streaks in it after it's set.)
Then you're going to coat the eggs with chocolate. Truly I have no idea how my mother used to do this. I tried dipping. That didn't work very well because the chocolate was too thick. I tried using a spoon to sort of drizzle over/cover the eggs. Also not successful. Finally, I settled on holding the egg, smearing the chocolate on the bottom and sides with my finger and then plopping it down on the wax paper and smearing it on the top, again with my finger. I can only imagine the health code violations that were committed via this method. (Of course, I didn't lick the chocolate off my fingers when I was done; what kind of establishment do you think I'm running here. I let my assistant lick them instead. Because she is cute.) Anyway, it might not be the neatest way in the world, but it worked.
And then I looked over and discovered my other assistant sitting on the tray of her high chair, licking 2 spoons. Did I mention I will not be opening a restaurant any time soon?
And then I let them (the eggs, not my assistants) set until the chocolate was firm. This took an hour or two.
Now I was ready to decorate them. Of course, this isn't essential, but Mom always did when we were little and it makes them so much prettier. Even when you have the decorating skills of an aquatic mammal as I flatter myself to have, they will turn out pretty with a few nice Easter colors. Just stick some decorating tips in some Ziploc bags...
And have at it. (I'll post my basic vanilla frosting recipe below.)
If you have assistants you can let them have at it too.
By the way, leftover frosting, no problem.
Oh--and leftover chocolate from earlier. Well, if your mother truly loved you, she probably sent you some chocolate molds from your childhood like my mother did. Otherwise, have a look here for some on Amazon.
You can save these eggs for Easter or eat them for dessert tonight or send them off to your children's teachers as gifts (providing you waited to lick the chocolate and icing off your fingers until after you were done with the project).
Basic Vanilla Frosting:
(sugar: .25, butter: .30, other: .05)
1 C powdered sugar
4 Tbsp butter, significantly softened
1-2 Tbsp milk
1/2 tsp vanilla
Combined butter, sugar, and vanilla and mix. Add 1 Tbsp milk and the other if the frosting needs it. Add food coloring if desired.