Turn a simple sweet yeast dough into adorable bunny-shaped rolls for your Easter brunch.
This recipe for Easter Bunny Buns was included in my Three Women in the Kitchen cookbook. The original recipe was clipped by my mom in the 1970s, and it’s been a part of our family’s Easter celebration for many years. I love the decorated ears and face, as well as the sweetness of this yeast roll. As with any yeast bread, these rolls take some time to prepare, but most of that is in the wait for dough to prove. However, the outcome—adorable and delicious Easter Bunny Buns—is worth any effort, and family members can help with decorating.
To make my Easter Bunny Buns, which makes one dozen rolls, you’ll need these ingredients:
1/3 cup milk
¼ cup sugar
¼ cup light molasses (or dark corn syrup)
¼ cup vegetable shortening
½ teaspoon salt
1 envelope active dry yeast
1¼ cup warm (105-115 degrees) water
1 egg, unbeaten
2 3/4 cups flour
½ teaspoon cinnamon
1 egg, slightly beaten
Decorate finished buns with raisins, jarred cherries, flaked coconut and icing
How To Make Easter Bunny Buns
1. Combine milk, sugar, molasses, shortening, and salt in a medium saucepan and heat until shortening has just melted. Cool to lukewarm.
2. Dissolve yeast in warm water. Transfer to a large mixing bowl and stir in milk mixture, unbeaten egg, 2½ cups all-purpose flour, and cinnamon. Beat until smooth. Add enough remaining flour to make dough easy to handle.
I used Mom’s food processor, aka “The Beast,” with the mixing blade to combine the dough because I don’t have a bread hook attachment for my stand mixer, and this dough would be too much for a hand-held mixer to tackle.
3. Turn out onto lightly floured surface and knead until smooth and elastic, about 5 minutes. Place dough in greased bowl; turn greased-side up and cover with a towel. Let rise in warm place for 1 to 1½ hours or until doubled. (My dough needed the full 90 minutes.) Punch dough down, knead a few times, and divide into 12 pieces.
4. To shape the bunnies, roll each piece of dough into a rope about 12 inches long. Hold one end of rope in left hand and form loop in center of rope. Bring free end behind and through loop to form loose, single knot. Two ends are the ears; raised loop is face.
I found it a little difficult to get the dough ball started in the rolling process, so I used a pin to begin. After it was shaped into a flat (sort of) rectangle, I folded the dough in half or thirds; it was easier for me to then shape the rope. If you’ve never done this, start rolling the rope from the middle and work your way out to create an even thickness. It’s alright if the ends are a little tapered as it makes for better ears.
5. Place on parchment paper-lined cookie sheets; repeat until all 12 are shaped. Cover with towels and let rise in a warm place until doubled, 30–45 minutes.
6. Lightly brush tops of bunnies with beaten egg. Press raisins into buns for eyes and a piece of cherry for nose. Bake at 375 degrees for 20–25 minutes or until golden. Remove and cool on wire racks.
All ovens are different, so I suggest checking the buns at 20 minutes. My bunny buns on the top rack were finished baking at 20 minutes, while I gave the lower baking sheet an extra 3 minutes.
At this point, you can place the cooled bunny buns into a storage bag and either freeze or keep in the refrigerator. I made these almost two weeks before Easter, so I chose to freeze the bunny buns until it’s time to decorate them.
How To Decorate Easter Bunny Buns
You can get as creative as you want! The raisins (or swap for Crasins) bake into the buns for the bunny eyes. Jarred cherries can be used for the mouth and nose. What we usually did was make a pink nose with a spot of colored icing. Then draw or finely pipe a few whiskers using white decorating icing. I like flaked coconut, but my daughter doesn’t, so I just outline a loop around the bunny’s ears using the white icing; fill it in if you’d like or keep just the outline.
My dad preferred the plain Easter Bunny Buns without decoration because he liked to dunk them with his coffee in the morning.
Making Easter Bunny Buns always reminds me of Easter celebrations I had with Mom, Dad and my grandparents. It was a beautiful holiday for my family that always started with me finding Easter eggs in our backyard that had been hidden by “the Bunny.” After a quick breakfast, we dressed up in our best Easter dresses (suits and a spring tie for Dad and Grandpa) and headed to church. Then we drove to my Uncle Fred and Aunt Nonie’s house for another egg hunt. Sometimes we’d visit Mom’s side of the family, and the cousins would scramble for eggs at my Aunt Mary and Uncle Raymond’s home. And there also were years when we hosted the gatherings.
But it was always a great time with extended family with comforting food like baked ham, sides of carrots and asparagus, a Jell-o “salad” of some type, fruit salad, scalloped potatoes, and Easter Bunny Buns (or if Mom didn’t have time, simple baked rolls) and butter. The meal every year Grandma Bubba was alive was finished with her Easter lamb cake. I feel the love and care she put into every one of them when I look at her antique cake mold. We haven’t had one since she passed; I’ll need to summon my courage and find a tutorial (or an experienced baker) to help me turn out the cake.
I say this all the time, but it’s true that food is such a powerful connector to our traditions and to our loved ones who have gone on. I make the Easter Bunny Buns and share the stories with each year with my daughter and whoever else gathers with us around the table that year. I hope you’ll do the same with the Easter (or Passover) foods you remember from childhood, and maybe start a new tradition with these adorable and tasty bunny buns.
Finally, I had to share a couple photos from the family album. My daughter, Emily, when she was 2 years dives into the basket Easter Bunny left for her. The photo of me and my parents on Easter 1960. We may change, but love of tradition doesn't. Wishing all who celebrate a joyous Easter!
Looking for other Easter menu ideas? Try another favorite from my family cookbook, Carrot Caper. It seems eggs are always a part of Easter tables, and I think you'll really like my BLT Deviled Eggs. Why not finish your meal with a light and moist Lemon Cake served with a a side of fresh berries?
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