April 14, 2000
Spring baskets brimming with jelly beans have nostalgic appeal, but that's not all jelly beans are good for. Let them take center stage with an exquisite centerpiece for the Easter table. Even if weather is inclement, a garden of tasty delights can be brought inside for springtime entertaining.
The centerpiece begins with real wheat grass freshly sprouted and sold in flats in healthfood stores. Wheat grass is not planted in soil and can be cut easily with a knife to fit a tray. If it is not readily available, a similar effect can be achieved with a flat of baby's tears or ornamental wild strawberry from a local nursery.
Nestled in the grass, a glorious egg-shaped cake is decorated in the style of a bejeweled Faberge egg with small, gourmet jelly beans and seasonal candies. The cake itself makes use of convenient, packaged pound cake lightened with the addition of bananas. Completing the garden scene, cookie flowers bloom and butterflies take wing.
Jelly beans have grown up in the last generation taking on brilliant colors and more sophisticated flavors in a seemingly endless variety. The makers of Jelly Belly jelly beans have even introduced a spring flavor for the Easter bunny with their carrot cake jelly bean made with real carrot juice. While the history of jelly beans is not well documented, they appeared in America in the 19th century and were advertised as a sweet treat to send to soldiers in the Civil War. They became associated with Easter celebrations in the 1930s most likely due to their color and egg-shaped appearance in nests and baskets. This Easter, Americans are expected to eat more than 15 billion jelly beans.
With a little imagination all those jelly beans will make it a joy-filled springtime.
Easy Ideas for Easter's Favorite Candy
Spring Party Favors
Inspired by the charm of Victorian Christmas crackers, spring party favors are a novel idea for a garden party. Filled with layers of jelly beans, the clear wrapper lets the bright colors show. So easy to construct the kids can be enlisted to give them a try.
You will need 4 ounces of
jelly beans per favor.
1. Cut a piece of medium-weight acetate 5 1/2 inches by 8 1/2 inches. Roll it around a cardboard tube 1 1/2 inches in diameter and secure the long edge with cellophane tape.
2. Cut a piece of clear cellophane 9 inches by 10 1/2 inches. Place the acetate tube along the long edge of the cellophane. Roll cello around tube and tape edge, making sure to line tape up with tape on acetate. Remove cardboard tube.
3. Cut two pieces of narrow ribbon into 13-inch lengths.
4. Gather the cellophane at one end of the tube and tie end shut with ribbon. Holding tube straight up, fill with alternating layers of jelly beans. Tie top end with ribbon.
Jelly Bean Accents for
Add a touch of whimsy and color by studding the border of a dessert plate with gourmet jelly beans. Then place a parfait glass filled with layered pudding or fresh fruit in the center. To attach the jelly beans, use prepared icing in a tube. Squeeze a dab of icing on a jelly bean and press gently onto the plate. Select the flavors of the jelly beans to accent the dessert being served.
White Chocolate Coconut Nests
1. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Trace six 3 1/2-inch circles on parchment. Set aside.
2. Melt chocolate chips in the top of a double boiler over simmering water. Add vegetable oil and stir until smooth. Add chow mein noodles and coconut and stir until well mixed. Cool mixture slightly.
3. Using your hands, shape mixture into 6 nests using outlines as guide. Chill for at least 30 minutes until firm.
4. Fill with jelly beans. Place in grass around egg cake.
Makes 6 nests
Note: To make small nests, trace 1-inch circles on paper. Makes 18 nests
with Jelly Beans
1. Preheat oven to 170 degreesF.
2. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Using a round cookie cutter or a small can, trace ten 3 1/2-inch to 4-inch circles on parchment. Set aside.
3. In a clean, dry mixing bowl beat egg whites, salt and cream of tartar with an electric mixer, until soft peaks form. With the mixer running, add almond extract and gradually add sugar. Beat until stiff and glossy.
4. Spoon about 3/4 cup meringue for each nest onto parchment-lined baking sheet, using tracing lines as a guide for size. With a large spoon make an indentation in each meringue mound to form a nest.
5. Gently press jelly beans into sides of each meringue. Bake for 2 1/2 hours at 170 degrees F or until hard.
6. Fill with jelly beans and assorted Easter candies. Or for an elegant dessert, fill meringue nests with small scoops of pastel sherbet; serve immediately.
Makes 10 nests
Note: Nests can be made 2 days ahead. Store in airtight container.
Jeweled Jelly Bean Cake
1. Preheat oven to 350 degreesF.
2. Grease and flour both halves of an 8 1/2-inch three-dimensional egg-shaped cake pan.
3. In a large bowl of an electric mixer, mash 1 banana with a fork. Add 2 eggs and 3/4 cup milk; blend with mixer on low speed for 1 minute.
4. Add one package of dry pound cake mix and beat at medium speed for 3 minutes.
5. Pour batter into one of the prepared egg pans, filling 1/2 inch from top of pan. Set extra batter aside.
6. Repeat steps 3D5 for second pan. Combine the leftover batters and bake in a small prepared pan if desired.
7. Bake egg cakes for about 55 minutes or until toothpick inserted into center of each cake comes out clean. If baking leftover batter, check for doneness after 30 minutes.
8. Allow cakes to cool for 10 minutes on a cooling rack. Invert onto waxed paper and cool thoroughly. Cakes may be made ahead and frozen.
3 cups prepared vanilla frosting.
10 ounces Jelly Belly jelly beans, Tangerine, Lemon, Margarita, Berry Blue, Very Cherry, Blueberry, Bubble Gum flavors
Assorted Easter candies for accent
1. Trim flat side of cakes, if necessary, using a long thin blade knife.
2. Spread 3/4 cup frosting on the flat side of one of the halves. Press the two egg halves together gently.
3. Trim underside of egg cake to sit flat. Secure on a cake cardboard or oval serving platter using 1/2 cup frosting.
4. Generously frost exterior of cake with remaining frosting. Decorate with bands of candies.
5. To serve, slice cake in half lengthwise, perpendicular to center frosting. Place cut side down and slice 3/4 inch thick.
Decorating Tip: To make neat rows, place jelly beans nestled side by side.
To Arrange Centerpiece:
Place wheat grass on a decorative serving tray or large platter. Place cake in grass, using the oval baking stand nestled in the grass for support. Create a garden of pinwheels, butterflies and flowers by sticking bamboo skewers into the wheat grass as desired.
To Prepare Pinwheels:
1. Preheat oven to 400 degreesF.
2. Roll out puff pastry according to package directions. Cut dough into 2-inch squares.
3. Form pinwheels by making 4 diagonal cuts from the corners of each square, but not into the center. Fold alternating corner points into the center and press firmly to secure center.
4. Bake pinwheels on a parchment-lined baking sheet about 12 minutes or until golden. Cool.
5. Decorate centers with dab of frosting and jelly beans as desired.
6. Insert a bamboo skewer into each pinwheel to create lollipop effect.
Makes 20 pinwheels
To Prepare Flowers and Butterflies:
1. Preheat oven to 350 degreesF.
2. Prepare sugar cookie dough according to package directions for rolled and cut cookies.
3. Roll dough between two pieces of plastic wrap to 1/8 inch thickness. Chill on a baking sheet for at least one hour.
4. Cut cookies into butterfly and flower shapes; bake about 12 minutes until golden. Transfer to a rack and cool.
5. Generously spread the backs of two matching cookies with the cake decorating icing from the tube. Press a bamboo skewer onto one of the cookies and form a sandwich by topping it with the other cookie. Press firmly to secure skewer. Chill 12 hour.
6. Thin remaining decorating icing with a little water to spreading consistency. Tint with food color if desired. Spread on cookies using a small spatula. Cut jelly beans in half, placing cut side down onto cookies to decorate.
Makes 10 cookie pops
Note: You may also create flowers using packaged scalloped edge sugar cookies available in some grocery stores.