Few people would not enjoy finding carefully crafted chocolate confections in an Easter basket. As revered as hidden eggs are on Easter, chocolate and other candies nestled in a bed of green plastic grass often call out like a siren’s song.
Many people have their preferences in regard to Easter sweets. Some can’t wait to sink their teeth into a milk chocolate bunny. Others savor marshmallow chicks or sweet jelly beans. Still, chocolate often reigns supreme, and people may wonder how chocolate Easter treats came to be.
Eggs and rabbits have long been associated with fertility and new life, long before they became symbols of the Easter holiday. In German folklore, the Osterhase, now known as the Easter Bunny, was a mythical creature that magically laid eggs, which he then carried in a basket and delivered to children as gifts on Easter morning. These first eggs were decorated chicken and duck eggs.
As the custom of giving eggs spread, egg-shaped toys started to be manufactured in the 17th and 18th centuries. Chocolate Easter eggs were not created until the 19th century. France and Germany pioneered the manufacturing of these eggs. The first eggs were solid until chocolate artists could master the art of molded, hollow eggs.
One of the first chocolate eggs was made by John Cadbury in 1845. But it wasn’t until both the Dutch invention of a press for separating cocoa butter from the cocoa bean and the introduction of pure cocoa by Cadbury Brothers in 1866 that molded chocolate – and molded chocolate eggs – could be made easily. As the process for molded chocolate evolved, just about any shape could be possible.
Easter bunny and egg traditions came to America by way of German and Dutch settlers. In 1890, a Pennsylvania pharmacist became the self-proclaimed ‘father of the chocolate Easter bunny’ when he displayed a five-foot-tall chocolate rabbit in his shop as an Easter promotion. After this, sales of chocolate Easter bunnies began to skyrocket.
According to the confectionary company Piece, Love & Chocolate, 90 million chocolate Easter bunnies are produced every year around the world. Millions more chocolate Easter eggs also are made and sold. Seventy-six percent of Americans claim to eat the ears on their chocolate rabbits first.