When she was a young girl, Ann Green of Port Washington and each of her siblings received an elaborately decorated sugar Easter egg with their names on them. They looked through the peepholes to see the diorama inside. Hers had bunnies and flowers.
After Easter, her mother gathered the eggs and carefully packed them away for the next Easter.
“I later found out most children ate their eggs and got a new one each year,” Green said. “I guess my mother didn’t want six kids eating all that sugar.”
Green cherished her egg for 35 years until it was broken during a move.
The Easter tradition faded, probably replaced with plastic eggs filled with candy or prizes, but Green resurrected it in her family.
Six years ago, she purchased a two-piece egg mold with directions for sugar eggs. Now she gives them away to family and friends.
“They’re really easy to make,” Green said. “It’s just sugar and water. You can buy flowers, jelly beans and Peeps to put inside if you want. I just prefer to make my own.”
For Green, a professional baker who enjoys creating unusual cakes, decorating is second nature.
She uses royal icing, which is made of meringue powder, confectioners sugar and water, that dries hard to decorate the outside and inside of the egg. She makes flowers, leaves, butterflies and bunnies with the icing, then adheres them to the egg with the frosting.
“It is time consuming, and it takes a couple of times to get the right consistency and pack that egg tight,” Green said as she demonstrated how to make the eggs.
Enough water is added to sugar until it is the consistency of sand.
Green firmly packed the egg mold with sugar to the top, then turned it upside on waxed paper to dry for one to two hours. She scooped out the inside, leaving a quarter-inch-thick shell. She cut out a half-circle in the end of each egg half to form a peephole when the pieces are put together.
She turned the egg pieces upside down and let them dry for a day before decorating and assembling.
That’s the fun part. Green puts a scene in the bottom half — she’s partial to butterflies and flowers. She tried green-tinted coconut for grass, but didn’t like that as well as green frosting and small flowers. She sometimes adds jelly beans, M&Ms or other candy.
Her eggs are completely edible, so she doesn’t use plastic bunnies or flowers.
Children could decorate eggs with animal crackers or Gummy Bears, she noted.
When the bottom half is finished, she puts the top on with a bead of icing, then pipes a decorative design around the edge and peephole.
Eggs without peepholes can be used to hold candy or gifts.
Green became a baker several years ago, but it’s something she’s wanted to do since high school. Her mother discouraged her daughter, noting it was a man’s domain at that time and the hours were terrible. Bakers work through the night to have fresh bakery ready when their shops opened.
Her mother wanted her to have a normal work schedule and social life, Green said.
She got a degree in therapeutic recreation, but Green said she always preferred baking.
After getting married and having children, she was a stay-at-home mom who worked in bakeries and recreation programs.
While living in Iowa, she baked cakes for customers from her home kitchen, something that’s not allowed in Wisconsin. She now has access to a commercial kitchen.
Green took a Wilton cake-decorating class in Iowa. When she moved to Port Washington, she took a professional baking course at Milwaukee Area Technical College (MATC) in Milwaukee.
She graduated with honors from the one-year program, which included making breads, pies, cakes and cake decorating. She then took an advanced pastries course, learning to work with spun sugar and chocolate.
“I had taught myself a lot of it over the years, but it was nice to go back to school and get the fine tuning,” Green said.
Far as their final class project, the 30 students created gingerbread houses for a competition. Green’s elaborate Victorian house, which had glazed-sugar windows, took second place.
She is now a member of the MATC advisory board for bakery and pastry arts.
Although she can bake almost anything, Green said, desserts, especially cakes, are her forte.
“You have to specialize in something. It’s difficult to do it all and do it well. I like desserts,” she said.
Everything on her cakes is edible. She often mixes rice cereal with marshmallow creme until its malleable enough to form items atop cakes, such as a dinosaur for a child’s cake or cowboy boots for the cast of Port Summer Theater’s production of “Oklahoma!”
For a photographer’s birthday, she made a cake shaped like a camera, complete with an edible strap.
She often makes cake baskets for Easter, filling them with flowers or colorful eggs.
For Christmas, Green made a gingerbread train that she donated to the Niederkorn Library in Port.
Green, who recently baked for the Java Dock in Port Washington, goes to state and national bakers’ conventions where she picks up new ideas and techniques.
Over the years, she has developed her own cake recipes, which are secrets she won’t share even with her family.
“I’m lucky to be able to go to work and do what I enjoy every day and be creative,” Green said.