It’s that time of year again, when young folks’ fancy lightly turns to thoughts of love … of candy. Do you still have gaps to fill in those baskets? It’s time to stuff the plastic eggs, too. Let’s get cracking!
It’s always interesting to watch the rise and fall of candy trends, and this year’s springtime and Easter offerings are more interesting than the Valentine’s Day spread was, in my opinion. There’s a heavy emphasis on citrus, pastels and new variations on old themes, some more successful than others. Chicks and bunnies and eggs, oh my! Let’s hop on down to the drugstore and see which ones are basket-worthy.
I was disappointed in the flavorless pink Valentine’s Peeps earlier this year, but they’ve outdone themselves for spring. There are the usual plain sugar pastel chicks and bunnies, but there are also novelty flavors like Tropical Burst, Cotton Candy and Hot Tamale. I tried the Sparkly Wild Berry Bunnies, Fruit Punch and Caramel Mocha Filled Delights Chicks. The berry ones are in the familiar bunny shape, but the crisp sugar coating is studded with glittery purple crystals, and the lavender color goes all the way through the marshmallow. The Fruit Punch chicks taste pretty similar, but their staining potential is exponentially greater. You’re going to find sticky red sugar on all the fingers, all the clothes, the couch, your hair …
Peeps devotees will probably love these, but I don’t care for them. When I was in kindergarten in the Late Cretaceous, we dipped marshmallows in water and coated them with Kool-Aid and Jell-O powder Shake ‘n Bake-style to very similar effect. Then we ran outside to catch saber-toothed hares.
As for the mocha-filled ones, I bought those expecting them to be a sure-fire option for a brutal takedown, but they’re actually pretty good. They’ve been glazed with coffee-laced chocolate at the base, and the caramel inside is real, although there isn’t much of it. I actually found myself wishing there were more, for what I personally would prefer in a caramel-to-marshmallow ratio. They’re dusted with a faintly metallic sugar sheen. There are just four to a package, but the relative quality is worth it.
Peeps also has some fun craft kits and plush toys this year, one of which comes with Peeps marshmallow-flavored lemonade drink powder. Hard pass from me on that one, but the little visor on the lemonade stand bunny is clever.
What basket would be complete without candy eggs? There are more to choose from every year.
I almost lost my mind with so many great childhood memories wrapped up in the Cocoa Pebbles Eggs — Saturday morning with the Flintstones and chocolate cereal milk. The familiar cartoon font is on every egg. I’ve never had a Frankford brand chocolate before, but this one is great for the price, melts in the mouth with a nicely rounded American-style chocolate flavor. There’s a crispy rice crunch to them, but if anything, I wish it were more prominent. It’s a fun idea wrapped around a good candy, but the Cocoa Pebbles are a hint rather than the hit I was hoping for.
If you’re a fan of Hershey’s Cookies ‘n’ Creme Candy Bars, you might look for their Easter version, Polka Dot Cookies ‘n’ Creme Eggs. The foil wrappers are lovely, dotted in magenta and bright blue, and the cookie bits are multicolored pastel. I like the concept, but they pale in comparison to the bars — the white chocolate is gritty and dry, and the flavorless cookie bits really suffer from the lack of cocoa. Sadly, they’re a polka-don’t.
SpongeBob Squarepants Krabby Patty Eggs are plastic, pre-filled with the show’s most famous foodstuff, and ready for hiding. Even as gummy candies go, these aren’t very tasty, but they are hilarious, featuring a gummy replica of the secret recipe patty and undersea lettuce, all on a seaweed seed bun.
Cadbury Mini Eggs are one of my favorites. The shell is candied, thicker than an M&M, and the colors are a beautiful matte finish almost like real eggs. They aren’t individually wrapped, so keep that in mind if you’re looking for plastic egg stuffers in preparation for the hunt.
Don’t confuse those for the famously polarizing Cadbury Creme Eggs. Some people love the creme goo complete with yellow dye yolk, and others would rather yellow die. If you like them but think they’re just too much, there’s a mini creme version tailor-made for the squeamish, and they come filled with caramel, too.
The citrus swing
Key lime is my favorite pie, and that might be why I wasn’t sure about the Key Lime Pie M&M’s at first. The white chocolate just isn’t emblematic of the pie. They sort of grew on me, though, and the colors are fun — all shades of spring greens. I was worried that the shell would be lime with plain white chocolate inside, but I think the shell is plain, and the white chocolate has the lime mixed in. That was the right choice. These would be a great spring scene cake decorating asset, too, so you don’t have to spend an hour picking out all the green ones from a regular bag.
As an aside, I also tried M&M’s limited-edition Honey Graham flavor, and I was disappointed. They taste exactly like the usual Crispy M&M’s, no detectable honey or graham. It’s also not a very festive color assortment, all yellows and browns in lumpy and uneven sizes, but again, if you’re decorating a cake and need dirt color, this bag has you covered.
I love milk chocolate Kit Kats, so I expected to hate the mini Lemon Crisp ones. They’re delicious! I still have to try not to think about them when I’m trying to fall asleep at night. They’re very lemony, but not too tart, most reminiscent of Starbuck’s delightful lemon pound cake. The little individually wrapped Kit Kats are cheerful yellow and will fit inside most plastic eggs for hiding.
Warheads Scrambler Jumbo Egg has three candies inside: Watermelon Super Sour Spray Candy, gummy Sour Cubes and Extreme Sour hard candies. I liked the cubes — they’re such a great little shape, uniformly sized in lots of bright colors, as though English peas had been created by Willy Wonka. They are sweetly tart but not much more so than Jolly Ranchers. The spray is fun, but let’s be honest — it’s going to be a disaster. Your kids are going to spray it on the cat, the car windows in each other’s eyes. Also, it tastes 0% like watermelon, and is only kind of sour. Now, the Extreme Sour hard candies are a different breed entirely. The word “sour” describes their flavor the way the word “hot” describes the surface of the sun. On a scale of one to ten, they are eleventy million. Battery acid lozenges. Proceed with caution.
You can’t have the basket without the bunny! There are lots of choices — solid, hollow, milk, dark, white. Choose carefully. Feel the weight in your hand — is this bunny worthy of the plastic grass it’s sitting on? Is the shape refined enough to allow you to take a bite, or will you be reduced to sawing off pieces of solid chocolate in the middle of the night? Your child, I mean. Not you, a fully grown adult. That would be silly.
I think the best bet is Russell Stover’s hollow rabbity fellow. The foil artwork is cute without being cutesy. You can break off chunks of controlled size without breaking your teeth. The scent is heavenly, really gets those whiskers twitching. And the texture is superior, melts in the mouth. It’s also reasonably priced for a very good chocolate.
Russell Stover also makes a great flatback chocolate bunny if 3D realism isn’t important to you. No judgement.
Frankford is another good bet, especially if you’d prefer a solid bunny. It has milk chocolate, Cocoa Pebbles and even white-chocolate Fruity Pebbles versions.
For the bunny-phobic, Ferrero Rocher makes a chocolate and hazelnut squirrel! It has more hazelnut than chocolate by volume, with the richness characteristic of European-style chocolates.
There are mini hollow ducklings, too, in Lindt’s signature heavily milky chocolate.
But what about bunnies that aren’t chocolate? The only one I could find is a giant cherry gummy bunny from Favorite Day. If you have a kid allergic to chocolate or milk, it’s worth its weight in approximately 280 gummy bears.
Now that you have your hollow ducklings in a row and the eggs hidden, what about you? There’s no shame in sneaking a Peep if that’s your jam, but if you want more complex flavors, Ferrero Rocher makes filled eggs that are jumbo for minis, perfect for an after-dinner bite. I liked the caramel-filled even though the caramel wasn’t what I expected — it’s almost like cookie butter, with a strong burnt sugar note.
Ghiradelli’s standard chocolate squares have been reimagined in springtime shapes. The caramel-filled are available with and without a salty bite.
Lindt’s Truffle Eggs are smooth and sophisticated, especially their snappy dark chocolate, but if you want something fun along with fancy, try the Neapolitan Truffles. There’s real strawberry in the shell, and milk and white chocolate inside.
Jelly Belly Spring Mix
Jelly Belly’s Spring Mix is perfect if you’re looking for a chocolate alternative or need an allergy-friendly pick. Along with the trendy tangerine, grapefruit and lemon flavors, this assortment features Berry Blue, Island Punch, among others. I wasn’t a fan of its Valentine’s Red Raspberry Hearts, but Jelly Belly has the beans down to an art, with a refined candy shell, uniform sizing and superior flavors.
One last tip: As you choose items for the basket, remember to vary package sizes, so that you’ve got something tall for the back, mid-sized things that won’t disappear down the middle and some tiny things to fill gaps and sit up front without blocking the rest. A bag of mini eggs can go under everything else if you need filler. Variety in textures and colors adds interest, and it also gives you the opportunity to add a thing or two with no added sugar. Try sugarless gum, mints and even crunchy freeze-dried fruits and spring vegetables.