Sweet treats for Easter baking

Closeup of a person's hands unrolling a honey bun on a plate.
We have five recipes, including honey buns, above, and candy bars, for a sweet holiday weekend.
(Silvia Razgova / For The Times; prop styling by Jennifer Sacks)

Every Easter, I take on a new baking challenge. It reminds me of the tradition of making a giant, snow white coconut cake for the holiday when I was growing up. Just enough time has passed since the deluge of Christmas cookies that I feel like breaking out my stand mixer again.

So this year, I developed a homemade version of my partner’s favorite treat, honey buns, but the kind wrapped in cellophane that you get from a vending machine. Those are pumped with stabilizers to keep them fresh seemingly forever; I wanted to make buns that I felt better about eating but that still had the characteristic pillowy-soft and moist texture. The recipe came out better than I hoped.

If you’re feeling equally nostalgic for treats that used to fall three feet behind a sheet of plexiglass, then maybe try your hand at baking some of these other vending-machine-treat-inspired sweets.

My Chewy Coconut Cake With Milk Chocolate Glaze is basically a Mounds candy bar but with a softer texture, and — bonus — it’s gluten-free. And if you’re a Twix fanatic like me, these Shortbread Bars With Dark Chocolate and Caramel are a wonderful way to re-create them but with better chocolate.

Want something even easier that uses actual store-bought candy bars? Try my Candy Bar Sheet Cake, which is what we used to have for dessert in my high school cafeteria. It’s an all-purpose white sheet cake drenched in butterscotch sauce then topped with whipped cream. Crushed Butterfinger or Heath bars echo the toffee flavor in the butterscotch but, really, use whatever candy bar you love — or whatever candy is left over in your Easter basket at the end of the day.


And if you want something that is a little fancier and has the feel of a bar-shaped treat but is on the fruit side of the sweet spectrum, try Christian Reynoso’s Date and Lemon Bars With Sesame. The dates balance the tang of these classic lemon bars, while the tahini crust feels like a grown-up shortbread.

Vending Machine Honey Buns

Squishy-soft and tender, these homemade honey buns keep the allure of the cellophane-wrapped ones but without all the chemicals that keep the latter “fresh” for way too long.
Get the recipe.
Cook time: 1 hour, 10 minutes, plus 3 hours proofing.

Glaze is added to honey buns.
(Silvia Razgova / For The Times)

Chewy Coconut Cake With Milk Chocolate Glaze

This cake is really more like a giant Mounds candy bar — but much more delicious. Toasted, shredded coconut and coconut flour amp up the coconut flavor while also giving you two different textures.
Get the recipe.
Cook time: 45 minutes.

A slice of chewy coconut cake with milk chocolate glaze.
(Myung J. Chun / Los Angeles Times)

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Shortbread Bars With Dark Chocolate and Caramel

These homemade candy bars are fashioned after the Twix bar, which is similar to the classic millionaire’s shortbread dessert — a layer of shortbread topped with caramel and rich chocolate.
Get the recipe.
Cook time: 2 hours.

Candy Bar Sheet Cake

On their own, conventional candy bars can be too sweet and concentrated in sugar for some grown-ups. But chopped and sprinkled over unsweetened whipped cream, they make an ideal topping for a simple white sheet cake.
Get the recipe.
Cook time: 1 hour 20 minutes.

A serving of Candy Bar Sheet Cake.
(Mariah Tauger / Los Angeles Times)

Date and Lemon Bars With Sesame

Creamy, sweet dates soothe out the lemon in these bars, while the tart lemon brightens up the dates. All this flavor hand-holding makes these bars perfect for snacking, a showy dessert or just a fun and tasty baking project.
Get the recipe.
Cook time: 1 1/2 hours, plus overnight cooling.

Lemon Bars With Date and Sesame are plated up and ready to eat.
(Rebecca Peloquin / For The Times)

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