The egg has long been a symbol of rebirth and fertility. Going back as far as thousands of years, a simple bird’s egg might be given as a gift, often gaudily painted to celebrate the colours and vibrancy that came with the season of the spring, when the sun god stirred to life again – all long before Christianity.
In 1307 Edward I’s household accounts included an entry that said: 18 pence for 459 eggs to be boiled and dyed or covered with gold leaf and distributed to the royal household. (If you want to create your own golden egg, wrap an egg in onion skins, secure firmly with string or rubber bands and then simmer in a pan of water for up to an hour – by which time the egg should be marbled gold.) Then again, you might prefer a more expensive alternative, such as the flawless jewelled eggs created in the nineteenth century by Carl Faberge for the Russian Czar and Czarina, constructed of enamelled platinum shells which each contained a small golden egg.
Such a rare and priceless gift is unlikely to find its way into most of our hands this Easter day. But chocolate eggs will be widely held, with many fingers grown sticky and brown – and this melting quality of the confection is what led to the possibility of chocolate taking the form of eggs.
The first chocolate eggs were only developed in the early 19th century when, originally in France and Germany, a blend was created that could be shaped. In England, John Cadbury made his first solid eggs in 1842, but it was not until many years later, after a press was successfully used to separate the cocoa butter from the bean, that a finer chocolate was available, and being easy to melt and mould the result was the Cadbury Easter egg of 1875. The first eggs were made of smooth plain chocolate and the insides were filled with dragees but many more designs followed on, with icing and marzipan flowers, and boxes and ribbons to decorate: now become the annual indulgence which is a tradition for all.