It’s a tradition in my family to bake lamb cakes for Easter. My grandmother made them for my mother and uncle, My mother made them for me and my brothers, and this year, I made the first lamb cake for Jack. The same mold has been passed down so I am lucky enough to have my grandmother’s lamb cake mold.
I tried to make one last year, but it didn’t go so well. In fact, it was a lambastrophy (heehee.) About 60% of the cake stuck in the pan. I had made a lamb cake once before for my baby brother when he was small. That went better that last year, but I still had to reattach the head and ears which didn’t make it out of the mold. Given that I had made two cakes with less-than-desirable results, my mom suggested we do some searching online to find out if anyone had any tips on making lamb cakes.
Boy, did we hit the jackpot! We found Retro Ruth at www.midcenturymenu.com! On her blog, she wrote about her quest for the perfect lamb cake, “The Eight Days of Lamb Cakes.” On day two, she baked the Renalde Lamb Cake recipe that came with the vintage lamb cake pan. This is the recipe I decided to use for the cake. Because I like to live on the edge, I didn’t test it out before baking it on Easter Sunday. I meticulously followed the recipe and Ruth’s lamb cake tips. If you are going to make your own lamb cake, be sure to visit The Mid-Century Menu and read all Retro Ruth has to offer on the subject. I couldn’t have baked this cake without her!
Unfortunately, I didn’t take any pictures of the baking process. Since I chose to make the cake on Easter Sunday, we had about a million other things going on at the same time and the pictures just fell to the wayside Sorry about that!
Here is the recipe for the cake as I baked it. My notes/additions are in italics:
- 1 cup butter, unsalted
- 2 cups baker’s sugar
- 4 eggs, separated
- 1 cup whole milk
- 3 cups sifted cake flour
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 3 tsp baking powder
- 1 tsp vanilla
- Cream butter and sugar until fluffy. I always use baker’s sugar as I like the ultra-fine granule. I find that it dissolves and incorporates more easily into just about everything. The original recipe did not specify it needs to be baker’s sugar and I’m sure it would be just fine with regular granulated sugar.
- Add egg yolks one at a time, beating thoroughly after each one is added.
- Sift dry ingredients together 3 times and add to creamed mixture alternately with milk and vanilla, beating until smooth after each addition. I wasn’t sure about whether the flour should be sifted before or after measuring. The way I read it was to sift first, then measure so I went with that. I sifted the flour and then measured out three cups. I then added the baking powder and salt and sifted three more times.
- Fold in stiffly beaten egg whites. If you aren’t sure what stiffly beaten egg whites should look like (I wasn’t), click here for a one-minute video tutorial. I didn’t watch this first. I decided to wing it and ended up with egg whites all over the kitchen.
- Grease cake mold thoroughly; fill face part of mold with batter. Cover with other half of mold and place in hot oven face down, baking for 45 mins. Bake at 450 degrees for first 15 mins, finish baking at 350 degrees. Per Retro Ruth’s tips, I greased the mold and then floured it with cake flour. I filled the face side of the pan to just under the rim and spooned batter into the ears. I also followed her tips on adding structural support and tying the mold closed with baker’s twine. I placed the mold onto a cookie sheet for a flat baking surface and ease of putting it into/taking it out of the oven.
- Remove from oven and let cool for 15 mins before loosening to take out. Here I followed Ruth’s lead and let it cool in the pan for 15 minutes before cutting the twine and taking off the back of the mold. I let it cool another 15 minutes before removing the cake from the remainder of the mold, making sure to loosen all the edges with a butter knife before tipping out the cake.
The cake came out PERFECTLY! The cake completely filled the mold, didn’t stick anywhere and left the mold with head and ears attached!! I actually danced, whooped, and high-fived everyone in the kitchen at the time of unmolding. I left the cake on the cookie sheet to cool and moved on to the cupcakes. I may have strutted across the kitchen to the remainder of the batter…
According to the recipe, you will have enough cake batter to fill the lamb mold and make six cupcakes. I had enough to fill the mold, make 24 mini cupcakes and 2″x4″ silicone loaf pan! I left some of the cupcakes plain and added sprinkles, mini chocolate chips or mini M&M’s to the others. They all tasted fantastic! I will say, that I didn’t take the trouble to grease and flour the cupcake tin as I had the lamb mold. I used baking spray instead. I was VERY glad that I hadn’t taken that short cut on the lamb cake because the cupcakes stuck and tore as I pulled them out of the tin. I can’t imagine what the lamb cake would have looked like if I hadn’t done the recommended greasing and flouring!
For the frosting, I didn’t really like the sound of any of the vintage recipes I read through. To be fair, I didn’t look at all of them. The ones I saw were shortening based, and I really dislike that kind of frosting. I am a HUGE fan of buttercream. So, I decided to use a dear family friend’s recipe for Coconut Buttercream Frosting.
Coconut Buttercream Frosting
- 1/2 cup (one stick) salted butter
- 1 pound powdered sugar
- 1 Tbsp. coconut extract
- Coconut milk
- Beat butter until fluffy
- add in powdered sugar and coconut extract and beat together
- slowly pour in coconut milk until desired consistency. For me this was about six tablespoons. You will want the frosting thin enough to spread easily but thick enough to not slide off the cake.
To decorate the cake:
- Smear a line of frosting on your platter where the cake will sit and then place the lamb on the frosting to help anchor it.
- Frost the cake making sure to cover all over.
- Next, cover the cake with coconut flakes. I used “Let’s Do…Oganic” brand, fine shred, unsweetened coconut. This was a HUGE improvement over the sweetened flaked coconut I used in the past, both in taste and appearance. There are two methods of covering the cake in coconut. One is to throw the coconut at the cake, the other is to cup it into your hand and gently press it onto the cake. The first bit I always throw onto the cake because it’s way more fun. Then I remember that it’s a rather messy method of application and finish up by pressing the coconut onto the cake. After the coconut is on, sweep any loose coconut off the platter and put it into a zip top baggie of coconut for the grass later.
- Add a face. I chose to use two blue, mini M&M’s for the eyes and a pink jelly bean for the nose. I cut the jelly bean in half lengthwise and only used half so it would adhere better and not stick out too far. You could use candy eyes, decorator icing, paper cutouts, whatever you like.
- Tie a ribbon around the neck. I found a four-pack of Easter ribbon in the dollar spot at Target for $1. Each piece was the perfect length for a bow around the neck. I chose the purple ribbon with little white bunnies printed on it.
- Add the grass. For grass I put some of the remaining coconut into a zip top bag and added green food coloring. Close it up and shake it like a Polaroid picture. When it’s a nice, even green, spread it out around the lamb on the platter. For a finishing touch, I added Cadbury Mini-Eggs around the lamb.
There you have it! Lamb cake perfection! Be sure to place your masterpiece in a prominent location so everyone can ogle the cake during dinner and get super excited about dessert. Jack was VIBRATING with excitement to eat this cake! I never saw his dinner disappear so fast! The cake was a hit and my mom said that it tasted like the one her mom used to make. Now that I it can be done tear-free, I would highly recommend making the lamb cake a part of your family’s Easter or Spring traditions! If you make one, send me a picture!