Honey Lamb Cake!

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I’ve spent the last 48 hours baking, frosting and decorating three Lamb Cakes for Easter.

Okay, I took a two hour break to hear Carla Hall, my personal favorite Top Chef and co-host of The Chew, speak at our local bookstore, Joseph Beth. I even got to meet her and give her a big hug! She was awesome!

Carla

 

But that’s another story… Back to the Lamb Cakes

I first encountered Easter Lamb cakes when I moved from Louisville to Cincinnati back in the 70′s.  Cincinnati has a large Eastern European population, mostly German. Lamb cakes are wildly popular in the Old Country at Easter Tide, and German immigrants brought them here in the mid 19th century.

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Lamb cakes were traditionally made in heavy cast iron molds manufactured by the Griswold Manufacturing Company of Erie, Pennsylvania. They aren’t manufactured any more, but you can find them on EBay, usually at exorbitant prices.  I was lucky and got mine for cheap. It was worth the hunt!

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Traditionally Easter Lamb cakes were made with honey and ground hazelnuts. Sadly, nowadays hazelnuts are usually omitted and cane sugar is used instead of honey. My recipe leaves out the nuts, but you can always include some almond flour.

I originally planned to only make one cake, but this recipe makes two large and one small cakes. It was fortuitous though because both of my neighbors wanted one!

By the way, I’m starting Culinary School in two weeks.  Wish me luck!!

Cake Ingredients

3  cups sifted cake flour, plus more for mold

1 tablespoon baking powder

3/4 teaspoon baking soda

3/4 teaspoon salt

6 ounces (3/4 cup) unsalted butter, softened, plus more for mold (I used Crisco to grease the pan)

1 1/4 cups sugar

2/3 cup honey

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1 cup whole milk, room temperature

6 large egg whites, room temperature

1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar

Directions

Place rack in center of oven, and preheat oven to 350 degrees. Using a pastry brush, coat both sides of the mold with butter or Crisco, making sure to cover all areas.

Dust mold with flour, tap out excess, and freeze until ready to use.

Sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda,and salt. Cream butter and sugar with a mixer until pale and fluffy. Reduce the speed; drizzle in honey. Beat on high until very pale and fluffy. Add vanilla.

Add flour mixture, alternating with milk, beginning and ending with flour. Transfer batter to a large bowl. Beat egg whites until foamy. Add cream of tartar, and beat until stiff, glossy peaks form. Fold 1/3 of the egg white mixture into cake batter, then fold in the remaining whites.

Pour batter into the “face” side of the mold.  Place  toothpicks or bamboo skewers in the batter to provide support for the head, ears and neck.  Place the other side of the mold on top.  Place on a baking sheet.

Bake for 20 minutes and turn the mold over.  Bake for another 20 minutes. Transfer mold to a wire rack.  After 15 minutes remove the top side of the mold.  After another 15 minutes or so, carefully remove the cake from the other side of the mold. Let cool completely. Wrap in plastic wrap, and refrigerate for at least 1 hour (or up to 1 day).

Honey Buttercream Frosting

1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/3 cup honey plus 2 TBSP
4-5 cups powdered sugar
milk as  needed for thinning out frosting

In a stand mixer using the paddle attachment, cream together the butter and the honey for 2 minutes.  Add 2 cups of the powdered sugar .
Start on low speed on the mixer, beat until smooth and creamy, about 3-5 minutes.
Gradually add the remaining sugar, 1 cup at a time, beating well after each addition (about 2 minutes), until the icing is thick enough to be of good spreading consistency.
Use milk to thin out frosting to reach desired consistency.

Tips for Success

1. Grease your lamb pan.  Then grease it some more.

2. Flouring your pan is MUST!

3. Fill your lamb on the “face” side of the mold.

4. Add structural support (e.g. toothpicks and/or bamboo skewers) to your lamb cake before it is baked.

5. Tie your lamb cake mold shut with baker’s twine.

6. Bake cake for the maximum amount of time called for in the recipe.

7. Cool cake properly before removing from mold.

8. Loosen edges on the face side completely before trying to de-pan your lamb.

9. Let your lamb cool completely before trying to frost it.

10. Give your lamb a good base (frosting on plate) to sit on.

Happy Easter To All!!

The Archbishop Of Canterbury Talked To Bees

Reprinted courtesy of  The Telegraph

Archbishop of Canterbury: I talked to the bees about my day at school and pretty girls

The Most Rev Justin Welby has disclosed how he would talk to the bees about his innermost secrets growing up, as the bees “were reasonably confidential”

The Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby

The Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby in the gardens at Lambeth Palace Photo: HEATHCLIFF O’MALLEY FOR THE TELEGRAPH

In the case of the Most Rev Justin Welby, though, it was not flowers and shrubs, but bees in whom he would confide his innermost secrets.

The cleric has told how he became interested in beekeeping as a child through his grandmother, and would use the time when he was tending to their hives to talk to them.

He added that he started off by telling them about his day at school, but that as he grew older, he moved on to more mature preoccupations – the birds and the bees.

Interviewed as part of a new BBC programme, The Wonder of Bees, he said he used to talk about the “pretty girls” he had encountered, adding: “The bees knew more than anyone else.”

The Archbishop said his grandmother had introduced him to Rudyard Kipling’s encouragement to “tell bees the news”, from his poem, The Bee-Boy’s Song, and had embraced it.

“I assume they were reasonably confidential,” he added.

The Archbishop will appear in the second of four programmes presented by Martha Kearney as part of her new series beginning tomorrow . In it, the broadcaster will explore the science and history of beekeeping.

At one point, she will visit Lambeth Palace, which is currently home to six beehives, to the “delight” of its incumbent. In the programme, due to be broadcast on BBC Four on April 21, the Archbishop said: “My grandmother took to keeping bees and grew up with the information from the beekeepers that you must always tell the bees all the news.

“It’s in Kipling. So we had to tell them, she took me down and I’d say how school had been and what I was doing.

“And then as I grew up and, ‘I got a boat’, and ‘there’s this pretty girl here’ and that sort of stuff.”

When asked by Kearney whether the bees knew “all his secrets first”, he added: “The bees knew more than anybody else. I assume they were reasonably confidential.”

He also discussed the significance of bees in Christian thinking, where hives are used in religious art to symbolise people living harmoniously together in a monastery.

“Clearly the people who picked up on those had never lived in a monastery,” he said.

“Religious community life was, and to this day remains, not always that easy but then I suppose hives aren’t always as harmonious as we like to imagine.”

Reflecting on the symbolic use of bees in religion, he went on: “The ancient legend was that they were the only creature to escape untainted from the Garden of Eden so they were particularly innocent.

“The great preachers in the era of the eastern Roman Empire, Constantinople, would be referred to as ’honey tongued preachers’ and it was a sense of smooth and sweet and with words that carried real conviction and power and life changing impact.”

The remainder of the Wonder of Bees series will see Kearney working on her own beehives, in the hopes of producing honey to sell.

Programmes will also see her try to combat disease in the hive, visit scientists putting bees in tiny ’straitjackets’ to demonstrate the damaging effect of chemicals and filming the “waggle dance” that helps the insects communicate.

The Wonder of Bees is part of BBC Four’s spring season, intended to explore the nation’s “deep relationship with nature and our inimitable love of gardens”.

My Bees Are Flying!

Thanks to the Polar Vortex it’s been abnormally arctic in Southwestern Ohio this year.  We aren’t used to this kind of heavy snow, ice and below zero temperatures.

Local beekeepers are understandably anxious. Are their hives still alive? Will the bees make it until the dandelions start blooming? Should they have winterized more?  Or in my case, winterized at all?

I went into December with two healthy hives. I started the season with four.

One of my hives never really got going, and the other was robbed by its next door neighbor. Needless to say, I’ll be moving those hives farther apart this year!

Over the past few days we’ve finally gotten some blessedly warm weather. Last Friday it hit 59 degrees, and with great trepidation, I ventured out to my backyard (aka Mt. Everest) to survey the bee situation. I was delighted to discover that both hives appear to be thriving!

I didn’t harvest any honey last Fall, so I’m pretty sure the bees have enough food for now.  Nonetheless I’m planning to open the hives up for few minutes today to do a quick check and and slip in some fondant.

It was too sunny to get good pictures, but if you look closely you can see my happy girls flying. Happy Bee Season!!

My "Beautiful Beehives" are in need of a new paint job!

My “Beautiful Beehives” are in need of a paint job!

Buzzing Away!

Buzzing Away!

The hive on the right is thriving. The hive on the left not so much...

The hive on the right is thriving. The hive on the left not so much…

Happy girls!

Happy girls!

Cat visits her bees!

Cat visits her bees!

Spring Grove Cemetery – The Victorian Way Of Death

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Built in 1844 and comprising 733 perfectly landscaped acres, Spring Grove Cemetery and Arboretum in Cincinnati is one of the largest and most beautiful cemeteries in the world. Listed on the National Register of Historic places, it’s as much a lush Victorian botanical garden as it is a burial ground.

Spring Grove Cemetery Circa 1858

Spring Grove Cemetery Circa 1858

Spring Grove exemplifies an attitude toward death and mourning which is uniquely Victorian. Its park-like setting and fascinating statuary attract people to come and spend time there, including sightseers, runners, picnickers and nature lovers.

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Spring Grove encourages visitors.  It holds frequent events to attract and engage the public. Tours, Races, Parades and Seminars. Even Maple Syrup tapping!

Tree Identification

In contrast, there isn’t much to make one want to visit the typical modern cemetery.  They’re usually austere, utilitarian and uninviting. More parking lot than park.

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Interestingly, Spring Grove has kept beehives since its beginning.

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Why are Spring Grove and other Victorian era cemeteries different? The simple answer is there were more people dying then.

Urban overcrowding and poor sanitation resulted in epidemics of consumption, scarlet fever, typhoid, smallpox and cholera. Medical treatment was medieval, and most people who became ill never recovered. Children were especially at risk. Hundreds of thousands of people died of diseases which are today practically nonexistent.

As a way of coping with tragedy, Victorians romanticized death, developing a preoccupation with the rituals and paraphernalia of mourning which today seems morbid if not perverse. People spent huge sums of money on elaborate funerals. They gathered around pianos and sang songs like “The Vacant Chair” and “Cradle’s Empty, Baby’s Gone.” Foods were served with names like “funeral biscuits and “dead bone cookies.” Parents commissioned portraits of their children in which deceased offspring were included. Post-mortem photography was extremely popular.

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One of the practical problems of more dead people was finding a place to bury them. Up to that time people had been buried primarily in church graveyards, but  graveyards simply ran out of space. New cemeteries had to be built. Given the Victorians’ attitude towards death, the new cemeteries tended to be elaborate and costly.

The history of Spring Grove is typical. The creation of a new cemetery was made necessary by a particularly bad cholera outbreak in the 1830s. The polluted Ohio river and Erie canal made disease a way of life in Cincinnati at this time, and local churchyards were overflowing. Modeling it in part after Pere la Chaise in Paris, the Cincinnati Horticultural Society established Spring Grove as a non-profit nondenominational corporation. Salmon P. Chase, later Chief Justice of the U. S. Supreme Court, lobbied for the charter, which was granted by special act of the Ohio legislature on January 21, 1845. The first burial took place on September 1 of that same year.

The idyllic setting of the cemetery and careful attention paid to its upkeep made it a popular place to visit–more a park than a graveyard. The artistic “lawn plan” landscaping has been studied and imitated for more than a century. The arboretum contains numerous prizewinning trees, some more than a hundred years old. This is all aside from the aesthetics of the various memorials, many of which are quite unique. And the cemetery provides an animal sanctuary for birds, squirrels, and groundhogs. And, of course, bees.

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Bee Business On A Roof

I thought rooftop beekeeping was something new. Not so! Here’s an article about a rooftop apiary circa 1912. Fascinating!!

Check out more historical honeybee articles at https://www.facebook.com/Historical.Honeybee.Articles

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Bee Poster Available From The Digital Museum Of Natural History

Bee Poster for sale

This 24″ by 36″ bee poster will be available for mailing starting on November 25th. It will cost $20 plus $5 shipping worldwide. You may start placing your orders here, https://www.paypal.com/cgi-bin/webscr?cmd=_s-xclick&hosted_button_id=C39UTE5VL3U82.