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!
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.
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!
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!!
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
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.