Around Easter, my family does a WHOLE lot of baking. One of the biggest traditions is my mom always bakes a lamb cake (or as my brother and I fondly refer to it: the sheep cake.) No, it doesn’t consist of the body parts of any furry creatures, it’s simply a coconut cake we bake in the shape of–you guessed it–a lamb.
Perhaps Step 1 of this recipe should read, “I’d turn back if I were you.” It isn’t the ingredients that are scary, just the mechanics.
The cake batter is similar to that of a yellow pound cake, because the finished product has to be sturdy to stand upright, like a lamb in a pasture. That type of batter, however, is thick and rich, which means it likes to stick to the pan. So plan on spending plenty of time massaging shortening into the five million creases and crinkles of the cake mold with your fingertips. If you are naive enough to use a non-stick spray shortening instead, the baked lamb will not release from the pan. At least not in one piece.
I remember all the times I saw my mother confidently remove a lamb cake from the oven, smiling as the aroma filled the kitchen, whistling while it sat on the rack to cool, and then mutter something under her breath , as she jiggled, pounded, pried and wedged the two pan sections apart.
With an ear missing and a gouge out of the back, we ate the cake anyway, even though my mother said it was not worth frosting. The coconut flakes we put on top to give it a fluffy appearance. Chocolate chips or black jelly beans were used as eyes and nose, and a red ribbon wrapped around the the neck, symbolic of the Easter Paschal lamb. Green coconut was spread around the bottom of the lamb, representative of grass, and jelly beans added color to the serving plate.
While this Easter tradition is one of the more exasperating ones, it also has had my family create many fond memories. If you’re looking to take this project on yourself, all you need is a lamb cake pan which you can find here, and the following recipe. No, it might not turn out beautifully, and you might have to patch up an ear with a great deal of frosting, but at the end of the day it’s a meaningful, fun tradition to start this Easter season.
LAMB CAKE RECIPE
2 cups all purpose flour
3 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/8 cups sugar
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter
1 teaspoon vanilla
3/4 cup milk
Grease pan front and back thoroughly and dust lightly with flour. Or, mix together a paste of 2 tablespoons flour and 1 tablespoon shortening; then use to grease pan. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
Combine flour, baking powder and salt in small bowl and set aside.
Cream butter, and add sugar slowly, until batter is smooth. Add eggs, one at a time, and add vanilla. Add flour mixture and milk alternately, until well combined.
Place face half of mold on cookie sheet and fill with batter to the top, being careful to fill nose and ears. Lay one toothpick in batter of each ear, to add stability. Place back mold on top of front mold, and tie two pieces together with kitchen string. Bake 45 minutes.
When done, let cool on cooling rack for 15 minutes, then remove back pan. Let cool another 15 minutes, then use a sharp knife to carefully loosen pan around edges. Allow to cool completely before frosting.
6 tablespoons butter, softened
4 1/2 to 4 3/4 cups powdered sugar
1/4 cup milk
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
In a small mixing bowl, beat butter until fluffy. Gradually add about half of the sugar, beating well. Beat in milk and vanilla. Gradually beat in remaining sugar, adding more milk, if necessary, to make frosting of spreading consistency.
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