Easter Lamb Cake Magic – 10 Tips For The Perfect Retro Easter Lamb Cake

Posted on Mar 27 2013 - 6:04am by RetroRuth

It’s Lamb Cake time again!!! I know everyone thinks that Christmas is the most wonderful time of the year, but I think Easter might be my favorite time for sweets. I do love those lamb cakes! So, from now until Easter I am going to be posting some excellent tested lamb cake recipes from last year, complete with frostings. But I thought I would start it off right with the guide to successfully getting that cakey little sucker baked and de-panned properly. I promise you, lamb heads will NOT roll if you follow these tips!

These tips were originally posted last Easter after this story came out in The Wall Street Journal and I received tons of wonderful cards, letters and emails with recipes and information about baking the perfect lamb cake. Thanks to everyone who sent me those gems!

Oh, and if you have time during your busy Easter, PLEASE snap a photo of your lamb cake and email it to me! I will post all of the lamb cake pictures on the blog after Easter!

But enough yammering. Here are the tips!

1. Grease the HECK out of your lamb pan.

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I cannot stress how important this is.  Some of the vintage lamb pans, like mine, have so many tiny details in them that if you don’t get every single nook and cranny, you are going to end up with a disaster on your hands. Some people wrote to me and recommended Baker’s Joy or Pam in the spray can, but in the end I discovered that liberally applying shortening with a paper towel and carefully going over every bit was the best way to go. It may be time-consuming, but it gave me a good result every time.

2. Flouring your pan is MUST!

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I have to admit, there have been many times when I have greased a cake pan and skipped the flour step, or used homemade pan-ease (which is just flour and shortening mixed) to get everything done in one step. This does not work with the lambs. You need both steps to ensure that the lamb pops out at depanning time.  And make sure to keep an eye out for “naked” spots after flouring and go back over those with more shortening. Skipping the flour can end in disaster, so to avoid tears and tears, flour is a must!

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

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Put your lamb face-down on a large cookie sheet or sheet pan. Fill the lamb to just under the rim of the mold with your chosen cake batter. Be sure to spread batter gently into the ear cavities to ensure that your lamb actually ends up with ears. If you don’t do this, there is no guarantee that the batter will fill the ears during cooking.

And lambs without ears look really, really weird. Trust me on this one.

4. Add support to your lamb cake before it is baked.

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This is time to add your structural support to your lamb cake. One of the recipes that was photocopied from a major cookbook and sent to me stated, in a matter-of-fact way, that the head of your lamb cake was bound to roll off, and not to worry about it. It claimed you could just use toothpicks and frosting to glue it back together and everything would be great. Which is sort of a lie. Anyone who has ever made a lamb cake and had the head come off knows it is a delicate procedure to get it glued on. You need a whole lot of sticky frosting and a couple thousand toothpicks, and when you are done the lamb looks like it is wearing a neck brace. And even after a patch job you are nervous come serving time.

I am going to be the first to tell you that this does NOT have to be the case. Yeah, it is possible for the head of the cake to roll off, but the chances will be greatly reduced with a couple of quick toothpick placements. The lamb needs one toothpick in each ear and the thickest food grade bamboo skewer or pick you can find for the neck. The skewer should be placed about one inch in from the top of the head and extend into the body. I did this with every lamb cake recipe I tested, and I didn’t have a single head roll off. Poke these down slightly into the cake and make sure they are covered with batter.

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

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I am kind of ashamed to admit that this bit of advice, which I received from multiple wonderful people, was a complete revelation to me. I had previously, if you can believe this, been baking my lambs in two separate pieces and trying to glue them together with frosting. Why? Well, because if you put the top on without any string, the cake doesn’t rise into the second half of the mold. It just all oozes out through the cracks and makes a complete mess. I have been told that the oldest lamb molds were heavy cast iron, and this didn’t used to be a problem. The lamb mold I have, and that I am sure many people use, is made from aluminum and isn’t heavy enough to stay closed on it’s own. But a couple of sturdy pieces of string, tied tightly, eliminates the leakage and lets the cake rise into the second half.

Make sure your strings are tight and hold the mold closed! Even little gaps can let batter leak out.

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

Once your lamb is tied up nice and tight, unless you are lucky enough to have a vintage Renalde mold, there really isn’t a way to check whether or not the lamb cake is done in the center. After I pulled a cake that was completely raw in the middle, I decided that unless you know your oven and have made your recipe so many times that you know exactly how long it takes, it is best to just leave the cake in for the maximum time called for in the recipe.

7. Cool cake properly before removing from mold.

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Your lamb will crack apart if you try to shake him out too soon. The best method I found is this one: Let your lamb cool for 15 mins after removing it from the oven. Then cut the strings on the mold and remove only the back half. Let cool for another 15 mins before flipping the lamb over and attempting to remove the face.

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

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Your lamb, if you made it properly, will contain sugar, and sugar is sticky. Especially the caramelized sugar around the edges of the pan. I run a sharp knife around the edges of the lamb cake, and then carefully pull the cake back from the edge to make sure it is free. If you skip this, things aren’t going to go well. Those thin little ears are going to be crispy and completely stuck to the edge of the pan. And we already covered how dumb the lamb will look without ears, didn’t we?

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

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I know, I know. You want to get the little sucker upright now, because you are proud of how he came out in one piece. But you must wait. If you try to make him stand now, he is just going to crack. I found it took about 90 mins after the final de-pan for the lambs to be cool enough to sit up straight.

10. Give your lamb a good base to sit on.

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The same sharp knife you used to loosen your lamb is useful once again. Use it to cut off the bottom ridge created by the mold. This will give the lamb a good solid base. Also, remember that it will need some glue to sit upright. Use a knife to spread a good amount of your frosting over the base you plan on putting your lamb on. Then gently pick the lamb up and place him directly on the frosting stripe and make sure he is secured.

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And there it is! Your perfect retro lamb cake, ready for frosting and decorating!

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I love everything retro, vintage, mid-century, kitsch and all things atomic! A 21st century housewife just trying to fit in...to the 50's. I have a passion for vintage recipes and an enormous vintage cookbook collection that I keep testing, even though by now I should know better. Creator of Mid-Century Menu (www.midcenturymenu.com), No Pattern Required (www.nopatternrequired.com), and I Ate The 80's (www.iatethe80s.com).

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17 Comments so far. Feel free to join this conversation.

  1. Tom D. March 27, 2013 at 10:46 am - Reply

    It is very cute, but, it kind of looks like a Pomeranian.

    • RetroRuth March 27, 2013 at 10:49 am - Reply

      It does, doesn’t it?? It was some fluffy, fluffy frosting!

  2. Kelly March 27, 2013 at 2:29 pm - Reply

    I’m very happy with my current easter cookie tradition, but this post alone is making me want to hunt down a lamb mold. Food trends are so strange!

  3. Mia March 27, 2013 at 4:38 pm - Reply

    Happy Easter!

    • RetroRuth March 28, 2013 at 12:54 pm - Reply

      Happy Easter to you, Mia!

  4. Jill March 28, 2013 at 6:53 pm - Reply

    But where is its cigarette?
    All the lamb cakes I’ve ever seen have a candy cigarette dangling from their lips, 50s greaser style.

  5. Monica March 30, 2013 at 6:58 pm - Reply

    Just in time you saved my cake! I made one a couple weeks ago for St. Patrick’s Day (a green one with green frosting and white coconut–it looked great!) to practice for Easter. I followed the King Arthur Flour “chubby lamb” variation, which called for filling both sides of the mold 1/2 and 2/3 full—clearly the writers had never actually tried this idea. Of course there were no ears and the whole thing fell apart and ended up on its side and its FIVE pieces held together with frosting.
    I was re-making the lamb today but noticed that the King Arthur Flour recipe did not say how full to fill the mold, so I got online to find out and found your article. Now I’ve got it in the oven with the toothpicks, un-pulled-apart chopsticks that have been shortened, and twine. THANK YOU!!!! And Happy Easter!
    Monica

  6. Marita March 31, 2013 at 12:11 am - Reply

    A million thanks for your tips on the Easter Lamb. I am an expert baker but have had no success with the lamb cake. After 5 years of trying (using the lamb mold passed down from my mother in law who always turned out a great lamb cake) I had all but given up. Last week a relative gave me a pep talk about the lamb. (“You Wuss! Are you going to let that lamb bury you or are you going to bury the lamb? If you quit the lamb wins, Is that what you want?”) So I steeled my nerves and found you here just hankering to help. Tonight, victory is mine! Happy Easter, RetroRuth! From Marita

  7. FedUpMom March 31, 2013 at 2:37 pm - Reply

    These tips were SO helpful. I followed them to the letter and wound up with a terrific (and very cute) lamb cake. I posted about it on my blog:

    http://kidfriendlyschools.blogspot.com/2013/03/happy-easter.html

  8. J.L. April 18, 2014 at 9:29 am - Reply

    I’m not sure of the manufacturer, but I have both the lamb AND the rabbit baking pans. I tried making them several years ago and had an abysmal result so I never tried again. But now, after reading thees excellent instructions, I have more nerve to try again! Once I try, I’ll send you a pic of the finished product/s! Cheers!

  9. Sharon April 1, 2015 at 1:35 pm - Reply

    Love all these tips! I have the rabbit mold also and would like to make a chocolate cake for that one. Have you had any success tweaking the Renalde cake recipe to make it chocolate?

    • RetroRuth April 2, 2015 at 1:49 pm - Reply

      Hi Sharon!

      Nope, I’ve never tried to make it chocolate! If you don’t mind experimenting, the easiest way would probably be to sub cocoa powder for some of the flour, OR melted chocolate for some of the liquid. Good luck!

      • Sharon April 2, 2015 at 2:08 pm - Reply

        Okay, I’ll try that, thank you! 🙂

  10. Susie April 4, 2015 at 11:36 am - Reply

    This is the 2nd year in a row I’ve referred to your site to get my lamb cake just perfect! Please don’t take it down! I really appreciate all the tips and info. Thanks very much ,

  11. sue April 4, 2015 at 2:29 pm - Reply

    Our new son-in-law heard about having “lamb cake” at Easter. He did not want to offend us,,but he couldn’t see himself eating a cake made from lamb.

  12. Brian April 5, 2015 at 3:21 am - Reply

    i have the cake in the oven as i write this. this is the second year i’ve made lamb cake using the renaude recipe. the first time i tried it, it didn’t rise into the upper part of the pan. maybe i’ll have better luck this year. i also must have a smaller pan, because the recipe made a whole batch of cupcakes instead of just six. i also used half vanilla and half almond extract. and it is also not going to be a lamb

    • Brian April 5, 2015 at 3:35 am - Reply

      it’s going to be a unicorn. this cake i’m going to make has less to do with easter and more to do with the fact that two friends of mine, one of whom is fond of unicorns, are moving to portland in two days and tomorrow is their going away get together. i’m using fondant and a skewer for the horn, and fondant for the hooves, rainbow hued frosting for the mane and tail, shimmer dust on the cake, and, if i can find some, cotton candy sprinkled with star sprinkles surrounding the cake like clouds. wish me luck.
      you know, i’m astonished how many people do not know of easter lamb cake. i mention it and the don’t know what the heck i’m talking about. they also tend to think it is made out of lamb meat. i guess it really is a thing of the past, the funny thing is many people my age have never heard of it either. i never see them offered in grocery store bakeries any more;the first year i worked in the store i work in now, they had them; that was 2011, but no more. it was always an easter treat in my house, my mom used to make them all the time, we also would buy them occasionally too. perhaps it was only known to few families.

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