Man’s Cake Lamb Cake – A Vintage Easter Recipe Test

Posted on Apr 12 2017 - 5:37am by RetroRuth

Behold! This year’s lamb. A coffee-flavored lamb cake. A man’s cake.


A Man’s Cake Lamb Cake.

Mans Cake
  • ½ cup shortening
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 eggs (separated)
  • 2¼ cups flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup cold strong coffee
  • ¾ cup chopped nuts
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • For Icing:
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • ½ cup granulated sugar
  • ½ cup strong coffee
  • ⅛ teaspoon salt
  1. Blend shortening, sugar and egg yolks thoroughly. Add alternately the sifted dry ingredients and coffee. Stir in nuts and flavoring. Fold in stiffly beaten egg whites and turn into greased tube pan. (Or into lamb cake pan. See Mid-Century Menu's lamb cake tutorial for how to prepare a lamb pan) Bake in moderate oven (350 degrees) for one hour.
  2. For Icing:
  3. Combine ingredients and cook until it spins a thread (approx. 223-235 degrees F on a candy thermometer). Pour ⅓ of syrup slowly over 2 egg whites beaten stiff, continue beating as you pour. Cook remainder of syrup until it forms a soft ball in cold water (approx. 234-240 degrees F on a candy thermometer), add to icing and beating until right consistency to spread.

Man Cake001Man Cake002

I fished this recipe out of one of my many recipe card collections. From the mention of the brand “Crisco” rather than shortening, this is most likely a recipe that was put out by Crisco in a pamphlet or an ad. I haven’t come across the original to date this recipe, but by the rest of the recipes in the box this came from, 1960’s would be an educated guess. But for some reason I look at this recipe and think “1940”. I’m not sure why. If anyone knows the true date for this cake, let me know! I don’t have as much time as I would like to do research, unsurprisingly, so any help would be appreciated.


Thanks to my friend Carolyn, of the Aspic Aquarium, who was nice enough to document lamb cake day for me!


Notice that this cake isn’t actually an official lamb cake recipe, but I’ve been trying to think outside of the lamb cake mold (ha.) and trying different flavors, too. I’ve never made a coffee-flavored cake, so as soon as I saw this recipe I was in.

It turns out that it was a good choice. The cake baked up dense and incredibly easy to depan. It basically just fell out. I was shocked.


I was also intrigued by the coffee-flavored marshmallow icing. How good does that sound?


As a fun side note, the batter and icing smelled AMAZING.


And both came out perfectly!


Lamb cross section. You can see the dense texture.


“What…flavor is this?”

“Coffee. Is it good?”

“It tastes like banana bread…but without the bananas.”

“But, does it make you feel like a man?”

“I have to eat some more. Maybe I need a whole piece to feel it.”

The Verdict: Okay

From The Tasting Notes –

Despite the fact that this cake technically worked very well in the lamb pan, neither it nor the frosting really packed a good flavor punch. They were both vaguely sweet with a creamy coffee finish. The cake was…nice. Not great, but nice. It wasn’t overly moist or crumbly, with a dense texture. The nuts were a really good addition. It worked fine on it’s own, but neither it nor the marshmallow icing were very sweet. If that is what you are looking for, then this is your cake! It would be really good as a breakfast cake, sliced and maybe toasted. Like banana bread. In my opinion, the frosting and cake weren’t a great match with the lamb cake dessert idea. One needed to be sweeter than the other for them to really play off of each other, but they just couldn’t quite get there. It was a pretty unanimous decision about what this needed: Chocolate. Either a chocolate bar grated over the top, or a chocolate glaze instead of the coffee marshmallow icing. Or put chocolate chips in the batter and frost it with cream cheese frosting. Now THAT would be a great lamb-shaped man’s cake.

Send me your 2017 Lamb Cake photos so I can post them here on the blog for everyone to see AND to be entered in a random drawing for some vintage cookbooks from my collection! You can email me your photo at, or you can send it to me through our Facebook page. Deadline for submission is April 23, 2017, and you can send in as many lamb/rabbit/chicken/random Easter cake photos from this year as you want (if you make multiple cakes) but everyone will be entered into the drawing one time, to make it fair. And yes, we take bunnies and crosses and chicken cakes as well!

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I love everything retro, vintage, mid-century, kitsch and all things atomic! A 21st century housewife just trying to fit 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 (, No Pattern Required (, and I Ate The 80's (

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

  1. Kate from Iowa April 12, 2017 at 8:26 am - Reply

    Sounds to me (from the recipe, at least) like an adaptation of an early American groom’s cake. Most likely, whatever recipe Crisco was working off of when they adapted it to their shortening used lard, more eggs, and quite possibly a good bit more coffee and nuts. If it was a groom’s cake, it would have been baked in a loaf and there would have been even less icing to cake ratio, so again…not really a SWEET sweet, but one meant to contrast/complement the bride’s cake, which would have been much more the kind of sweet we think of when we think of a dessert cake.

  2. Freezy April 12, 2017 at 2:03 pm - Reply

    I like sweet coffee-flavored desserts (mmm… tiramisu…), so I’m a wee bit disappointed that this isn’t more coffee-y. I bet with chocolate and cream cheese frosting, it really would taste like tiramisu!

    It does remind me, though, of a story my dad loves to tell about his early adventures in cooking. He made a similar coffee-flavored cake once… and he used one cup coffee GROUNDS. It was many things, that cake… but it sure wasn’t un-flavorful!

  3. Ky April 12, 2017 at 3:05 pm - Reply

    It looks like this recipe was even older–from 1930! Here’s a link I found with different cake recipes, and one of them is is this cake! It has a scan of the original newspaper article here:

  4. GuyIncognito April 13, 2017 at 12:30 pm - Reply

    Spray painting ‘carpe diem’ on a wall also makes you feel like a big man and is on the list.

  5. Laura (Untwisted Vintage) April 13, 2017 at 8:05 pm - Reply

    Nicely done! It’s so fun to see what you come up with. I bet a mocha frosting would have been good too. I’m all about the chocolate. Have a great Easter!

  6. Nina April 14, 2017 at 8:52 pm - Reply

    I would up the coffee flavor by using espresso powder in the same amount of liquid for both cake and frosting. And I agree with Kate from Iowa: a groom’s cake. Also, love it that Ky found how old the recipe is: I was thinking pre-WWII.
    Enjoy your blog very much.

  7. Marty April 16, 2017 at 8:53 pm - Reply

    I love the picture of you and Alex! Oh my goodness is she adorable — a true chip off the mom block! Thank you for sharing!

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