Who is ready to eat some lamb cake???? It’s time for everyone to dust off their lamb and rabbit pans and get ready to make some molded cakes! To help you out, I’ve pulled together this post to make sure you get all the tips and advice that you need. If you have any questions, please leave them in the comments below and I will answer them as completely and quickly as possible. I am going to be making a couple (like 10) lambs of my own this year – I am still on the hunt for a chocolate lamb cake recipe and am going to be testing some interesting candidates! Hopefully I will be able to post a successful recipe before Easter this year!
These tips were originally posted 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, and will be picking some submissions at random to receive vintage cookbooks! (More about this at the end of the post.)
But enough yammering. Here are the tips!
1. Grease the HECK out of your lamb pan.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
And there it is! Your perfect retro lamb cake, ready for frosting and decorating!
Hee hee! It looks like a puppy!
Now, for the recipes:
If you are looking for a light, bouncy lamb cake with a good texture that pairs well with coconut, this is the cake for you:
This post also includes my favorite frosting for the lamb cake – Vintage Birthday Cake Frosting!
This next lamb cake is very, very good. It has a caramel and butter flavor and is dense but moist. It also has a great pound cake texture!
And if you are looking for a light, seven-minute type frosting for your lamb, check out this post!
Send me your lamb cake pictures!
I will be making another fantastic lamb cake gallery for 2016, ( check out the 2014 gallery here and the 2015 gallery here) so make sure you send pictures of your lamb cake to email@example.com OR post them on our Facebook Page! One of the pictures will be chosen at random to win some lovely vintage cookbooks! Deadline for the contest is April 4th, 2016 at midnight, EST. Giveaway Closed And Winner Announced!
If you have any questions, please feel free to leave a comment below, on the Facebook page or shoot me an email. I will try to answer all questions as fast as possible, but last year was an avalanche of questions, so make sure you ask early if possible!
Good luck, and happy lambing!
My aunt made one of these for me in 1963. She used a star-shaped cake decorator tip to make wooly-looking lamb fur. And she made lots and lots of spring flowers and grass out of frosting that created a bed for the lamb. It was amazing. Sadly, there are no pictures.
Couldn’t you just use chocolate cake mix for a chocolate lamb cake?
I don’t really like cake, but right now I WISH I had a lamb mold. I would be all over it.
Due to the nature of the cake and the fact that it has to support more of its own weight, regular cakes recipes are a bit too crumbly for lamb cakes. Lamb cakes have to be somewhat dense and stiff so they don’t fall apart! I suppose in theory you could bake a chocolate cake in half a lamb mold and serve it on its side, but presentation is definitely an aspect of the traditional cake, and seeing them sitting up on their own is part of the “magic.”
The ultimate would be lamb cake, made with real lamb meat, kind of like Beef Fudge.
Exactly! They need to be more dense OR they need to be spongey/bouncy. Cake mix cakes are too light. Thanks, Freezy! 🙂
Hmm…I don’t have a lamb meat cake recipe, but maybe pork cake would work? A lamb made with pork fat? I might have to test that one out. 🙂
I’ve never tried it with a lamb mould, but would a bundt cake type recipe work? They might be heavy enough.
Also do you want a hazel nut lamb cake recipe? I got mine from the box of a a 70’s German lamb pan, and I’ve already translated it. It is in grams rather than cups though.
Yes, yes, yes, yes!!! Ahem…I mean…yes, thank you. I would love the hazelnut lamb cake recipe. 🙂 You can send it to me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I really appreciate it!
And yes, a bundt cake recipe could easily work, though you probably would end up with about twice the amount of batter you needed if you used a vintage lamb cake pan. But that’s okay, that’s what cupcakes are for, right?
I have my Grandmother’s mold, and now I really want to try this! I’m not sure where to buy the wooden sticks for the neck support though.
Go for it, Ellen! The support sticks can be anything wooden that’s food grade – so popsicle sticks, part of a chopstick, things like that. I got that specific one near the paper plates in my local Walmart. I think they were large bamboo picks for appetizers.
Thanks, I’ll see what I can find. I will send pictures if, I mean, when it comes out wonderfully.
I’ll be crossing my fingers for you! 🙂
I was inspired to buy a vintage cast iron lamb cake mold after reading about them on your site a few years ago and last year I made a chocolate lamb cake with coconut frosting. The cake turned out very well. Would you like the recipe?
Btw — if you fill up the cast iron lamb cake mold enough so that the cake COMPLETELY fills the mold when baked it still oozes out even though the rising cake does not lift the top of the mold.
If you just fill to the top of the front of my mold the cake doesn’t quite fill out the back, which makes for a shallow, tippy lamb. You really kind of have to mound up the cake batter in the front of the mold and then put the back part on (which is where thicker batter is useful) if you want a fuller, more stable lamb.
Thanks for the info on the cast iron lamb pan, Alexia! And yes, I would love the recipe. Thanks!
Just sent it- it was from a lamb mould I inherited from my husband’s sister. The mould was made by Kaiser, and the recipe was on the box. Lamb cakes seem to be a thing in Germany and Poland (possibly other central europen countries) but aren’t big in Britain, although they may be coming over from the US via the internet…
Thank you so much for the tips! I got a lamb mold from Poland a few years ago, and I’ve been wanting to make this traditional cake for Easter. Looks like the vintage birthday cake icing recipe is the same one my mom has been using forever. Ready to rock and roll this year!
Whatever you do, keep my brother away from the lamb cake. One year, when my grandmother made this cake, he put licorice jellybeans beside the lamb’s rear for “realism”.
Very excited to try one of these for Easter, last year I made a lamb shaped bread and a bunny pound cake. This year who knows, but I just bought 25lbs of flour so there will be some serious baking going on.
Hi. Would box pound cake mix work better than regular cake mix? Thanks
Yes, a pound cake mix would be much better than a regular cake mix!
Thank you ! Happy Easter!
What do you do with the support sticks after baking? Are the just removed when serving?
Yep, just remove when serving!
I also would love the hazelnut recipe!
1 pinch of salt
1/2 packet vanilla sugar*
75g cornstarch or potato starch
75g ground hazelnuts (could substitute ground almonds, walnuts are too oily)
10g baking powder
1 1/2 tablespoons of rum
Mix the butter and sugar together, then gradually mix in the eggs, rum and dry ingredients. You will get quite a light mixture (by German standards, just a typical cake mix by English standards). Grease and flour a lamb mould (I use butter) and bake it at the bottom shelf of the oven for 60-70 minutes at 180-200 degerees celsius. Unmould when completely cold and dust with icing sugar or cover in icing.
*Vanilla sugar is sold in small packets in Germany, and is used instead of vanilla extract or essence. I’m not sure what the US equivalent would be, but 1/2 packet is enough to give a slight vanilla flavour to the cake without it being the main flavour
I’ve only ever made this with a forward facing lamb, so I can’t guarantee results with one which is looking at you! This is a more modern version of the one I have : http://www.amazon.de/Kaiser-658902-2300658902-Osterb%C3%A4ckerei-Lammform/dp/B00307I8C2
I haven’t seen lamb cakes in England, but they are a big thing in Germany and Poland.
Its always best to use pound cake mix instead of regular cake mix.
If using boxed pound cake mix, is one box sufficient or should
two be used?
One box should work unless you have the modern lamb cake pan from Wilton with the massive head. That Wilton pan might need two.
You can use a boxed pound cake mix I’ve used lemon turns out great, just the right size for the pan.