A few years ago, I stopped in front of the picture window of a Polish bakery. For several minutes, I stood staring at the most amazing little yellow lamb cakes dusted in powdered sugar. Strange, I didn’t go inside and buy one. I suppose, I’d probably already squared away our Easter dessert. But, those lambs remained with me.
On a regular basis, I found myself looking at “vintage cast aluminum lamb molds” on ebay. Only, they were crazy expensive [in the $100 range, plus shipping and customs]. Now, if I’d known you could simply buy a lighter-weight Nordicware or Wilton version, I probably would have gone for it. But, I didn’t know these existed. Finally, a few weeks ago, I founding a seller on ebay clearing out their supply of vintage cast aluminum lamby pans for $25 each. And, I hit “buy it now.”
Once the lamb pan came, I had to find a recipe. Apparently, the general rule for the molded lamb cake is to make something in the “pound cake” family. However, The more “pound cake” test lambs I made, the more I realized that those cakes were missing both moisture and, flavour. The best recipe I tried, by far, likely because of its inclusion of buttermilk, was the Nordicware Chocolate Lamb Cake. So, if you’re looking for a starting point, start there! But, be warned, I had to cut the temperature to 350 and the cook time down to 40-45 minutes to get any moisture in my lambkin. And, I still felt the need to poke the lamb full of holes (talk about savagery!) and soak it with vanilla simple syrup before I deemed it palatable.
Strange thing, most of the “notes” on the recipes that came with the original tins as well as those for the lighter weight aluminum pans said that a “box mix” would work just as well. If that’s the case, I thought, why not just use my favourite chocolate cake recipe? So, I started tweaking my go-to chocolate cake to get it to work in my lamb mold. Et voila! A winner! Sure, you have to be a bit more gentle with your lamb than you would if he were a pound cake. But, with a bit of care, you’ll have a chocolate lamb that everyone will actually WANT TO EAT! Also, due to proportion, the recipe leaves you with enough batter to make 5 or 6 additional cupcakes! Yippee!
Below, you’ll find my Moist and Delicious Chocolate Lamb Cake recipe. A few things I learned along the way? Be sure to spend time greasing and flouring your pans. Be sure to place wooden coffee stirrers or toothpicks into the head before baking. And, tie the top and bottom of the mold together with kitchen twine. Also, freezing the cake after it’s fully cooled, just for a half an hour, helps you feel more confident about keeping your moist lamb in tact as you ice it.
Moist and Delicious Chocolate Lamb Cake
Chocolate Lamb Cake
- 1 1/2 c flour
- 1/2 c cocoa powder
- 1 1/2 c sugar
- 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
- 1 tsp baking soda
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 2 eggs
- 1/2 c vegetable oil
- 3/4 c buttermilk
- 1/2 c fresh coffee, cooled slightly
- 2 tsp vanilla
Basic Buttercream Icing [Optional]
- 3/4 c butter
- 3 c icing sugar
- 2 tsp vanilla
- 8+ tbs cream or milk
- Powdered Sugar
- Shredded Coconut
- Curls of White Chocolate
- Little tubes of coloured icing gel for the face
- Jelly beans, m&ms or cut raisins for the face
- Cast Aluminum or light weight aluminum 2-part standing lamb mold
- Wooden coffee Stirrer Sticks or heavy toothpicks
- Butter and flour for preparing the pan
- Large rimmed baking tray
- String or twine
- Heat the oven to 350°F.
- Grease and flour every nook and cranny in both halves of your lamb mold.
- In a large bowl combine the flour, cocoa powder, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
- In a medium bowl, combine the eggs, oil, buttermilk, coffee and vanilla.
- Slowly add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients, stirring until combined.
- Place the base of the lamb mold face side down on a baking tray or cookie sheet. The face is the base. The backside is the lid.
- Fill the base of the lamb mold completely with cake batter. You will use between 3-4 cups of the batter and have 2-3 cups remaining. Set the remainder aside for 5-6 cupcakes, which can be baked for 17-20 minutes.
- Make sure the ears have batter in them.
- Snip a wooden coffee stirrer in half with shears or gather 3-4 sturdy toothpicks.
- Place the stirrer sticks or toothpicks in a "cross" pattern spanning the ears and head/neck of the lamb, and, press the sticks or toothpicks into the batter so that they are covered with batter. This will ensure that the lamb's ears and head won't pop off when you remove it from the pan or try to ice it. This is VERY IMPORTANT when you are using moist, flavourful cake as opposed to pound cake!
- Place the lid or backside of the lamb on top of the filled face mold. DO NOT fill this second side of the cake mold. Just place it on top. The cake will rise!
- Use string or twine to secure the molds together.
- Bake the lamb for 42 minutes. If your mold has "holes" in the backside, you can test for doneness with a long toothpick or skewer. If your mold does not have "holes" [mine does not], you can cool the cake for 10-15 minutes [as in the next step] before removing the backside and testing for doneness. If it's slightly undercooked, the lid can be left off, and the cake can go back in the oven for 5-10 minutes or as needed.
- Remove the cake from the oven and allow the cake to cool inside the mold for 10-15 minutes.
- Snip the twine and carefully remove the lid or backside of the lamb mold.
- Allow the lamb to cool in the base of the pan for another 20 minutes.
- Use a knife to loosen the lamb from the mold all along its outline.
- Reverse the lamb onto a tray and allow it to cool completely, face up.
- Scrape the underside of the lamb with a knife so that there is no line or ridge which will make your lamb wobble when you stand it up.
- Once the lamb has cooled completely, you may wrap it in plastic, and then foil, and place it in a freezer bag until you are ready to defrost and ice it.
- Freezing the lamb cake, even for just 20 minutes before icing, will enable you to feel confident about icing a moist, upright cake.
- Make the icing [below] if desired.
- Place a stripe of icing across the centre of your serving plate.
- Ice the lamb as the spirit moves you. Feel free to decorate with shredded coconut or curls of shaved white chocolate. We like to leave the face un-iced. But if you ice yours, you can draw on facial features with coloured icing gel or use cut jelly beans, m&ms or raisings to create eyes, etc.Enjoy!
Basic Buttercream Icing
- In a mixer or by hand, whisk 3/4 cup butter.
- Gradually whisk in 3 cups icing sugar.
- Gradually whisk in 1 tsp vanilla.
- Whisk in cream, 1 tbs a time, until the icing is of spreadable consistency. [We used about 8 tbs.]
ENJOY! And, Happy Easter!