There’s no “Pinterest Fail” in site with this in-depth, step-by-step recipe for the traditional Easter Lamb Cake! It will wow and impress your family, friends, and strangers on the internet!
I have wanted to post an in-depth, step-by-step recipe for a traditional Easter Lamb Cake for so very long. Finally, today is the day!
What is Lamb Cake?
No, it’s not a cake made out of a lamb – don’t worry! Lamb Cake is simply a cake batter that is baked in a two-sided mold that is shaped like a lamb. It is traditionally served at Easter to represent the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross for the sins of humanity. Talk about a great time to be serving cake, right?
What You’ll Need for the Lamb Cake Recipe
- Cake mold – first and foremost, you’ll need a two-sided mold that provides you with the front half and back half of your lamb. Mine was given to me by my grandma, but I have seen many of them in thrift stores and even brand new online! There’s even a rabbit version if you’re not into the whole sacrificial lamb part.
- Ingredients – these are all very typical and standard for a cake batter. Flour, eggs, sugar. The key here is to use shortening. Not butter. It’s how my grandma always did it, it’s the old school way, the right way and don’t try to convince me otherwise. For decorations if you want coconut grass and jellybean accents, you’ll need those too, but they aren’t totally necessary
- Toothpicks– one of my secret weapons from preparing a perfect lamb cake!
- Baker’s Twine – another secret weapon!
- Aluminum Foil – the final weapon in our arsenal that will ensure culinary perfection for the little lamb.
- Time – this cake is a bit of a process with nearly an hour in the oven and then a proportionately longer cooling time than a traditional cake because of the shape, thickness, and size of it. Plan ahead!
- Patience – throw a rock on the internet and you’ll hit some sort of lamb cake fail or another. If you take your time and don’t rush the process and employ my tips – you’ll have the most successful lamb cake of your life!
How to Make a Lamb Cake
Preparing the pan:
We all know about buttering and flouring our cake pans before baking, right? Well, I’m here today to tell you to forget about that nonsense! That’s right, you heard me. Ignore them. Instead, we’ll be coating our lamb molds in generous layer of cooking spray (don’t @ me) and a dusting of granulated sugar. Yes, sugar! It melts into the cake and pulls it away from the pan and when you remove the mold you’re left with this brilliantly glossy, sugar coated cake that’s ripe for the picking.
Preparing the cake batter:
This recipe (written by my grandma on a scrap of paper and now forever tattooed on my arm) is a very standard vanilla cake batter. You’ll whisk together the dry ingredients and set ‘em side. Then, whip your egg whites to peaks and set those aside too. Cream together shortening and sugar, adding egg yolks and vanilla. It’s the standard dry-wet-dry-wet-dry addition of ingredients after that finished off with gently folding in the egg whites.
Baking the Lamb Cake:
Now, this part can be a bit daunting and a little tricky at first but remember – we have our secret weapons!
On a baking tray you’ll place the (sprayed and sugared) front half of the lamb cake mold face down. Why face down? Because this ensures that during baking the cake will fill the entire front half of the mold no matter what and that means you’ll have a pretty little lamb face to decorate. Baking the cake on its back can result in a face-less lamb. Nobody wants that. Now, fill that sucker full of cake batter. And I do mean fill it. This recipe is pretty perfectly sized to fill the front half of my mold up to the tippy top of the mold. This is good, this is right, this will lead to a perfectly proportioned lamb.
Now, gently place some toothpicks into the head, ears, and neck of the lamb to create a little structural integrity. Push ‘em down into the batter just a smidge. These toothpicks will ensure that you won’t accidentally decapitate your lamb during de-panning, decorating, or transport.
Place the back half of your mold onto the front and push it to secure. To make sure things are extra secure (and to prevent the back half of the mold from popping off in the oven and creating a lamb-splosion), wrap the mold in baker’s twine around the body and the head so it’s tight, tight, tight.
Obviously, looking at this cake you can see the head area is much smaller than the rest of the body. That means it’s going to cook faster than the rest of the cake. The teeny, tiny ears even moreso. Now, you can just throw it in the oven like this and be ok with an overcooked head and probably burnt ears. Or! You can wrap the head in a layer of tinfoil and then wrap the ears in a second layer of tinfoil to be sure that the entire cake cooks evenly and perfectly. Amen.
Here comes the hard part (because none of what I’ve just told you has been hard up to this point, ok?): the baking. You can’t see this cake. You can’t test this cake. There’s no inserting a toothpick into the center and seeing if it comes out clean. There’s only feeling it. In all honestly, I totally messed up my first attempt at doing this. I had it in there for 40 minutes, on the button. And when I took the back half of the mold off, I was met with a cake that was perfectly golden brown on the edges ends and completely raw in the center. If anything, error on the side of over baking your lamb rather than under baking. You can always save that with frosting, right?
After you’ve baked your lamb cake, you’ll remove it from the oven and let it cool in the mold for at least an hour, or until it’s just barely warm to the touch. That’s when you can remove its aluminum helmet, cut the baker’s twine, and gently pry the edges of the pans away from one another and release your lamb! If you’ve properly sprayed and sugar your pans they should pull right away with little to no resistance. Set the lamb upright on a cooling rack (so that it looks like its sitting) and let cool completely to room temperature.
Decorating the cake:
Make up a batch of my momma’s cream cheese frosting and give thanks and praise. Then, if necessary, trim that little “foot” on the bottom of your lamb that can sometimes appear from where the two seams of the mold meet. Spread a little frosting onto the bottom of your lamb and secure it on a serving platter.
Now, from here you can just free form frost it and give the lamb jellybean eyes, or even coat it in coconut like my grandma used to do, or you can get a little extra like me. First, spread a thin layer of frosting around the face area so you have a nice clean canvas to create a face on.
Then using a piping bag fitted with a Wilton 22 tip, pipe swirls and rosettes and stars all around the lamb in a very perfectly-imperfect way to create the “wool."
A smidge of brown and pink food coloring help create the prettiest eyes and nose you've ever seen on a cake!
I like to surround my lamb cake with coconut “grass” and jellybean accents because it’s so fun, ktichy, and cute.
Give this traditional Easter Lamb Cake recipe a try and let me know what you think and how you do! I believe in you!
- Aluminum Foil
- Baker's Twine
For the cake:
- 2 cups flour
- 2 ½ tsp. baking powder
- ¾ tsp. salt
- 3 large eggs at room temperature, yolks and whites divided
- 1 cup sugar
- ½ cup shortening such as Crisco
- 1 tsp. vanilla extract
- ¾ cup whole milk
For the frosting:
- 1 cup unsalted butter at room temperature
- 8 ounces cream cheese at room temperature
- 2 pounds powdered sugar
- 2 tsp. vanilla extract
- Pinch of salt
- ¼ cup whole milk
To decorate the cake:
- Brown food coloring optional
- Pink food coloring optional
- Shredded coconut optional
- Green food coloring optional
- Jelly beans optional
For the cake:
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Generously spray both sides of the cake mold with baking spray and dust liberally with granulated sugar (yes, sugar, not flour. Trust me). Shake out excess sugar if necessary.
- Whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt in a small bowl and set aside.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment cream together the shortening and the sugar until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Meanwhile, in a separate bowl with a hand mixer or whisk, whip the egg whites until thick enough to hold stiff peaks, set aside.
- Add the egg yolks to the sugar mixture, one at a time, mixing well until fully incorporated, scraping down the bowl again as necessary. Stir in the vanilla extract.
- Working in three batches, add the dry ingredients and stir to combine, alternating with an addition of milk (so, it should go flour-milk-flour-milk-flour). Just before batter is completely mixed, gently fold in egg whites, being very careful not to deflate batter.
- Place the front end of the cake mold face side down on a baking sheet. Fill with all of the cake batter (it’s going to be really full, y’all). Place toothpicks inside the batter along the lambs ears, head, and neck for added support.
- Place the back half of the cake mold over the top to seal. Tie together with butcher’s twine in a few places to ensure the mold will stay together (if you have one of the fancy cast iron ones that weighs a few pounds, this step isn’t totally necessary).
- Wrap the head of the cake mold in a layer of aluminum foil and the ears in a second layer of foil before baking in preheated oven for 45 – 55 minutes. Yes, there is no way to tell if the cake is done, you can’t peak, you can’t check, you can’t test. Truly, you just have to go with your gut. Oven temps vary – mine typically hitting at 52 minutes, though I’ve taken it to 55 for a very golden brown cake.
- When you feel ready, remove the cake from the oven (if there’s been a little cake batter overflow, don’t mind it, that’ll come off no problem). Cool cake in mold on a wire rack for about one hour, or until just barely warm to the touch.
- Remove foil helmet and butcher’s twine. Starting from the bottom of the mold, gently press the front end of the mold into the cake (and away from the outer, back half, of the mold, to release the cake at the seam). Continue all the way around the mold to begin releasing the cake. At this point, you should feel the cake loosen and become free from the bake half of the mold. Remove the bake half of your mold. Flip cake over on the cooling rack and gently pry the front of the mold from the cake. Behold the beauty you have created.
- Cool cake completely on wire rack. (It’s at this time you should notice the beautiful crust created from the coating of granulated sugar!)
While the cake cools, prepare the frosting:
- In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment cream together the butter and the cream cheese until smooth, about one minute. Scrape down bowl before adding remaining ingredients, reserving 2 TBSP of the milk. Working in quick pulses to avoid a powdered sugar explosion, begin to incorporate everything. Gradually increase speed once powdered sugar is incorporated and whip frosting until light and fluffy, adding more milk if necessary. (For this recipe I like a stiffer frosting so that it holds the shape of the decorations better, but if you’re going casual with the decoration, a softer frosting will do just fine.)
To decorate the cake:
- Take 1-2 TBSP of frosting and color with a drop or two of brown food coloring. Place in a piping bag and snip the end off just a tiny amount (like a few millimeters). Repeat the process with the pink food coloring and another 1-2 TBSP of frosting and set the prepared piping bags aside.
- Take your totally cool cake and, if necessary, trim off any ridge along the bottom of the cake where the seams met for the two sides of the mold. Place a thin line of frosting along the same area and secure cake to a platter or cake stand.
- Around the face area of the lamb, gently cover with an even layer of frosting to provide a canvas for creating the lambs face.
- Using a piping bag fitted with a Wilton 22 tip randomly pipe swirls, rosettes, and stars of frosting around the body, head, and ears of the lamb to create the “wool.”
- To create the lamb’s nose and mouth: pipe a downturned pink triangle in the center of the face with a front facing “J” coming out of the bottom and to the left of the nose and a backwards “J” coming out and to the right.
- To create the lamb’s eyes: Carefully pipe two half circle shapes above and equidistant from either side of the lamb’s nose. Add lashes by simply touching the tip of the piping bag to the eye and dragging down. Clean up any areas with a toothpick.
- If you want to have your lamb laying in a bed of coconut “grass” simply dye 1 – 2 cups of flaked coconut with green food coloring and mix well with a fork before spreading around the platter of the cake. A few scattered jelly beans never hurt either.