Last sum­mer I ended up inher­it­ing a set of cast iron cake pans. They had been in the fam­ily for sev­eral gen­er­a­tions and are in the shape of 3-D lambs. I wasn’t famil­iar with this tra­di­tion and a lit­tle inter­net research brought me to learn more about these sought-after lamb cake molds.

The tra­di­tion of lamb-shaped cakes at Easter is strong in var­i­ous com­mu­ni­ties, espe­cially the Chicago area, and mainly attrib­uted to the Pol­ish com­mu­nity, although every­one enjoys the lamb cakes (and but­ter and what­ever else can be shoved into a mold) this time of year. It seems that the his­tory is rooted in East­ern Euro­pean cul­ture and has been thriv­ing here in the US for as long as our ances­tors have been set­ting up shop. While you can get more mod­ern lamb cake molds, the older cast iron ones are highly sought after. I’ve even read sto­ries about older Euro­pean bak­eries going out of busi­ness and actual phys­i­cal fights between other bak­ers in town to get dibs on their lamb molds!

Given my Pol­ish Catholic roots, I jumped at the oppor­tu­nity to inherit this piece of bak­ing history.

I made a lemony pound cake to fill the mold with and then frosted it with a coconut cream cheese frost­ing. Tra­di­tion­ally, the frost­ing hack job would be masked with a layer of fluffy coconut “wool”, but I hate the tex­ture of shred­ded coconut, so rather I made some coconut grass and just set­tled with my lack­lus­ter frost­ing job. I think it gives him character. :)

This recipe can eas­ily be made in a 10–12 cup capac­ity Bundt pan. I found the gum­drops at Trader Joe’s– vegan and both nat­u­rally fla­vored and colored!

Lemony Lamb Cake

Cake:
3 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 tbsp. bak­ing pow­der
2 teas. bak­ing soda
1/2 teas. salt
1 cup mar­garine, room tem­per­a­ture
1 1/2 cups organic sugar
1/4 cup apple­sauce
juice of 2 Meyer lemons + zest plus milk of choice equal to 1 3/4 cups (if using reg­u­lar lemons, do not exceed 1/4 cup juice)
2 teas. vanilla

Frost­ing:
1– 8 oz. con­tainer of soy cream cheese, room tem­per­a­ture
2 table­spoons coconut oil, slightly melted (can just use mar­garine if not using coconut oil)
1 tbsp. mar­garine, room tem­per­a­ture
2–3 cups sifted organic pow­dered sugar

Addi­tional:
Coconut, food col­or­ing, choco­late chips, gum drops, etc. to decorate

Pre­heat oven to 350 and lightly grease and flour the Bundt pan. If using a cast iron lamb cake pan, you should have sea­soned it before get­ting to this step.

For the cake, in a medium sized bowl, com­bine the flour, bak­ing pow­der, bak­ing soda and salt. In a large bowl, cream together the mar­garine, sugar and apple­sauce. Add the lemon juice/milk combo and vanilla and com­bine well. Add the flour mix­ture in batches until just mixed. Divide bat­ter between sides of the lamb mold or spread into the Bundt pan.

Bake cake for 35–45 min­utes for the lamb cakes (depend­ing on the size of your pans) or 45–50 min­utes in the Bundt pan, until a tooth­pick comes out clean and the top of the cake is lightly browned. Remove pans from oven and let cool com­pletely in pan, on a cool­ing rack, before unmolding.

To make the frost­ing– cream together the cream cheese, coconut oil and mar­garine until smooth. Add the pow­dered sugar and mix until smooth and sweet­ened to your lik­ing. Refrig­er­ate for at least 30 min­utes to firm up coconut oil.

To assem­ble the lamb cake– level the sides of the lamb cake so they will match up and spread frost­ing on one side to “attach”. Care­fully sit lamb upright on the serv­ing plat­ter and con­tinue frost­ing. For the Bundt, spread the frost­ing over the top of the cooled and inverted cake. Store left­over cake in loosely cov­ered con­tainer in fridge.

Yields: 10–12 servings

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16 Responses to mary had a little lamb (cake)…

  1. Allysia says:

    He’s so cute! You did a great job, I don’t think I could eat him. :)

  2. Leigh says:

    Wow, that turned out so cute! Well done.

  3. Jojo says:

    OMG! So cute!

  4. Josiane says:

    Totally adorable! And I’m sure that was the most deli­cious lamb ever. :)

  5. FoodFeud says:

    Are you sure this is vegan? ;) So cute. My mom has one of those pans that she brings out every Easter. Maybe this year I can con­vince her to make it vegan!

  6. Aimee says:

    Yep, totally East­ern Euro­pean! My Czech fam­ily has made a lamb cake for Easter for as long as I remem­ber. My mom still has her grand­moth­ers cast iron mold (which will be mine some­day). We used to draw straws to see who got the head!! It’s the best part!

  7. Courtney says:

    What an impres­sive cake! Your cake dec­o­rat­ing skills are above and beyond–seriously. I love the wreath/decoration around the lamb’s neck!

    Court­ney

  8. Amanda N says:

    Shut the front door! How cute is that?!!!!!! Amazing!

  9. S says:

    That is so cute and pretty — what a shame to eat it! I’ve got your book and the not cheese bis­cuits are bril­liant. I keep mean­ing to make some­thing else but that recipe just keeps on hap­pen­ing! I plan to def­i­nitely make the hol­i­day loaf over Easter though and there are many other good­ies in there — great book. Thank you

  10. Elisabeth says:

    What a beau­ti­ful lamb! I miss Easter lamb cakes from my child­hood in Czech Repub­lic. My fam­ily would cover the lamb in melted choco­late that got hard as it cooled down. I wanted to veg­a­nize that tra­di­tional cake for a long time. I will use your recipe for the cake and cover it in choco­late.
    Your lamb looks much bet­ter than what I am used to, yours has a cute face and lovely colors.

  11. Cute and looks great! A per­fect lit­tle Easter dessert!

  12. Paula Mix says:

    I have this same mold, been try­ing to make my grandmother’s pound cake recipe for years, seems to always ooze out and become flat or the pound cake isn’t cooked fully inside. Any input??

    • Kris says:

      Paula–

      My first instinct about the not-being-cooked symp­tom is that the tem­per­a­ture is too low. I would try rais­ing it by 15 degrees and check­ing it 10 min­utes sooner than you are used to. In terms of it being flat or ooz­ing out, I would check to make sure your leav­ener (bak­ing soda, bak­ing pow­der) is fresh, as stale leav­en­ing can lead to flat cakes. Also, I would make sure that you don’t open the oven door often (or at all, if pos­si­ble) while the cake is bak­ing, as the rush of cool air can deflate a cake.

      Hope those sug­ges­tions help!

  13. Lindsey says:

    How cute. It does remind me of that joke about if veg­ans eat ani­mal crack­ers, though. :)

  14. Wendy T. says:

    Wanted to veg­a­nize my grandma’s lamb cake tra­di­tion. This is a GREAT cake! Am going to frost it in choco­late, since well, I just want to!

    Thanks again. Will make this next year too!

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