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

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

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

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!


  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:


      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!