Monday, April 21, 2014

Easter or Spring Lamb Cake - A Three Generation Tradition

The 2014 Easter lamb cake surrounded by Easter egg malted
milk balls. Before serving, I tied a narrow, pink ribbon around
the lamb cake's neck.

The First and Second Generation Bakers

My Grandma Pansy made an Easter lamb cake for Easter Sunday when I was a little girl. Then, my mom bought a lamb cake pan and started making lamb cakes, too. Sometimes, the lamb cake was made for a special spring dinner. A family tradition was born from this beginning.

The Third Generation Baker

Today, I am the baker of Easter lamb cakes. I love making these cakes because it reminds me of the cakes Grandma Pansy and Mom made. When I posted this year's lamb cake picture on Facebook, my sisters, brothers, and scattered relatives all posted their memories about the Easter lamb cakes of Grandma Pansy and Mom. It is a family tradition that is still bringing us together.

The Cake

Grandma usually made a vanilla cake  and Mom made a pound cake. However, I prefer to make carrot cake. Mom would always fill the bottom half of the cake pan with batter. Next, she would place the top half onto the bottom, like a lid, and bake the cake. She had a one piece cake. I tried making a cake like this several times and the nose of the lamb was always incomplete. So, I make a two piece cake, front and back. 

I fill each half of the cake pan and bake according to the recipe directions. Each recipe usually includes how long to cool the cake in the pan. The usual amount of time is ten minutes. Once the cake is out of the pans and cooled to room temperature on the cooling rack, I put the halves in the freezer for about an hour. Then the cake halves are ready to be leveled. Leveling the cake involves cutting off the rounded top of each half so the two halves will fit together without gaps. The front of the lamb cake pan is a little thinner than the back, so I occasionally have two issues arise when I get ready to level the cake and assemble the two halves. The front ears are over baked or the front neck is a little weak. Both of these issues are easy to solve.
1. The front ears can be cut off and you only use the ears on the back half of the cake. This is what I did with this cake.
2. To add strength to the neck, I simply place a bamboo skewer through the center of the head and neck. After placing the skewer, pull it back out  just a little bit, and cut it off slightly below the cake line. Then push the skewer back into the cake and out of sight. 

Assembling the Cake Halves

Assembling the two halves is not difficult. Apply butter cream frosting to the leveled top of the lamb's back half. Set the lamb's front half on top and frost the seam area all way around. Place the cake into the refrigerator for about an hour, or until the frosting stiffens enough to hold the two halves in place. Set the cake upright on a plate, or platter, and frost with a base coat of frosting. Once the base coat is in place, you can either start piping on the top coat or refrigerate the cake and decorate later. 

The Decorations

Mom and Grandma Pansy would decorate their cakes with butter cream frosting, apply white, shredded coconut, and use black jelly beans for the eyes and nose. However, I love frosting my lamb cakes with butter cream frosting and a decorative pastry tip. Sometimes I use a large star tip and other times I use a large drop flower tip. Just experiment and find the tip that appeals to you.

My eyes are made out of a mini marshmallow and two chocolate chips. Cut the mini marshmallow in half and flatten each half slightly. Place a chocolate chip into the center of the sticky cut side of each half. Press the marshmallow round into the frosting on the lamb face. The nose is one chocolate chip.

Another detail that varies from year to year, is what I surround the lamb cake with. I have used green tinted, shredded coconut, frosted tulip cookies, frosted daisy cookies, foil wrapped chocolate eggs, and malted milk ball eggs.

The Tucker family traditional lamb cake pan.

Top half is the front of the lamb.
Bottom half is the back of the lamb.
The two cake pan halves are greased , floured, and awaiting batter.

Before setting the cake upright, I use butter cream frosting
 to "glue" the two halves together and to seal the seam
 between the two halves. After about an hour, the cake can be 
placed upright and a base coat of frosting applied. 

Slightly visible seam between the two cake halves. The front set 
of ears are cut off and the base coat covers the cut.

Back view of the lamb cake with the base coat of frosting.