Editor’s Note: Galen Lehman’s essay has proved to be one of our most popular articles. I’m certainly hoping to make a lamb cake part of my family’s next Easter celebration. Hope you are too.
For almost 50 years, my wife’s mother made a lamb-shaped cake every Easter. A lamb was the perfect thing for our Easter dinner. Or (since spring is lambing season), a simple spring celebration! It certainly became an important part of our family tradition. So important, in fact, that it has become a favorite birthday cake for the less-than-5-years-old set.
Over the years, decorating that lamb cake became a huge highlight of the Holy Week events for my wife and her brothers and sisters. Last year, my mother-in-law, a very special woman I loved as much as my own mother and dearly miss, went ahead of me to a better place. But she left us all with many fond memories of her. And, the tradition of decorating the Lamb Cake has been passed from her kids to her grandchildren to her great-grandchildren.
Along the way, just exactly HOW the lamb cake is decorated has acquired a whole set of its own family traditions.
For example, everyone our family knows that the lamb’s nose must always be a black jelly bean. The eyes of the lamb, however, are always chosen by the youngest child involved in the decoration.
The lamb’s “wool” must be made of shredded coconut. The pan around the lamb becomes a bed of green died coconut “grass.” (Can you tell our family likes coconut?)
The bed of “grass” is decorated with jelly bean “Easter eggs” for my in-laws and malted milk “robin’s egg” candy for me. It is acceptable for all the children to snack on the candy “eggs” during the meal. This rule has been specially modified to allow one adult in the room to pick at the malted milk eggs. (Since I am the only one that eats them, I love my in-laws for passing this rule!)
Most importantly there must be a trail of black raisin “lamb droppings” scattered around by the tail of the lamb. The pile of black raisins, of course, brings uproarious laughter each time. Our family (both the one I grew up in and my wife’s) has lots of room for laughter. And, every Easter we laugh at that string of raisin “lamb droppings” as if we’d never seen it before.
That lamb cake was such a central part of my adopted family’s tradition that I spent years searching for the manufacturer of the pan it requires. Last year, we finally found a supplier, and I’m proud (now that I finally found the source) to share this spring/Easter/birthday tradition with you.
We think Mom got her lamb cake mold with S and H Green Stamps. Now you can own one, too! (We’ll take Visa, MasterCard, American Express, cash or check, but not S and H Green Stamps.) May it become as special a part of your life as it has been of ours!
If you have a “dense” cake recipe, it will probably work. (Cakes that bake light and fluffy may break when you remove them from the mold.) Instructions come with our lamb mold; most cake recipes and cake mixes will work. I thought I would also share the lamb cake recipe we’ve always used, copied from the one my mother-in-law lovingly wrote out for us:
2 cups sifted flour
2 1/2 teaspoons for baking powder
3/4 teaspoon of salt
1 cup sugar
3 beaten egg whites
1/2 cup shortening
3/4 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
Sift all the dry ingredients together. Stir shortening in mixing bowl to soften. Mix in dry ingredients.
Add milk and vanilla, mix for several minutes to blend. Fold in beaten egg whites and beat for one minute.
Grease lamb mold well then sprinkle with flour. Fill the half of the mold with the lamb’s face. Insert a toothpick in the nose cavity for reinforcement. Put two toothpicks in lamb’s neck for strength. Cover with other half of mold being sure it is closed tightly. Place on cookie sheet.
Preheat oven to 370 degrees F and bake for 50 to 60 minutes.
When cake is baked, let it cool a little before you take the top off.
Frost with white icing and decorate. At the bottom of the recipe, my mother-in-law wrote, “You can put a ribbon around the neck, but no raisins under the tail!”