Lamb cakes are an Easter tradition and make a festive centerpiece on your holiday dinner or dessert table. The inspiration for my Retro Lamb Cake came from an antique lamb cake pan passed down from a friends mom, a 1969 “Decorating Cakes and Party Foods Baking Too!” book by Louise Spencer, and “The Wilton Yearbook of Cake Decorating,” from 1974.
I made some modern changes to the original recipe. The original recipe called for 5 eggs, however I used 4 eggs along with 2 egg yolks for more richness and structure. Being an old-fashioned pound cake the recipe did not call for any leavening, however I added a bit of baking powder to ensure a rise to fill the top of the lamb mold. To enhance the flavor, I added a bit of lemon zest and lemon extract.
Baker’s tips for Retro Lamb Cake
use good quality butter:
Since butter is a main ingredient in poundcake, use a high quality type. I used Land O’ Lakes European Style. European butter is a bit more tangy as it is churned longer and produces a higher percentage of fat (82%-85%) vs. American butter which is regulated by the USDA to have a minimum of 80% fat. European butter has more flavor and less water, so it is best to use for baked goods that highlight butter.
firm cake is best when using decorative cake pans:
When using molded cake pans, you want to use a firm, sturdy cake such as a poundcake or bundt cake recipe. This type of cake is recommended in order for the cake to properly stand on its own. Another important step when using cake molds is to grease them really well with cooking spray and a light dusting of flour to ensure easy release. Traditional poundcake does not have any leavening like baking powder or soda, so you must be sure to cream the butter, sugar, and eggs together long enough for it to turn light and pale creating “natural” leavening. You will see modern poundcake recipes have the addition of baking powder. This just helps to ensure your cake rises in the cake mold.
creamy marshmallow frosting:
I created a hybrid frosting taking from Spencers’ book the “Whipped Buttercream” recipe and the “Boiled Frosting with Marshmallows.” I replaced the shortening with all butter, added a few all-natural marshmallows and enhanced the flavor by adding both natural vanilla and lemon extract. It turned out to be just like a silky, smooth Swiss buttercream. When making boiled buttercream, use superfine (baker’s sugar) which dissolves faster when placed in a double broiler and also when the butter is creamed.
keep retro cake decorating simple:
Before coloring your icing into pretty colors, be sure to first add a few drops of white gel color to your white icing while it is still in the mixing bowl. This step helps to brighten the white after using natural vanilla, and it also sets the icing to prevent color bleed. My favorite gel food color is AmeriColor.
Start by piping on the pink nose and ears first before placing a light crumb-coat on the full cake. To set the crumb-coat, place cake in the fridge to chill for 10 minutes. Use a small palette knife to add the top layer “fur” by using a swirl and lift motion. To finish, add some green grass, pipe on a few flowers and leaves, and add a pretty ribbon around the neck.
Retro Lamb Cake
- 1 c. unsalted butter
- 1 1/2 c. sugar
- 1 T. lemon zest
- 4 eggs + 2 yolks
- 1 tsp. lemon extract
- 1 tsp. vanilla
Add dry ingredients
- 2 c. unbleached flour
- 1 tsp. baking powder
- 1/2 tsp. salt
- 4 egg whites
- 1 c. superfine sugar
- 1/2 tsp. cream of tarter
- 8 large marshmallows
- 1 c. unsalted butter
- 3/4 c. salted butter
- 1 c. confectioner sugar
- 1 1/2 tsp. vanilla
- 1/2 tsp. lemon extract
- 1/4 tsp. glycerin (optional to make glossy)
- Zest lemon and set aside.
- Whisk together dry ingredients and set aside.
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and lightly flour lamb cake pans.
- Cream together butter, sugar, and lemon zest.
- Add in eggs and egg yolks, lemon extract and vanilla and mix for 3 minutes until light and fluffy.
- Add in the dry ingredients and mix until just combined.
- Pour batter into the face-side down half of the pan. Place other half on top and bake for 55-60 minutes. Place toothpick in center comes out clean. Allow to cool before icing.
- In the bowl of the stand mixer, place egg whites, sugar, and cream of tarter over a pan of simmering water and stir until sugar is dissolved (about 5 minutes).
- Cut marshmallows in half and stir them in the mixture until fully incorporated.
- Move bowl to stand mixer and beat for 3-5 minutes until light and fluffy. To cool down mixing bowl, place a small ice pack under the bowl.
- Once bowl has cooled down some, add in butter, confectioner sugar, flavoring and glycerin and mix for 3-5 more minutes until mixture turns into a buttercream consistency.
- In a ziploc bag, toss shredded coconut with a few drops of green gel food color.
- Take a small amount of frosting and place into small, separate bowls. Mix desired colors for eyes (black), ears/nose (pink), flowers (yellow, pink, blue) and leaves (green).
- Spread a small bit of pink frosting on ears/nose first. Then spread on a thin white crumb coat all over the cake. Chill for 10 minutes.
- Place white "fur" using a small palette knife in a swirl and lift motion.
- Pipe on eyes and a tiny line for a small mouth.
- OPTIONAL: Place green coconut flakes around the cake plate. Pipe swirl drop flowers (yellow, pink, blue) in tip #224 and leaves (green) using a leaf tip #67 around the base of the lamb. Tie a ribbon around neck of lamb.
- Chill cake until needed.