An Easter Lamb Cake is a popular centerpiece in many Polish homes. It’s a tradition that followed the Polish diaspora to the United States. If you want to try one, I have the recipe and decorating ideas, my own and others.
Symbolism behind the lamb cake
In the Gospel of John, Jesus is referred to as the Lamb of God, a phrase that’s used in Christian prayers and liturgy.
Since the Middle Ages, the visual image of the lamb has most often been depicted holding a pennant or banner of a red cross on a white background, which represents the Risen Christ.
Another common accessory for the lamb is a red ribbon around its neck. the color representing the blood of Christ.
In Poland, the lamb makes many appearances at Easter. In addition to the lamb cake, there are also butter lambs that have been carved or molded, and sugar lambs are a popular treat for children.
The lamb cake pan
The 3-D lamb cakes are made by baking in a 2-part cake mold. Some are fortunate to have antique cast iron pans that have been passed down in the families.
Modern cake pan makers Nordic Ware and Wilton both make a lamb cake mold. I bought the Nordic Ware pan on Amazon.
I’ve also been told that the lamb cake pans can often be found at garage sales and thrift shops. I guess there are some that only want to make their lamb cake once. 😉
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The right cake for your lamb cake pan
I’ve used my favorite pound cake recipe. It’s a dense cake that strong enough to keep its shape and the ears attached as your decorating. I find this a simple recipe, but if you prefer to use a mix, be sure it’s a pound cake.
Most moist, pudding in the mix, cake mixes have a texture that’s too soft for this 3-d cake. Whatever cake you’re using, let me encourage to you use this Polish trick when preparing the pan.
Butter the pan and then sprinkle with (unseasoned) breadcrumbs. It guarantees perfect release from the pan.
Decorating your lamb cake
You’ve probably seen this photo making the rounds on Facebook and Pinterest showing the perfect lamb cake and, shall we say, a more rustic version. Don’t let it deter you; follow my lead and you’ll have a no-fail Easter Lamb Cake!
Liz from FarmWifeCooks.com presents three options for decorating lamb cakes. I especially like the simple sophistication of her cake dusted in powdered sugar and with sugared berries.
I used her technique for dipping the face in a glaze for a smooth finish and no broken ears from trying to spread frosting on them. I’ve opted for swirls of piped buttercream because I just enjoy piping, and I can always use some practice.
Structurally, the weakest part of the cake will be the ears. Retro Ruth has a suggestion on how you can add support to this vulnerable area before baking the batter in this post. Something I read too late, and thankfully didn’t need.
As for the eyes, I had originally purchased a bag of licorice jelly beans, which we ate before I made the cake. By the time I replenished the jelly bean supply, the only thing they had was a mixed bag of jelly bellies. Which turned out to be perfect, I could have used black, but I think the brown looked better.
You might also choose to add something to your plain molded pound cake. One option is to carefully slice the body of the lamb cake into thick layers horizontally, spread a thin layer of warmed jam (makes it more spreadable) or a scant layer of lemon curd in between the layers and reassemble before frosting.
The decorating process shouldn’t be rushed. A chilled or frozen cake will be stronger and hold up better as you’re applying whatever you decide to do. Soon after I piped a row or two underneath the lamb’s chin, the frosting slide down about an inch – into the fridge with the cake and the piping bag for about 5 minutes.
I just piped new swirls where they belonged. This might have happened because the glaze of the face was not completely dry.
Whether you’re serving a lamb cake or a mazurek, I wish you and yours a joyous celebration.
A sturdy pound cake baked in a lamb shaped mold, a delicious centerpiece for Easter
- 1/2 cup butter, softened
- 1 cup sugar
- 2 eggs
- 1 1/2 cups flour
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/2 cup buttermilk (or 1 teaspoon vinegar and enough milk to make 1/2 cup)
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- butter and breadcrumbs to prepare pan
for the frosting:
- 1 cup butter
- 1/2 cup shortening (not something I normally use in cooking, but it helps with the “buttercream” texture)
- 6 cups powdered sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 3 – 5 tablespoons milk & more for glaze
- jelly beans for eyes
- Preheat oven to 325
- Cream butter and sugar, add eggs one at a time
- Combine dry ingredients and add to batter alternating with buttermilk and vanilla
- Prepare pans by spreading lightly with butter and dusting with dried breadcrumbs
- Pour batter into the bottom of your two cake pans, assemble according to direction on your lamb cake mold
- Bake for approximately one hour
- Cool the cake for 10 minutes, remove from pan
- Cool to room temp and refrigerate
- Mix butter, shortening, powdered sugar, vanilla, and just 3 tablespoons of milk, gradually adding more milk until the consistency is similar to light and fluffy mashed potatoes, it should be stiff enough to hold its shape when you pipe it, but soft enough to pipe easily
- Place about 1/2 cup in a small deep bowl and blend in enough milk to make a thick glaze, the texture should be thicker than heavy cream, kind of like a thin pancake batter
- Dip the lambs face into the glaze, covering the face and front side of the ears, and allow the glaze to drip off (I occasionally gave it a wipe to help the process)
- Add a small amount of frosting to the center of your serving platter, place the lamb on top, this will kind of glue it to the plate, I do this with all cakes, but it’s especially helpful with this top-heavy cake
- Add a star tip to a piping bag and pipe swirls of frosting onto the lamb’s body
- If desired, use food coloring to tint a small amount of the frosting, literally a tablespoon or two, a light pink or peach color, use this to pipe the inside of the ears and nose
- Add jelly beans for eyes, I used a plastic straw and pushed it into the cake where I wanted the eyes to be, it gave me an opening to push the jelly beans into
- Refrigerate until you’re ready to put it on the table
To present your lamb cake on a bed of green grass, mix shredded coconut with a little green food coloring (I used two bags of coconut)
Keywords: Polish Easter, No-fail Lamb Cake
An accountant by trade and a food blogger since 2009, Lois Britton fell in love with Polish cuisine during the years she lived in Poznań, Poland. As the creator of PolishHousewife.com, she connects readers with traditional Polish recipes. Lois has a graduate certificate in Food Writing and Photography from the USF. She is the author of The Polish Housewife Cookbook, available on Amazon and on her website.