Saturday, April 7, 2012

Lamb cake!

This time of year, the spring religious holiday season, reminds me of fond grad. school memories spent with friends over the holidays. I think I've only been home for one Easter in the past 8 years or so actually. One year my friend's mom came to visit and brought us an entire Easter dinner including... a lamb cake! I'm also missing my friend Jenny's feminist seders that she had every year. Those were quite the events! Anyways, this lamb cake just reminds me of this time of year and I was brought back to some fond memories of time spent with old friends. But now it's time to make fond memories with new friends!

The title deserves an exclamation point, by the way. This lamb cake was tricky business! Strangely, it was both harder and easier than I thought it would be. I jumped into making it without much prior knowledge of lamb cakes- I had eaten one once- that's it. Before setting out to make this I thought- this will be so easy. You just bake two halves and them smoosh them together with some frosting and then frost around it and voilà! Lamb cake! But, it's a bit more complicated than that... but not too complicated that you wouldn't want to make the cake. Trust me! I don't know what made me get a bee in my bonnet to make this cake this year but I woke up this week and decided that this was going to happen. Fasten your seat belts, people!

I've discovered that there are a few key elements to making a successful lamb cake:

1. Use a thick cake batter, like a pound cake (more on this later).
2. Grease the pan really well (vegetable shortening in all the nooks and crannies and then dusted with flour).
3. Be patient and follow the directions. (ughh)

First step- thickening the cake batter. You can always go to the store and get a pound cake mix or get a regular cake mix and thicken it with pudding, sour cream, eggs, etc. BUT the challenge was to make this vegan AND homemade. I wouldn't be spending all this time on a blog post if the cake hadn't been from scratch.

So I googled "vegan pound cake recipes", "vegan cake recipes", "how to thicken a cake" and I thumbed through all my cookbooks to get an idea for what I'd like to make. I landed on my Vegan Cupcakes Take over the World cookbook and remembered that I had had success with the almond cupcake recipe when I made that into cake for my cake decorating class. I browsed the recipe for hints that would make it a thicker batter- it calls for yogurt (check), almond meal (check). I decided to use my cooking skills and keep my fingers crossed that my own additions would work. First of all, I had to double the cupcake recipe (lamb cakes need about 5-6 cups of cake batter) and I ended up adding about 2 Tbs cornstarch and a tablespoon or two more of flour. Also- I used soy milk instead of almond milk because soy milk is creamier and a bit thicker (hey, I was looking for anything that would help!). The reason this cake needs to be thick is that it bakes as one big body (no two halves as I originally thought) and it needs to be strong enough to stand up on its own and not crumble apart.

Ingredients: (adapted from the "Apricot-glazed almond cupcakes" recipe in Vegan Cupcakes Take over the World)

2/3 c canola oil
1 1/2 c sugar
1/2 c soy yogurt (vanilla)
1 1/3 c soy milk
2 tsp vanilla extract
4 tsp almond extract
2 cups plus 4 Tbs all-purpose flour
3 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
2/3 c almond meal
2 Tbs cornstarch

1. Preheat oven to 350ºF. Grease the lamb cake pan with shortening, then flour on top of that. Tap the excess flour out of the pan and if there are still any shiny spots grease and then put flour on them too. You want to make sure you have all the little nooks and crannies greased and floured.

2. In a large bowl, combine oil, sugar, yogurt, soy milk, vanilla and almond extract.

3. Sift in the flour, baking powder, salt and cornstarch. Mix until the batter is smooth. Add the almond meal and mix to combine.

4. Fill the lamb cake pan bottom (the front of the head, facing down) with cake batter almost until it's overflowing and then snap the top part (the back of the head) on the bottom. Tie shut with kitchen string or improvise as I did, with twisted up aluminum foil. This holds the pan shut in case the batter starts popping out the pan. Place a cookie sheet covered in foil under the pan in the oven to catch any drips.

5. Carefully place pan in oven, again with the head facing down. Bake for 50-60 minutes. There should be a little hole in the back to stick a toothpick into to check to see if it's done. When the toothpick comes out clean it's done. Usually your house will all of a sudden start to smell like delicious cake right before it's done cooking. The best thing about vegan cakes is if they're a little undone in the middle they're still OK to eat! I still erred on the side of doneness though. We're having company over.

In the oven!
6. Here's where timing gets tricky. When the cake is done, remove it from the oven and place it on a cooling rack, again facing down. Let cool for 5 minutes and don't touch it. Then, carefully remove the string (foil) and the top half of the pan (back of the head), revealing the back of the lamb. Let cool like this for 5 minutes. Next, carefully place the back (top) back on the cake and flip over. Now take off the new top of the pan (the front of the sheep) and let cool like this for at least 4 hours. When you're ready to frost it gently pick up the pan and let the cake slide out onto your hand and then place on a plate.

Don't be discouraged by little imperfections in the cake- the frosting will cover it up and no one will know! (Unless they read your blog about the cake imperfections and then come to your house to eat it.)
7. Now it's time to frost the cake!! I took a cake decorating course (just for beginners, nothing fancy) and I have the wilton cake frosting tips and bags. You don't need these for the lamb cake. You can really decorate it however you'd like. The last time I had lamb cake the frosting was spread on with a knife and there was coconut sprinkled on top of that and it was super cute.

Next step- Frosting! ("Vegan Fluffy Buttercream Frosting" from Vegan Cupcakes Take over the World)

1/2 c nonhydrogenated shortening
1/2 c nonhydrogenated margarine (Earth Balance!)
3 1/2 c confectioner's sugar, sifted if clumpy
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp almond extract
1/4 c plain soy milk

1. Beat the shortening and margarine together until well combined and fluffy.

2. Add the sugar and beat for about 3 more minutes.

3. Add the vanilla and soy milk and beat for another 5 to 7 minutes until fluffy.

Before frosting. 
When you frost your cake, really do whatever you'd like. I googled a bunch of lamb cake images to see what was out there and I decided to go with a size 18 tip on a wilton bag and do a sort of a cross between a star and a rosette. That sounds really fancy but really, my hand was cramping up and I just wanted to get the cake frosted and I wasn't too careful. I think it makes the lamb look cuter. I frosted the face with a knife and then smoothed it out after it dried a bit. I mixed some pink coloring and did the nose and ears also with a knife. The little eyes I did with some cocoa powder mixed in the frosting as well as some brown coloring and I did this with a different wilton tip- I can't remember the size of it. You can use candies, or really whatever you'd like. For the final step, I sprinkled a bit of coconut all over the cake and then covered up the coconut on the plate with jelly beans. So easy! Let your imagination run wild!
After frosting. This is one triumphant looking little lamb! Sorry I don't have pictures of the frosting process- my hands were covered in it and I didn't want my phone to get all yucky.
From the top!
Lamb cake!

Bonus shot! Me as a baby on Easter at Grandmom and Grandpop's farm!


  1. Thanks for the recipe! I used it this year as a surprise for my parents, whose mothers both used to make a not-vegan version every Easter. Came out delicious!

  2. I made this last year and got rave reviews and demands for the recipe! I'm making it again this year since I am the one with the lamb form pan!