Adventures in Cake

Baked cake, ready for icing.

When we were growing up, my brother and I loved the years when our grandmother made a lamb cake for Easter. It always looked so cool, standing up on its plate of green coconut grass, with jelly beans scattered around it. I can’t remember what kind of cake she used, or what kind of icing, other than white, but it was always a treat for us kids.

Fast forward to now – I have the mold Grandma used, but sadly never asked her what cake recipe she used in it. So I have been on a quest for the last few years to figure out what kind of cake works best. I have tried pound cake, yellow cake, chocolate cake and this year, carrot cake. Some years it is dry, some years I have trouble getting the middle done and this year – well, read on!

I was determined the cake wouldn’t stick at any point, so I melted shortening and carefully brushed it into every crevice of both halves of the mold. Then I carefully dusted the whole thing with flour. Now onto the cake…which has about 1000 ingredients. I’m kidding, but it does involve a lot of measuring and every measuring cup and spoon in the drawer, I think. Don’t let this turn you off from trying it – it is a deliciously spicy carrot cake that is moist, and low fat in the bargain.

I put the cake in the oven, in the wired-shut mold, with the extra batter in a custard cup. I was working my way through the dishes and I realized I had totally forgotten to put in the oil. So my low-fat cake was virtually fat-free now. Not an experiment I really wanted to try, when I was working to avoid dry cake! But there was no way I was going to try to take the whole contraption out of the oven and add the oil.

Ready for the top and the oven.

I won’t go into all the details of baking the cake, but suffice it to say, it involved a lot of testing, removing the top of the mold, more baking, and more baking. But the cake did come out of the mold with no mishaps or lost ears, thanks to my careful greasing and flouring job.

I let the whole thing cool all afternoon, and iced it with cream cheese icing while dinner was in the oven. We let the icing set up for a couple of hours before covering the whole thing with plastic wrap and going to bed.

When we were deciding if lambs really had wool on their ears. Icing won over bare ears.

I’ll let the pictures speak for themselves for the rest of the story! One last word – the cake was delicious and we only had a little bit left after Easter dinner.

Mr. Lamb, ready for Easter dinner.

This is how we found him the next morning – nose resting on the plate.

Repaired – complete with skewers. At least he provided everyone with a laugh.

Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese Icing
Adapted by The Cook’s Life from The Complete Cooking Light Cookbook
Makes 2 8-inch round layers

I substituted white whole wheat flour for half of the all-purpose flour, added more spices than the original recipe, and increased the vanilla. I also used 2 whole eggs instead of the egg and two eggs whites called for in the original recipe. And I forgot the oil, which made a fine cake, but it would have been better with the oil. I wouldn’t recommend leaving it out.

2 ¼ cups all-purpose flour*
2 teaspoons baking powder
¼ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons cinnamon
½ teaspoon nutmeg
½ teaspoon ground ginger
2/3 cup granulated sugar
2/3 cup packed brown sugar (dark brown preferred)
½ cup applesauce
1/3 cup vegetable oil
¼ cup plain fat-free yogurt
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
2 eggs
2 cups finely shredded carrot, lightly packed (about 4 large carrots)**

Preheat the oven to 375 and grease and flour 2 8-inch round cake pans (or a lamb mold). Set aside.

Combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and spices in a medium bowl and stir to combine. Set aside.

In a large bowl, combine the sugars, applesauce, oil, yogurt, vanilla and eggs and beat to combine. Add the flour mixture to the wet ingredients and stir gently, until almost combined. Add the carrots and continue mixing until well combined and no streaks of dry flour remain. Do not beat.

Spread batter into prepared pans and spread evenly. Rap pans on counter once to remove air bubbles. Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean. Cool in pans on racks for ten minutes. Remove cakes from pans and let cool completely on racks before icing.

*Can use 1 1/8 cup white whole wheat flour and 1 1/8 cups all-purpose flour.
**I shredded mine on the large holes of a box grater, but I think I want the shreds finer next time. I will either use the smaller holes, or grate the carrots in the food processor and then add the blade and process them to chop them a bit.

Cream Cheese Icing
Icing for an 8-inch round layer cake

4 ounces cream cheese (1/3 less fat or regular), room temperature
¼ cup butter (1/2 stick), room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 cups powdered sugar
1-2 tablespoons milk, if necessary

Beat cream cheese, butter and vanilla with an electric mixer until smooth and fluffy. Add powdered sugar, a cup at a time, and mix well after each addition. Beat for 30 seconds, or until fluffy. If icing seems too thick, add a few teaspoons of milk and beat again. Be sure to add milk gradually to avoid making icing too thin.

Download recipe here.

8 thoughts on “Adventures in Cake

  1. I loved the story about the cake you grew up with and having your grandmother’s cake pan. I’ve never seen a Lamb Cake before (except for your post yesterday). Skewers and all, he was precious!

  2. This has to be the best ever. Chuckled through the whole thing which was easy for me since I didn’t have the pressure of bringing grandmas lamb to Easter dinner. But you can’t go wrong with carrot cake and cream cheese icing.

    • There was no pressure, other than self-inflicted. I mostly was just dismayed on Sunday morning, because I thought we were home-free once we got him out of the pan and iced!

  3. Memories of 55 years ago. My aunt made an Easter Lamb too. I remember her molds were from cast aluminum. I don’t remember the cake, but after she frosted it, she added coconut over the lamb, then dyed coconut green for grass & of course, jelly beans. She, also, made a yule log for Christmas. Would have loved to get those molds, because her daughters were not bakers. Oh,well, Thanks for the trip down memory lane. M
    P.S. Love your mend, & the raisins – Aunt used a half black jelly bean for the nose, then cut the other half in two for the eyes.

    • I skipped the coconut, because I really don’t like it, but my brother thought it wasn’t right without it! I was afraid a jelly bean would bleed too much color, since I was decorating it the night before. Grandma always used jelly beans, if I remember.

      My mold is thin metal, wish it were cast aluminum, it might cook more evenly! 🙂

  4. My DSW’s birthday is sometimes on Easter. Her mother made a lamb cake as a combo birthday and Easter cake. I’ve had the same problems with ears and heads falling off. One year, I think we ended up with more icing than cake as we tried to keep the poor beast from falling apart. I think next year I’m going to try it as a bread mold instead of a cake. (a red jelly bean cut in half for the eyes gives the lamb an evil look – FWIW)

  5. I have my grandma’s cast iron lamb mold, which has been used annually for at least 100 years. Wish I knew exact age! We have a plethora of stories about our lamb…from kitty licking off all the frosting to our jokster son renaming it a chihuahua. Great memories to pass on to future generations. Tips from grandma: grease and flour inside thoroughly, use toothpicks in ears and neck, let it sit 10 minutes out of oven before removing the mold….I take off just the back and let it sit another 5 minutes before removing the front. Grandma would prop some bottles or cans around it as it cooled, already upright on its serving platter. Be sure its totally cooled before frosting.

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