Friday, April 22, 2011

Knock, Knock. Who's There? Ether....

Ether who? Ether Bunny. Sorry, there's a whole stream of jokes that goes with this one and I make sure to tell them to my poor family Every. Single. Easter.

I love Easter. Other than the Easter my big brother chopped my finger off (no, I'm serious), I have only good memories of every  Easter. Family, faith, food--these are the components of good time in my's like Christmas but with more chocolate and no snow.

Several years ago, a good friend was cleaning out his home and came across a small box containing a lamb cake mold that his aunt owned since the '40's or '50's. Understanding my love of all things vintage kitchen related, he was kind enough to send the mold to me-along with the original recipe card, copyright 1921. For a girl like me, it was like getting a new dress with matching shoes. Total happiness.

As my children get older, I find myself trying to fill the void living so far away from my family causes. Every holiday of my childhood included traditions, big family meals and a pattern--predictable (and cherished) elements "we do this and do this and make this."
And so, I am trying to create new patterns for my daughters to cherish.
So far, making our own Easter peeps was a big hit. Thing 1 asked me two weeks ago if we were going to do that again, she really loved it.

But I had yet to make the lamb cake. It sits with a certain amount of prominence on display in my kitchen but I had never yet put the pans to the test.

No time like the present....

So I'm going to share the original recipe, along with the frosting (7 minute frosting). We'll pretend this is my little Easter basket of goodies just for you. You know, in case you decide to pick up your own lamb cake set on ebay or you find the pans your grandmother used.

And when I say original....

To keep everything authentic, I melted some shortening and brushed it into all the nooks and crannies of the mold-being sure to also get the outside edges where any batter might land.
Next, I sprinkled flour into the pans and shook it around to cover all the shortening. I do this over the sink to contain the mess, so I can tap out any excess against the sides of the sink.

*By the way, if you are ever making a chocolate cake and are dusting the pans, skip the flour and use cocoa powder instead. You're welcome.

Next, I pulled the eggs, milk and butter and allowed them to start coming up to a warmer temperature. One of the most important factors is making a proper scratch cake is to have your ingredients as close to equal temp as possible.

Preheat your oven to 450 (425 if the oven runs hot) and prepare a flat baking sheet to rest the mold on.

Now, according to the directions on the card, it's time to sift together your dry ingredients. First the flour by itself; if you don't happen to have cake flour on hand, try adding a tablespoon of cornstarch to your measuring cup before adding your AP flour for an even cup. When you sift everything together, it will blend evenly. Add the baking powder and salt and sift again.

In the mixing bowl, cream your butter and sugar, scraping down the bowl to catch any lumps of butter before beating again on high and then adding each egg separately. Scrap bowl again. Now, alternate between adding the flour mixture and the milk (*be sure to pay attention to what the card says about how much milk to add) and vanilla. Scrape down the bowl at the end again to remove any lumps.

keep your pliers handy
Scrape the batter into the face-front part of the mold and even out. Be sure to get batter into each of the ears and level out. My batter came right up to the very edge of the pan. Now place the back piece on so it's the side that's up. I sealed the mold with a couple of twist ties (which later I had to cut off with pliers because they fused together, just so you know).

Place in your prepared oven and set the timer for 15 minutes. When the time is done, lower the temp of the oven to 350 for an additional 45 minutes.
(1) Your house will smell great at 20 minutes and you'll be sure the cake must be done (its not).
(2) It's nerve wracking to bake a cake you can't actually see but trust the recipe and you won't be disappointed.

you know, at this point,
it kinda looks like a
hairless daschund
When the second timer rings, remove the cake to a cooling rack and remove the back piece. Set a timer for 5 minutes before loosening the second half to remove.

This cake is dense (it needs to be to hold up). If you don't want to make it from scratch, try a pound cake recipe (you'll have a bit left over). A regular cake mix, however, isn't built to stand like this cake so don't bother. You need heavy cake and light frosting.

Let the cake cool completely. You may want to rotate what side it is laying on to allow all the heat to escape but don't be surprised if it takes a bit of time.

Now, for the frosting. The card includes a recipe for snow frosting--this is basically 7 minute frosting, so named for the amount of time it sits over a water bath while you beat it. I have a recipe that I prefer over this one, simply because it's somewhat slightly easier. You should be warned, it makes a fair amount-enough for a large layered cake--so if you happen to have anything else that can take some frosting, line it up too.

Place a glass bowl over a saucepan to form a water bath (make sure the bowl fits snugly over the water, without touching it). In the bowl add the following:

1/3 cup water
2 egg whites
1/8 tsp salt
1 1/2 cup sugar
2 tbs light corn syrup

I always forget and add
my vanilla with
everything else
end game
With a hand mixer begin blending everything together as you turn up the heat under the pan. When the water reaches a boil, set a timer for 7 minutes and beat everything on high. The sugar will dissolve and the whites will cook and you'll basically be making an italian meringue but never mind all that, just keep the mixer going. When the timer ends, remove the bowl from the saucepan and the heat and add 1 tsp of vanilla (or the extract of your choosing) and beat a little longer until the frosting is thick and spreadable. It will hold soft peaks and will become increasingly stiffer as is cools. You want to use it before then though.

Assuming the cake is cool, start spreading. This was lots of fun for Thing 1 and I just let her go-it was everywhere!

Thing 1, getting it done.
Once the cake is covered, add the coconut. This can be a little tricky but since the frosting is so sticky, once you get in on a surface, it stays. By the way, this is the frosting traditionally used on the old-fashioned coconut cakes with the maraschino cherries.

Now, if you are going to be uber-traditional, you need to dye some of your coconut green to be grass and put this around the bottom of your lamb. I didn't do this. The Dev's doesn't like coconut and I wasn't going to press my luck so we surrounded lamby with  lots of jelly beans.

oh poor Lamby!!
Little Miss Quality-Control
Lamby needs a face, by the way. Raisins and cherries were the original eyes and nose but we've evolved to jelly beans...and some of us who happen to do the actual grocery shopping don't buy black jelly beans so our lamb has purple eyes and a pink nose and looks like an over-grown lab rat, laying in wait. I don't care. If you could have seen how much fun Thing 1 was having with this cake, you would understand.

mmmm, lab rat for lunch

I'm still cleaning up coconut in the kitchen. So what?

Happy Easter, Dear Reader. The tomb is empty; my Redeemer lives.


Cara said...

I'm sorry, but that is just wrong :)

Happy Easter to you and your family. He is risen...just as He said.

Mrs. V said...

I KNOW!!... that's why I love it's kinda like those shower cakes that are pretty little babies. Why do that?

I have to tell you though, we hacked into to it 30 hours later because I was really craving lab rat and it was fabulous!

Anonymous said...

I have enjoyed reading your articles. It is well written. It looks like you spend a large amount of time and effort in writing the blog. I am appreciating your effort. .

Bakery Equipment