Be a Lamb
Spring is here! Push up your sleeves, get out the flour, sugar, and butter, and have fun making this lamb-shaped, coconut cake.
This recipe for a lamb-shaped, coconut cake comes from Joan R. Gibson of Morgantown. The tale is not so much about the cake as it is about the cast iron cake mold her recipe has been made in for many years. “My Grandmother Gibson made it for my late father who was born in 1901,” Joan says. “After Daddy came to West Virginia University in 1926, fresh from MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) to teach chemistry, Grandmother would mail him the lamb cake for his birthday from Butler, Pennsylvania.”
2½ cups all-purpose flour
2½ teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
1 cup milk
¼ cup water or reserved coconut liquid
1½ teaspoon vanilla extract
4 egg whites
¼ cup sugar
½ cup shortening
¼ cup softened butter
Coconut: Pierce eyes, drain and reserve liquid. Bake coconut at 350⁰ for 20–30 minutes. Crack it open and remove meat. Peel off the brown skin. It can be flaked in a food processor with the blade or a box grater. Reserve it to use as “fur” on the finished lamb.
In the mixer bowl, beat egg whites, adding the ¼ cup sugar gradually, until stiff. Transfer to a clean bowl. In the original bowl, combine shortening, butter, and sugar. Beat at medium speed for 3 minutes. Combine flour, baking powder, and salt. Combine milk, water, and vanilla. Add the dry and liquid mixtures alternatively, beginning and ending with flour mixture. Fold in the beaten egg whites.
Liberally brush the cake mold with solid shortening and flour, and divide mix in the 2 halves of the mold. Sink toothpicks into the dough to reinforce the neck, ears, and nose. Set the molds on a sheet pan and bake in a 350º oven until a toothpick comes out clean (30–40 minutes). When the ears and head begin to brown, cover with aluminum foil.
When done, set molds on racks for 15 minutes to cool. Carefully loosen the areas around the ears and along the edges with a thin-bladed knife. Invert until cool, then wrap and refrigerate for a day. Assemble by “buttering” the back half with frosting. Carefully invert the top of the lamb onto the back half and put toothpicks through the middle. (The head needs to be supported if the cake is moved.)
Place the cake on a tray with strips of waxed paper under the edges. Frost with a small spatula. A thinner layer of frosting keeps the detail of the mold better. Then, apply the coconut to the lamb,
avoiding the nose back to the eye area. Use raisins for the nose and eyes and a piece of cotton for the tail.
NOTE: If using cast iron molds, they need to be re-seasoned each time. Brush insides with solid shortening and bake for 1 hour at 300⁰. Pour out melted shortening and wipe with a paper towel. Just before using, repeat at 375⁰ for 20 minutes. Pour our shortening and wipe. Cool completely. Prepare the batter. Brush again with shortening. Flour and tap out the extra. Pour in the batter and bake.
Seven-Minute Marshmallow Frosting
2 egg whites
1½ cup granulated sugar
½ teaspoon salt
½ cup water
1 teaspoon white corn syrup
1 cup miniature marshmallows
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Fresh flaked or shredded coconut
In the top of a double boiler, combine all of the ingredients except vanilla extract. With a handheld electric mixer at top speed, beat the mixture for about 1 minute. Place over rapidly boiling water and beat mixture until it forms peaks when the beater is raised (more than 7 minutes). Add marshmallows and beat for about one minute until they begin to melt.
Transfer frosting to a clean bowl, add vanilla extract, and continue beating until marshmallows are melted and mix is cool and thick enough to spread on the cake. Spread on the lamb in a thin layer. Use coconut as fur.
This will fill and frost two 8- or 9-inch layers or a 9x12-inch cake.