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Chocolate “Lamb” Cake

Chocolate “Lamb” Cake

Italian families have lots of food traditions at Easter, and I’ve made many of them through the years, such as pastiera, a sweet pie made with ricotta and wheat kernels,
 or the colomba, a rich, eggy brioche cake made in the shape of a dove that’s on every Italian’s dessert table at Easter.
Once every few years, although it’s not an Italian tradition, I also indulge in making chocolate covered coconut cream Easter eggs. My mother-in-law used to make these (and peanut butter eggs) each Easter as a fund raiser for a local charity and they’re  a real weakness of mine, but so much better than store-bought, especially when you use really good dark chocolate.
But the dessert that holds the most memories for me is the lamb cake that my mother always made when I was growing up.
It wasn’t the chocolate version, as seen in the first photo. It was the white cake version, pictured below, that I often make each Easter.
I’ve already written about the white cake version here, covered with buttercream and coconut, but since I attempted a chocolate version last year, I thought I’d show you the little brown lamb cake, and give you the choice of making either — or both.
I thought for a while about what to use to simulate the dark fleece of a brown lamb, and I came up with this combination: ground up chocolate wafer cookies mixed with ground up amaretti cookies.
It tasted good and I think worked well as wooly fleece, pressed into the chocolate frosting.
I used some cut up jelly beans for the eyes, nose, mouth and ear details, but if you have other ideas, I’d love to hear about them, or see a photo, so send it on. Don’t forget to tie a ribbon around its neck to dress it up in Easter finery.
I inherited the lamb pans from my mother, but you can find them for sale in many places, including on Amazon.com. You fill only one side, then cover with the other very well greased half.
I used a chocolate pound cake recipe I found online, and I knew there was more than enough for the lamb cake, so I baked the extra batter in some small, individual “cakelet” pans I had.
Clearly, I loaded the pan with too much batter, since it started to leak out near the end of the cooking.
No worries though. I just trimmed it up and proceeded with the frosting.
This is how the chocolate cake looks before frosting. Don’t worry about the small holes you see here and there.
I had to keep him company, so I made the vanilla version too. That recipe is here. Again, there seemed to be more batter than I needed, so I baked a couple of cupcakes too. Make sure you grease the pan thoroughly, then dust with flour. After greasing with butter, and before flouring, I sprayed with some nonstick spray just for extra “insurance” against sticking.  Following those instructions, I’ve never had a problem – not even with the small ear parts.
When you release it from the pan, it sits upright like this – in desperate need of frosting and decoration.
Side by side, they make quite a cute pair. It’s almost a shame to cut into them.
But we do — starting from the back end. By the end of the day, we were left with these decapitated heads. I can assure you they didn’t go to waste.
Wishing all of you a happy Easter, or a Happy Passover, and if you don’t celebrate either of those holidays, Happy Spring to all of you.
Let me also take this opportunity to let you know we have a few spaces left in our memoir writing workshop on beautiful Lake Como, Italy.
Your home away from home for a week will be Villa Monastero, in Varenna — open to tourists during the day who come to see the beautiful gardens here, but closed at night to everyone but our workshop attendees. Life is short – don’t postpone your dream. For more information, go to www.italyinotherwords.com.
Want more Ciao Chow Linda? Check out my Instagram page here to see more of what I’m cooking up each day.
You can also connect with Ciao Chow Linda here on Facebook, here for Pinterest or  here for Twitter.



Super Rich Chocolate Pound Cake
From JamesDean’sGirl via Food.com
printable recipe here

 

Ingredients

    • 2 1/2 cups flour
    • 3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder ( I use Dutch processed)
    • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
    • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
    • 1/2 teaspoon salt
    • 1 cup butter, softened
    • 2 cups sugar
    • 4 large eggs, at room temperature
    • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
    • 1 cup sour cream, at room temperature

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 325*F.
  2. Grease and flour a 10″ fluted tube pan.
  3. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda, and salt; set aside.
  4. In another large bowl, using an electric mixer on high speed, cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy.
  5. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.
  6. Blend in the vanilla.
  7. In 3 additions each, beat in the flour mixture and sour cream just until combined.
  8. Do not overmix.
  9. Pour batter into the prepared pan.
  10. Bake for 60-70 minutes, or until the center tests done.
  11. Cool 10 minutes in pan; invert onto a wire rack and cool completely.===========================================For the frosting:
    6 Tablespoons softened unsalted butter1/3 cup milk2 1/2 cups confectioners’ sugar2 t. vanilla extract3/4 c. cocoa powder
    Beat the butter in a mixer until smooth, then slowly add the rest of the ingredients until everything is blended to the proper consistency. If it’s too thick, add a little more milk. Spread over the lamb. You’ll have more than you need to coat the lamb, so freeze the extra.
    For the “wooly” coat:Buy some chocolate wafers and some amaretti cookies. Place some of them in a plastic bag and crush with a rolling pin (or pulse in a food processor until the proper texture). Using your hand, spread the cookie crumbs over the chocolate frosting, pressing in to secure.Decorate the eyes, ears, nose and mouth with bits of jelly beans or other candies.
Happy Easter

Happy Easter

When I was a young girl, my mother made a lamb cake for Easter, using a specially shaped aluminum cake pan. I inherited the pan decades ago, and carried on the tradition when my kids were little, but then forgot about it as they grew up. A few years ago, I resurrected it when my niece and her then two-year old son Hayden came for Easter. It was a big hit, even though it just didn’t seem right cutting into the cute little creature for dessert.

I don’t have my mother’s original recipe, but I found a pretty good one on Allrecipes.com a few years ago that I’ve included below. It’s a nice firm-textured white cake that holds up well as you stand the lamb upright to frost and serve. I once used this cake pan for my daughter’s birthday, repositioning the ears and frosting the cake to resemble our cat Rocky. At that time, I used a cake mix, but the softer texture didn’t hold up well. When I went to serve the cake, to my dismay, Rocky’s head had fallen off. A few wooden skewers later and a camouflaging ribbon around the neck and he was good as new. Lesson learned – don’t use a box cake mix for this specialty pan.

I like it with a buttercream icing, but you can use a cream cheese icing, or any kind you prefer.
The hard part is cutting the first slice. I hate to see that little lambie’s butt sliced off. It’s even harder to see it decapitated, but all that icing and coconut around the ears makes me come to my senses.

I know there are similar pans available for sale on various websites including Amazon.com. You may even be able to find one at a good kitchenware store where you live. If you don’t have a lamb form, it’s also delicious as a layer cake using two 9″ cake pans.

Lamb Cake

  • 2 1/4 cups cake flour
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/4 cups white sugar
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 4 egg whites

Directions

  1. First, prepare your mold. Coat with vegetable oil, let sit for a few minutes then wipe clean with a paper towel. Then grease and flour your mold, making sure to get all the little areas.
  2. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C). Sift the cake flour, then sift again with the baking powder and salt; set aside.
  3. In a large bowl, cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the flour mixture alternately with the milk. Stir the batter until smooth after each addition. Add the vanilla.
  4. In a large glass or metal mixing bowl, beat egg whites until soft peaks form. Fold 1/3 of the egg whites into the batter to lighten it, then quickly fold in the remaining whites.
  5. Fill the face side of the mold with batter. Move a wooden spoon through the batter GENTLY, to remove any air pockets. Make sure not to disturb the greased and floured surface of the mold. Put the lid on the mold, making sure it locks or ties together securely so that the steam and rising batter do not force the two sections apart.
  6. Put the mold on a cookie sheet in a preheated oven for about 1 hour. Test for doneness by inserting a skewer or wooden toothpick through a steam vent. Put the cake, still in the mold, on a rack for about 15 minutes. CAREFULLY, remove the top of the mold. Before you separate the cake from the bottom let it cool for about 5 more minutes so that all the steam can escape and the cake can firm up some more. After removing the rest of the mold, let the cake cool on the rack completely. DO NOT sit the cake upright until completely cooled.
  7. I frosted my lamb with a buttercream frosting, then covered it in coconut and pressed in some small pieces of raisin for the eyes and nose. Give it a little ribbon collar and lay it on a bed of coconut dyed green with food coloring. Decorate with jelly beans and/or small chocolate eggs if desired.