Making Easter Lamb Cake

Easter lamb cake Walk into any Italian bakery at Easter time and you will see lamb cakes, they’ve been a yearly tradition in many households since the late 194o’s and 50′s. They’re used as an eatable centerpiece for your Easter table or to give as a gift during the season.

I’ve always wanted to make my own Easter lamb cake but I never had the molds that I remembered from my childhood, plus I didn’t think I could ever pull it off anyway!

vintage lamb cake molds In comes my friend Janet who’s been making these cakes every Easter since 1947, she makes them for her family and also gives them away as gifts. So I asked her if I could hang out with her one day and watch/help her make one, and she kindly said yes.

I was especially excited because she had the vintage mold that I remembered as a child, it was well used and still in perfect working order. She told me all the ladies back in the 40′s and 50′s made lamb cakes and as a child her mother and grandmother taught her how to make them and to keep up the tradition.

vintage GH cook book She pulled out some older vintage recipes for making lamb cakes, like this one published in 1953 in a Good Housekeeping cake book.

lamb cake recipe Over the years Janet has perfected her own recipe for lamb cake which is a nice sturdy sour cream pound cake flavored with vanilla and other extracts of your choice, we also added some rum to ours.

mixing cake batter Watching Janet whip up the batter was like watching a pro in action, I swear she could do this in her sleep!

greased and floured lamb cake mold I was in charge of buttering and flouring the mold, she instructed me to get into every nook and cranny, using my clean fingers to get in there. She stressed how important it was so as not to have your cake stick.  She said I did good!

filling lamb cake mold with batter Janet recommends placing your mold on a baking sheet for easy in and out of the oven. Pour your batter only in one side of the mold, always the face side down, never fill both sides of the mold, never, and make sure you don’t fill past the rim, you’ll have problems when you release it.  Another tip she had was to take a spoon and carefully place batter into the ears, face and neck, if it sinks down add a little add more, none of those areas should be lacking any batter.

Janet also likes to reinforce the ears by adding a toothpick in each, the ears are tiny and you don’t want them to break off, some people put a toothpick or skewer in the neck also, but she never had a problem with it.  Make sure your edges are all clean, take a paper towel to wipe them off. Now attach the empty back of the mold and you’re ready to bake!

baking a lamb cake Janet told me not to worry if you see the mold spit open a little towards the end of the baking time, it’s normal as the cake rises inside. She even stood it upright and baked it like that for the last few minutes.

Easter lamb cake If you’re going to frost it right away the cake has to be completely cooled down, do it in the standing position after you get it out of the mold, so have a cup of coffee like we did and be patient!

If you want to bake your lambs ahead of time feel free to freeze them at this point, before you decorate them, just make sure they’re cooled down and wrapped well for the freezer.

 

mixing frosting Now the fun part begins, it’s time to decorate the little lamby! Janet whipped up the frosting in no time as she was telling me in disgust just how terrible store bought frosting is and why people just don’t make there own because it’s so easy. I totally agree!

Her frosting consisted of 1 stick of unsalted butter, powdered sugar, half and half and vanilla, no recipe, just until you get the right texture, you’ll know, she said.

decorating an Easter lamb cake You can decorate your lamb anyway you want to, be creative!

applying coconut on a lamb cakeTake your frosting and cover the lamb completely with it, all over, except where your eyes and nose will be placed. You don’t have to be perfect because the flaked coconut sticks very well and will cover any flaws. Remember, no coconut on the eye nose area.

decorating an Easter lamb cake The eyes where made with 2 plumped up raisins that she squished down to form an oval shape. To prepare the nose she dabbed a little red food coloring on the tip and then placed half of a maraschino cherry on top.

decorating an Easter lamb cake Tie a pretty ribbon of your choice around the neck, Janet said she use to put tiny bells on the ribbon but can’t find them so much anymore.

decorating an Easter lamb cake We used paper grass to place all around the lamb to finish it off, Janet doesn’t like using the other kind because it flies around too much. Add eggs and jellybeans for additional color and whimsey all around.

Easter lamb cake Thank you Janet for a fun day of baking, I feel like a pro now and have the confidence to make my own so much so that when I got home I went on Ebay, saw a vintage lamb mold and put a bid on it, wish me luck!

For those of you who would like to try this on your own, here’s a mold similar to the one I used. A perfect addition to your Easter table!

Making Easter Lamb Cake

Ingredients

  • FOR CAKE
  • 3 cups flour, sifted
  • 3 cups sugar
  • 4 eggs, large
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 teaspoons rum extract, optional
  • FOR THE FROSTING
  • 1 stick unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 heaping teaspoon vanilla
  • powdered sugar and half and half or milk to make the right consistency
  • FOR DECORATING
  • 1 bag of flaked coconut
  • 2 raisins
  • 1 maraschino cherry
  • red food color
  • piece of ribbon
  • paper Easter basket grass
  • assorted jellybeans

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 F. generously butter and flour lamb mold.
  2. Beat butter, add sugar and extracts and beat until light and fluffy.
  3. Add flour with baking soda until well incorporated.
  4. Beat in eggs one at a time alternating with the sour cream until batter comes together.
  5. Pour batter into prepared face side of the lamb mold, facing down on a baking sheet.
  6. Fill to the rim wiping up the edges clean.
  7. Reinforce the ears by placing a toothpick horizontally in each ear.
  8. Carefully place lid on and bake for 1 hour, but check for doneness 10 minutes before.
  9. FYI, you will have leftover batter with this recipe, enough to make a small cake.
  10. For Decorating, make the frosting with the butter, powdered sugar, vanilla, half and half and a pinch of salt, mixing until you get a nice semi firm frosting.
  11. Add raisins for eyes, a cherry for nose and tie a ribbon around the neck.
  12. Cover platter with Easter grass and jellybeans.
http://www.prouditaliancook.com/2014/04/making-easter-lamb-cake.html

 

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It’s a Chicken Cacciatore Kind of Day!

chicken cacciatore

It’s another frigid day here in Chicago, brutally cold weather with wind chill warnings, school closings and Artic air! You don’t have to convince me to stay inside. It’s definitely a comfort food kind of day, so a nice pot of slow cooked and braised Chicken Cacciatore it is!
fixings for chicken cacciatore Once the initial few steps are done, the browning of the chicken, sauteing your vegetables, deglazing, adding in your tomatoes, you can sit back for a couple of hours and let all the aromas fill your kitchen with comfort and warmth. Chicken Cacciatore is a classic Italian dish also referred to as hunter’s stew, I make it a few times during the winter and I just realized today that I never posted it on my blog, so here it is!

Carrots, onions, garlic, yellow and red peppers, assorted mushrooms ,olives, spices, herbs, tomatoes and wine when slow cooked and reduced makes the most delicious sauce to soak into your chicken and the bonus is, it tastes just as good if not better the next day!

chicken cacciatoreA mixture of crimini and shiitake mushrooms add nice texture and flavor to the sauce as well as oregano, basil, parsley and thyme.

chicken cacciatore This is rustic food, family style, hearty and oh so satisfying! Boil up some pasta to soak up those juices or a nice creamy polenta.

chicken cacciatore Maybe some warm crusty bread? Either way I can assure you this dish is amazing and one of my family’s absolute favorites.

chicken cacciatore

Mangia! Mangia!

Chicken Cacciatore

Ingredients

  • 1 whole chicken, bone-in,skin on and each breast cut in half for smaller pieces
  • 8oz. mixed mushrooms, like crimini and shiitake
  • 1 onion, diced medium
  • 1 small yellow and red pepper, diced medium
  • 2 small carrots, peeled and sliced
  • 5 garlic cloves, shaved
  • pitted kalamata olives, a large handful
  • 1 cup chicken broth
  • 1 cup white wine
  • 1 14 oz. can crushed tomatoes
  • 1 14 oz. can of tiny whole tomatoes or if not available just whole tomatoes.
  • Assorted herbs, parsley, basil, oregano and thyme
  • Olive oil
  • Salt and pepper

Instructions

  1. Season chicken with salt, pepper and sprinkled oregano.
  2. Heat a heavy cast iron skillet, drizzled with olive oil.
  3. Place chicken skin side down and do not move it until it reaches a deep golden brown and it's easy to turn, brown other side for a few minutes. Remove chicken and set aside.
  4. Add vegetables, garlic, salt and pepper to taste, a few twigs of thyme, saute for 5 minutes.
  5. Add wine and let it reduce.
  6. Add chicken broth and tomatoes.
  7. Toss in 1 teaspoon of salt, pepper and chopped fresh basil.
  8. Place the chicken back into the pan and sink into the juices.
  9. Simmer on low, stove top, for a couple of hours or until chicken falls off the bone. Uncovered.
  10. Garnish with fresh parsley.
  11. Serve with cooked pasta, polenta or warm crusty bread.
http://www.prouditaliancook.com/2014/01/chicken-cacciatore-kind-day.html

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Making Homemade Corzetti Pasta

red pasta machineWhen the holidays start approaching I always get the urge to make homemade pastas. I make ravioli each year but I also enjoy making some other out of the ordinary pastas, like corzetti.

Corzetti  are thin round coins of fresh pasta dough that get stamped out and embossed with a beautiful design using a handmade artisanal tool called the corzetti stamp. The look is so unique, not something you see often, eatable works of art!

I recently received a brand new shiny red pasta machine as a gift so I couldn’t wait to break it in!
pasta dough I’ve only made corzetti a few times, once was with my girlfriends when I first got my new stamps, we spent the whole day together making garganelli and corzetti pasta, I did a post on it a couple of years ago here.

Recently I got inspired to make it again after reading my friend Adri’s beautiful post on her corzetti, I also decided to use her dough recipe which I highly recommend if you decide to make them. Her dough recipe is simply made with unbleached flour, an egg and water. I used the food processor method and it came together perfectly!

corzetti stampsYou can order these heirloom quality crafted stamps from Artisanal Pasta Tools. We are so fortunate to have such a skilled craftsman here in the U.S. that makes these stamps and other traditional pasta tools, otherwise they were only available in Italy.
stamping corzetti Making corzetti is a true labor of love but I can’t imagine a more beautiful pasta to serve for a very special occasion. I wouldn’t recommend making them for a crowd but for a smaller dinner party they are wonderful. They’re just so extraordinary your guests will surely be impressed!

corzetti stampsAfter you get your dough together you’ll want to roll it out thin with a pasta machine. You cut the coin shape with one part of the stamp then flip it over and place the pasta disc on top and then pressing down using the part with the handle, each side will have a design embossed into the pasta, they’re amazing to look at!

making corzetti I even got my granddaughter to help me make some, she caught on right away and did a great job!corzetti pastacorzetti pastacorzetti pastaYou can freeze them individually which I do, single layer on a baking sheet and then when frozen I place them into freezer bags for later use.
boiling corzetti pasta When you’re ready to eat them place into salted boiling water, they will rise to the top and only take about 3 minutes to cook. Scoop out gently with a handheld spider strainer. Treat them with tender loving care.

corzetti pasta with sauceAlthough the traditional way to eat corzetti is with a pesto of some sort, we love them just the same with marinara spooned all over the top.
corzetti pasta with sauce And don’t forget to sprinkle generously with freshly grated romano or parmesan cheese, so, so delicious!

corzetti pasta with squash and kaleI had some leftover so I tossed them into a brown butter sauce with grated parmesan cheese and added sauteed kale and roasted butternut squash for a wonderful midweek dinner.
corzetti pasta with herb pesto Here’s the more traditional way to serve corzetti, a pesto made with olive oil, parsley, basil, garlic, parmesan and walnuts, it’s so scrumptious and really highlights the design.

Once a year I make this and it’s well worth the time and effort, a beautiful tradition indeed!

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