Unofficially it is still Easter Week, although officially Easter week is the run up to Easter Sunday. However here in the UK, because of the long Public Holiday (which we call “Bank” Holidays for some bizarre reason), many of us take the week after Easter Sunday off. As part of my Easter tour around Europe I headed back to Germany on Easter Sunday and made a traditional Lamb Cake (or Lammkuchen) for our friends Annie and Stephen, who had us round for a traditional Lamb dinner.
Lambs are an ancient symbol of Spring because this is the time year they are born. The papers at this time of the year are full of cute pictures of lambs gambolling in fields of daffodils, and full of recipes on the best way to devour them . All of which goes to show what a brutal animal we are and how easily we can section things off in our heads.
Sheep were the first farm animal because they were so easy to raise and provided both clothing, milk and food. Lambs in many ancient religions across the Middle East and Europe were the traditional sacrifice animal (hence the term “Sacrificial Lamb”), and in Christian iconography the Lamb is always a symbol of Christ, the Lamb of God because he died for mankind – not that I am a believer in any of it. The picture shows the complexity of the iconography. It is a 15th Century altarpiece by Jan van Eyck which will have the beloved in paroxysms of delight.
The Lamb Cake is Central European tradition. It is basically a madeira sponge made in a lamb shipped tin, and the most technical thing about the bake is finding a tin that actually looks like a lamb. Mine I think looks more like a dog. Those ears are definitely not lamb like and should not be pointing down, but others I found looked like cows and yet others seemed some undetermined animal, so for the time being this is a lamb (look in my eyes “This IS a Lamb, a Lamb, not a dog”).
There were a couple of other small challenges, not least of all the recipe that was included with the tin. Had I not spoken German it could have gone very wrong as their translation for flour was cornflour, and their translation for cornflour was Starch Powder which in English is something we put in our laundry not in our stomachs. The only other issue was getting the cake to rise evenly in the tin so you don’t chop off the lambs legs,. For this you need to do “the scoop” from the middle to the sides of the tin. As I said in my post on Simnel cake I am never brave enough with the scoop and really must learn. The result however was a tasty plain vanilla and rum sponge that looks very sweet and does make a nice Easter gift
- 150g butter
- 150g caster sugar
- 4 medium eggs
- 2 tsp vanilla extract
- 2 tablespoons rum
- 150g ground almonds or hazelnuts
- 150g flour
- 150g cornflour
- 3 tsp baking powder
- heat your oven to 180C / 160C fan
- grease and dust your cake mould
- beat the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy
- add the eggs one at a time (adding a spoonful of flour between each)
- add the rum and vanilla extract
- sift the flour, cornflour and baking power into the mix
- add the ground almonds
- stir the mixture until well combined
- fill your cake tin taking care to fill the head properly
- scoop the mixture towards the ends of the cake tin leaving a dip about 2 cm deep in the middle
- bake for 50 minutes until a skewer pulls out dry
- leave to cool in the tin
- once cool slice off any cake poking above the tin
- dust your lamb/dog with icing sugar
- slaughter with a knife (ok – just cut a slice) and serve with a cup of tea