But I soon learned for myself how tasty lamb cake is. It's not that there is a special specific recipe that makes it tasty. Perhaps it's all the fasting from sweets so often characteristic of our Lent. Perhaps it's that you are so hungry by the time you get to slice the back end of this little guy that it makes it extra good. Perhaps the necessarily-dense cake soaks up all the sweet moisture from the frosting "just rightly." Maybe it's the soft curly coconut pressed into the frosting as fleece.
Whatever it is, Easter is now not complete for me without it. It is a staple (along with lots of meat and cheese and lamb (shaped) butter and Pascha bread!).
Here is the recipe I use, taken from the Joy of Cooking (1970s edition), specifically for molded cakes.
White Cake II
1 c sugar
1/3 - 1/2 c butter
2 c cake flour
3/4 c milk
1 tsp vanilla
2 egg whites (beaten stiff, but not dry)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. While oven is pre-heating, prepare your mold. I am not one to diligently grease anything that I don't have to, but with this cake, it makes your life so much easier. Spread a thin layer of solid shortening (I think butter would work, but I usually use a vegetable shortening) on any part of the mold that cake batter will touch. Make sure the layer is consistent and relatively thin (you don't want globs of shortening messing up the form of your cake).
Next (this is important) coat the shortening with flour [btw, if you're doing a chocolate cake, use cocoa powder instead of flour]. My method is to sprinkle a tablespoon or so of flour in the mold and shake it and bang it around until it's all coated. Shake out any excess (and use it for the other half of the mold, if it's a two-part). Set the molds aside (not on the stove--the shortening will melt) until ready to use.
On to the cake. Cream sugar and butter in a mixing bowl until well-combined. Sift remaining dry ingredients together. Combine milk and vanilla. Add dry ingredients in thirds to sugar mixture, alternating with thirds of the milk mixture until the batter is smooth and uniform (it will be relatively thick--great for a mold cake).
When the egg whites are sufficiently whipped, gently fold them into the batter until just combined.
If you're using a two-part mold, one half will have a hole in it. This half is the lid of the mold. Pour the cake batter into the bottom part, evening it out in all partitions, and put it on a cookie sheet with the "lid" on the mold. Bake for 25 minutes. To check for done-ness, insert a toothpick through the steam hole in the lid. Bake till it's done--soggy insides make for slouchy lambs :)
Be sure to check out these 10 handy Cake Tips at Smitten Kitchen (btw, super-fabulous site if you haven't heard of it before!) for good "handling" ideas on making/decorating this lamb cake.