Traditional Lamb Cake Recipe from Griswold Vintage Mold Insert

Now that Easter is not really so far off as we would imagine, if you remember lamb cakes from your childhood or are fortunate to have someone or a bakery make one now, you are very fortunate but you can easily learn to prepare one  yourself.  All you will need is a lamb cake mold  of your choice – new or used or antique.One famous mold is the Griswold 866 (no longer manufactured).  Ebay is a good source for the vintage Griswold mold manufactured by an Erie, PA company that is now defunct.  There is one for sale today for $149 or best offer and another at auction starting at $55.  You need to shop around.  Go to this page to learn more about the Griswold  molds and to know the ones from their line that are best.

NOTE:  You do not have to use the Griswold mold or any other cast iron mold.  Heavy aluminum is OK and good success is being experienced by people using the  lighter aluminum molds.  That gives you a range of prices and sources for molds.

Here are photos of my Griswold mold that I bought on eBay a few years ago, still in its original box.

The mold comes in two parts. The two parts are NOT attached

The back piece below has vent holes (see the one in the head).

There was an insert that came with this mold that had the recipe for the lamb cake.  These inserts, (like the one below) are sold on eBay but the internet has several sources for just the recipe.

Here is the classic recipe that came with the mold in an insert like the one pictured above in the purple frame.  This is from a wonderful site found here. It includes the recipe for the icing.  I can confirm as a former librarian that the text at this site and in my insert are identical.

The key to a successful lamb cake is a carefully seasoned mold.

Cast-iron baking molds must be seasoned before being used for the first time, and re-seasoned as necessary. This helps seal the pores of the metal to prevent sticking. Here is a larger picture of a well-seasoned cast-iron lamb mold.

  1. To season a brand-new cast-iron mold or pan, heat oven to 300 degrees. Thoroughly wash the cast-iron in hot, soapy water. Rinse and dry thoroughly. Apply a liberal coat of solid vegetable shortening to every nook and cranny. Place on a baking sheet, open side up, and heat 1 hour. Cool, pour off any remaining shortening, and wipe clean with a paper towel. DO NOT WASH!
  2. Before pouring in batter, using a pastry brush, apply solid vegetable shortening to every crevice and then flour. Tap out any excess flour. The mold is now ready to be filled. After unmolding the finished product, don’t wash, just wipe the interior with a paper towel and the exterior with a damp cloth.
  3. On subsequent uses of the mold, even though it has been seasoned, before pouring in the batter, the mold must re-greased and heated for 20 minutes at 375 degrees. Reduce the oven temperature to 350 degrees and pour off any accumulated shortening, cool, and re-grease and flour before pouring in the batter. See the instructions for Easter Lamb Cake recipe.
  4. To reseason a mold or pan that is starting to stick, repeat step 1.
  5. To reseason a rusty, old cast-iron mold, heat the oven to 275 degrees. Clean the pan very well, making sure to scrub off any dried/baked on food. Dry it thoroughly and coat liberally with solid vegetable shortening. Bake the pan in the oven for at least 15 minutes. Take the pan out of the oven and pour out the excess shortening. Then put the pan back in the oven for at least 2 more hours. Repeat this process at least twice, more if the pan was really rusty.
  6. DON’T DO THIS:
    • Don’t stack cast-iron molds or pans on top of each other. They will get scratched and lose their stick-free properties.
    • To avoid condensation and, therefore, rust, don’t store cast-iron molds or pans with their lids on.

Even if you never make or eat one of these cakes, the history of holiday baking molds is fascinating.

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25 responses to “Traditional Lamb Cake Recipe from Griswold Vintage Mold Insert

  1. I had a lamb cake once as a guest. I don’t think it was from a mold by this company because the lamb here looks a little different than what I recall – the ears are different, so maybe someone else is making those molds too? Nordicware or someone like that?

    It does look so pretty sitting on the Easter table. :)

  2. I believe I own a Griswold cast iron lamb cake mold. There are no markings on it, but my late mother has a card from The Griswold Mfg. Company, Erie, U.S.A. It is for the Rabbit and Lamb Cake Molds and has the cake and icing recipes on one side and how to prepare and use the molds on the other. It has been cut from some larger piece.

    There are no marks on the lamb nor air holes on the back piece. My grandmother Gibson lived in Butler, PA (both she and my grandfather were from Meadville, just south of Erie). She had the mold for my father who was born in 1901. It was perhaps for his brother Jamie, born in 1896 and died at age 4.

    My late father taught chemistry at WVU beginning in 1926, just out of MIT. My late mother was a major and his lab assistant. She said grandmother would mail a lamb cake from Butler to Morgantown for daddy’s birthday in Sept. When she and daddy married in 1929, grandmother gave them the mold. My late brother Jimmy was born in 1930 and took a handful out of his finished cake which was waiting on a cabinet by the back stairs. I was the youngest born in 1944 and the only girl. My mother had a birthday party for me every 5 years: 5, 10, 15, and 20 –the last w/ some of my college girl friends. Mother would have a chicken dinner in the dining roomfor about 10 friends and of course the lamb cake was the centerpiece. I have made the cake about 3 times and am about to make it for a “family” cake contest. Mother always baked it in 2 halves. The first time I made it, I decided to put the mold together–I figured out why mother made it in halves and put it together w/ toothpicks and frosting glue.

    I described the recipe as “durable” and in the 1980’s, mother acquired a coconut white cake recipe from a friend. It is much tastier. The cake was always covered w/ coconut. Raisins were used for the eyes and nose. Mother always attached a piece of cotton wadding w/ a toothpick for the tail. Daddy would come along when the cake was finished and sitting on a little silver rectangular tray and drop a few more raisins under the cotton tail –“for realism” he said. That is a part of the cake to this day.

    I would love to know more about the history of the mold. Obviously, these were made by Griswold prior to the 1930’s AND apparently earlier ones were not numbered nor identified by the manufacturer. I only know this from the the printed card in mother’s recipe file.

    • Joan – I am sorry – I think I overlooked your comment. To find the history of these molds, I googled “Griswold Molds” and found a lot. Also “lamb cakes.” A couple of other comments on this post do tell the history in Europe. My early experience only dates back 60 years to a bakery in a department store in Rochester, NY – Sibley, Lindsay and Curr CO. or Sibley’s.

  3. I inherited a cast iron lamb cake mold from my grandmother’s estate which looks exactly like yours, although the handles are a bit different. (I suspect that mine is older.) I vividly recall these cakes in the Lutheran church basements of my youth, and they now have become an Easter tradition on my own table. My guests would be terribly disappointed if I failed to deliver.

    It took me many Easters to get these cakes perfect, and here are a few tips that have worked for me: 1. Use a cake mix. (Shocking as this may be to the purist, I use a standard white cake mix, following all directions on the box. Baking just 40 minutes at 350 degrees yields a perfect cake every time.) 2. Make two cakes. (One design fault of these cakes is that they don’t stand up very well. So I make two and place them back-to-back on the platter. Last year I made one white lamb and one devil’s food with cocoa butter frosting. This year I am making one a red velvet lamb.) 3. Remember to make sure that the lamb’s nose is pointing down on the cookie sheet! (It took a few noseless lambs to drive this point home to me.) 4. Before inverting the finished cake onto a cooling rack, I gently poke/pull all around the cake with a steak knife and separate it from the pan as deeply as I can, being especially careful around the face and ears. 5. Reinforce the ears with toothpicks and the neck with a bamboo skewer before frosting. (These lamb heads are heavy, especially when frosted, and the neck can break, leaving one with a headless lamb, which is very disturbing imagery indeed.)

    Thank you for your fine article.

    Martin S.
    Seattle, WA

    • Martin – I cannot believe this post’s good fortune in having comments each of which has brought different and needed information. Thanks for this and it’s nice to know we have readers on the west coast. Bon appetit and come again. We must be more diligent in getting out new posts.

    • After many fallen lambs I learned to smear some of the 7 minute boiled frosting on the cake plate and then place the bottom of the lamb on the frosting. The frosting acts like glue.

  4. Twilla McConnell

    I have this Griswold lamb Mold It was my Grandmothers. I also have a pic of her and I when I was abt. 3 yrs old at the kitchen table making this cake. I just love the picture and all it represents. I have made this cake for my 2 sons many times, the most reascent was on my oldest sons Birth Day. He just turned 40. What a great time I had making this little lamb cake.

    • Your personal memories really enhance this page and I think of people using these molds over the last decades every time I get it out. Thanks for Sharing.

  5. We spent Easter with a German family in Bavaria. The families in their village makes a lamb cake in a similar mold, but the mold that clips together on the sides with the bottom open and the lamb bakes upside down in the oven. Once cooled it is unclipped and removed from the mold, then sprinkled with powedered sugar. The lamb, long with colored easter eggs, bread and meats are put in a basket and taken to the Catholic Church for Saturday evening vigil Mass to be blessed and eaten on Easter day. It was such a lovely tradition to see everyone in the village bring their baskets to church to be blessed. We were told generations back they could not afford lamb and began making lamb cakes instead.

  6. When I was a little girl (i’m now 64) our housekeeper would make this cake for my sister and I for our birthday’s. I don’t know what happened with that mold, but when I started baking I found a Wilton mold.When my sister had her children, I would always make this cake from scratch and frost it with vanilla frosting. Of course the lamb was covered with coconut for it’s wool. Cinnamon candies for the eyes, and a little piece of licorice for the mouth. Of course, the birthday girl got to eat the head! This became a tradition in my family and with other children who had birthdays. In the 80’s I was on a business trip to Tulsa, OK and went to an antique store on Strawberry Lane (?). It was there that I found an original cast iron mold. It is a treasure to me and will pass it on to one of my nieces when the time comes. I still have photographs of my sister and I and a childhood friend eating my birthday lamb cake!

  7. Our mother made lamb cakes for our birthdays for years. Her pan was handmade aluminum (by a family engineer) pan on the order of the Griswold 866 pan. She baked it nose-down with a cookie sheet on the rack below it for bits that might have run over. And the back was on the pan as it baked. She used a Duncan Hines german chocolate cake mix made as directed except she added a tablespoon of regular Gold Medal flour to give the cake more substance. The nose part of the pan was filled completely with the batter. So, as it cooked, it rose into the back. Now that she is gone, I make the cake in a Griswold 866 pan I bought. The temp I use is the normal recommended temp for the bundt cake. I test it for doneness by using a toothpick in the air holes of the back. We use fluffy frosting or 7-minute frosting and coconut. The tradition lives on among several of my mother’s many descendants.

  8. I remembered my Mom making us a lamb cake almost every Easter when we were young. In talking with my sisters about it with Easter coming up, one of my sisters said she had Mom’s mold. It is a Griswold but the original directions are missing from the box and only a partial hand written recipe card inside. Dad must have ordered it for Mom as the shipping label has his name on it and our childhood address. I’m thankful for finding this site with all the good tips on using this pan as I’m going to try the pan out this Easter for my family. The mold looks to be in good condition but I will re-season before using as directed here. We sisters did remember some toothpicks being in the cake at times, now I realize the reason was perhaps to either support the head or re-attach it. Wonderful memories and all of us sisters are glad to find out that one of us got the mold before Mom and Dads estate sale. Will check ebay to see if I can find a original or copy of the instructions but there are nothing like helpful hints/information from acutal users of the mold. Thanks for your site and the posting of information and stories on the Griswold Lamb mold. Think I will try a trial run before the family comes on Easter.

  9. Hello, E. Baker and thank you for your comment. The recipe referenced in this post and at another site IS the original recipe from the insert in my vintage mold. I am heartened to see so many people continue this tradition. Thank you very much for stopping by and for your comment.

  10. Wendy Ramsburg

    I am a Second Generation Griswold Lamb mold baker. My first mold was handed down from my mother and the second I couldn’t resist, having found it at an antique store in rusty but usable condition (after cleaning and seasoning) for $25.00.

    Thank you for the links to the original recipes and their helpful hints area at the bottom. The only recipe I’ve ever known is the one for the Santa Spiced cake which was hand written by my mother.

    A couple of hints of my own to add to anyone reading the Griswold cookware page:

    1. Instead of trying to grease and four the warmed cast iron mold, consider using a commercially available substitute such as “Bakers Joy”, which gives a more even (and less messy) coverage.

    2. Make sure the mold has cooled down to where you can touch it with your hands (without burning them!) before removing the cake. This cooling period gives the cake time to shrink (therefore loosen) away from the edges making it easier to remove.

    Another way I differ from the hints on their page is that I DO NOT turn the mold over. I bake it at 350 degrees for 50 minutes. The natural rising of the cake will fill both halves of the mold.

  11. Wonderful suggestions, Wendy. This post just keeps on giving to all who come here. It is wonderful to be in the midst of this tradition with all of you.

  12. So much fun reading about everyone’s lamb cake memories and tips! For each of our First Communion celebrations (6 of us in all), my Mom would borrow my aunts Griswold lamb mold and make it to celebrate. Long story short….I left the Catholic church many years ago but now I’m back. A few years ago my eldest daughter joined the church and it was such a treat to make her a lamb cake to celebrate her first communion. This past year my husband joined and had his first communtion at Easter and I of course made him a lamb cake to celebrate too! I used the Wilton lamb mold, but I think I just may have to check eBay out and buy an original Griswold mold because in 2 years our eldest grandson will be making his first communnion. Some traditions just have to carry on :)

  13. Margie – what a lovely tradition and one that brings the family such joy and anticipation I bought my mold on ebay. In good condidion they grind up to $300 . However, you may get lucky and there is always Craig’s list.
    Thank you for sharing that which is truly meaningful in your family with our growing “Griswold Mold” family here. You are right, it’s fun reading about everyone’s memories of the lamb cakes. I know others will be as moved by your story as I was.

  14. I stumble upon this page trying to find the recipe my mom used for her lamb cake. She recently passed away and my sister is now in charge of making the cakes…she has been making them the last few years when mother was unable to. We are on our second mold. We had a fire at our house and the contractors lost half of our original mold. When my Aunt died, her family gave her mold, which was my great grandmothers, to my mom. She used a VERY dense pound cake recipe, that isn’t like any I have found, and never had a problem with it standing up. Since this cake was made at Easter she used a black jelly bean cut in half long ways for the eyes and a red jelly bean cut in half the other way for a nose/mouth. She would make little coconuts nests with jelly beans in front of the lamb. I did read that if you a toothpick in the ears prior to baking it helped keep the ears on when it was done. We love it most uniced with peanut butter. Now that we are all much older we no longer ice it, just eat it with peanut butter. There’s no cake that tastes anything like this. When I find her recipe, I’ll find my way back here and post it. This cake was part of my Daddy’s familly tradition. I don’t remember Easter without a lamb cake until this year. I had to get on to my sister as it became her “job” to make these cakes when Momma died, Momma made her promise she would make them if she got the cake mold. Thanks for the memories!!

  15. Our mold is much, much older than this mold. It doesn’t have vent holes, it is a steamed cake. It doesn’t have numbers on it, it says “patent still pending.” I did find Momma’s recipe for this steamed cake, not sure how it works if your mold has steam holes in but we all love it.

    1/2 cup butter 2 1/2 cups flour 1 1/2 cups sugar 1/8 tsp salt
    1 cup milk 2 tsp baking powder 4 eggs 1 tsp vanilla

    Cream butter, add sugar, add beaten egs. Sift flour with salt and baking powder 5 times (yes, 5). Add alternately with milk and then add vanilla. Grease and flour inside of both sections of the mold well, pour batter in the front half of the mold (section with the nose) fill the mold well working in all corners especially the ears which should be given special attention so that they shape up perfectly after baking. Cover front half with the back half of the mold. Place in 350 degree oven as close to center as possible (can be placed on a cookie sheet). Bake 55 -60 minutes. Cool partially before removing.

  16. Rubbing alcohol mixed with water and also spray it on.
    That is what we use to get mold off of tobacco that we harvested as well
    as had to hold over until the following year.

  17. getting ready to try my Grandmother’s Lamb cake mold for Easter. Enjoyed all your comments & tips, taking notes & hoping I’ll be able to get the lamb out in one piece!! Thanks for all your tips!

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