One of our favorite Easter traditions is a Lamb Cake. It was my turn this year to make the cake, and my sister Marisa challenged me to make a Cannoli Lamb Cake. I decided to go with a box pound cake mix for the cake and a homemade ricotta and mascarpone cheese buttercream frosting. The two dozen cannoli that adorn the cake are from my favorite cannoli maker - Tony Cannoli's in Mundelein Illinois. He make a unique shell that holds up well while still flaky and crunchy. The filling I choose are Hazelnut Chocolate Creme and traditional Chocolate Chip. Tony Cannoli's cannoli also freeze well which allows them to be made ahead of time and hold well during transport. If you live in the Chicago area, I urge you to try them.
Overall this Cannoli Lamb Cake is a winner. The cake and frosting are easy to make. The hardest part is piping the rosettes on the cake and keeping it properly chilled. The eyes are chocolate chips, and the ears and nose are cannoli shell bits.
If you don't have a lamb mold, this one from Kitchen Supply USA is a good 12 inch large mold. It is very sturdy and easy to clean. It will last a lifetime.
A few tips to know for a good cake:
- Drain the ricotta cheese overnight with a weight on top to get rid of as much moisture as possible. The result will be thick cheese.
- Grease the inside of the cake mold VERY generously with baker's Goop (a blended of oil and flour) or Baker's Joy Spray.
- The cake can be made ahead of time and frozen. Better to frost chilled too!
- Keep the frosting VERY chilled for easiest effort decorating.
- Cut out a cardboard base to place the baked cake on for easy handling. I used a cardboard pizza circle.
Here is the step-by-step guide to making a Cannoli Lamb Cake:
Prepare the pound cake according to the directions on the package. If so desired, add a flavoring such as lemon, orange, almond. cinnamon or Fiori di Sicilia. Fill the "face side" of the mold to the brim with the batter. Place on a sheet pan lined with parchment or a silicon mat.
Allow the cake to cool for 15 - 30 minutes before unmolding. It should come out very easy. Be gentle so the ears don't break. Cut out a piece of cardboard slightly bigger than the shape of the cake for a base. Smear a dollop of frosting on the base to adhere the lamb cake. It will help hold it steady. Use a pastry brush to gently brush off as many crumbs as possible. Place the cake in the fridge to keep chilled.
Make the frosting with a hand beater. Be sure the butter, ricotta and mascarpone are room temperature to make the blending easier. Add vanilla (note - I use clear vanilla for white frosting however pure vanilla extract works too) and powdered sugar two cups at a time. The frosting should be very thick and not drip at all. Keep the frosting chilled as much as possible.
With a piping bag and a rosette tip, decorate the whole cake with thick rosettes. Get as much frosting as possible on the cake. Pound cake is dense and needs the creamy frosting. After frosting one side, refrigerate the cake for 20 minute and finish the rest. I used chocolate chips for the eyes and cut out a nose and ears from cannoli shells. If your refrigerator is large enough to hold the platter, now would be a good time to place the cake on the platter (with the cardboard) and chill until ready to serve. I love the addition of a few fresh flowers to symbolize Spring
Cannoli Lamb Cake for Easter
- 1 16-ounce box Betty Crocker Pound Cake
- ½ cup (1 stick butter) room temperature
- ⅔ cup milk
- 1 teaspoon Fiori di Sicilia or citrus flavor optional
- Baker’s Joy Spray
- 1 16-ounce tub of whole milk ricotta, well drained overnight
- 2 8-ounce tubs mascarpone cheese, room temperature
- ½ cup (1 stick butter) room temperature
- 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
- 3 tablespoons whole milk or cream
- 4 cups powdered sugar
- 24 mini cannolis (from a good bakery)
- Green grass
- A few assorted fresh flowers
- 2 large-size chocolate chips for eyes
- Broken bits of cannoli shell for ears and nose
To make the cake
- Prepare the lamb mold with generously greasing the inside of both halves with Baker’s Joy or a combination of oil or butter and a flour.
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Do not use convection setting.
- Cut a piece of cardboard slightly larger than the mold to use as a base for the cake.
- Prepare the pound cake batter according to the package directions. Add the optional flavor if desired.
- Place the “face side” of the lamb mold down on a sheet pan lined with parchment or a silicone mat. Pour the batter into the mold all the way to the brim. Be sure the ears are well filled. Place the other half of the lamb mold on top. Secure the mold with butcher’s twine if needed.
- Bake for 60 minutes. Most molds have a small hole for testing the cake with a wooden skewer. Allow to cool for 15 minutes.
- Remove the top half of the mold and allow to cool another 15 minutes. Using one hand and a clean towel, gently turn the cake out of the bottom half of the mold. It should come out easily. Place the lamb cake upright on the cardboard base and put the cake in the fridge to chill. If your serving platter will fit in the fridge, now is a good time to place the cardboard base and cake on the platter.
To make the frosting
- Add the butter, ricotta, mascarpone and vanilla to a large bowl. With a hand beater, mix on low setting for about 1 -2 minutes, and then on medium setting for another 1 -2 minutes to fully incorporate all the ingredients.
- Add 2 cups of powdered sugar and mix on low until incorporated. Add 2 tablespoons of milk and 2 more cups of powdered sugar and mix again until well incorporated. If needed, add 1 more tablespoon of milk if too thick, or another ½ cup of powdered sugar if too thin. The frosting should be thick and not drip at all from the beaters.
- Remove the lamb cake from the fridge. Gently take the cake off the cardboard base. Add a large strip of frosting across the cardboard and place the cake back on top. Gently press the cake into the frosting. This will help adhere the cake for stability. With a pastry brush, brush off any crumbs.
- Carefully spread a thin layer of frosting over the entire cake. This crumb base will help the rosettes to adhere to the cake and cover any bare spots. Place the cake back in the fridge to chill for another 30 minutes.
- When ready to decorate, place the frosting in a piping bag with a rosette tip. Remove the chilled cake again from the fridge.
- Pipe the back half of the lamb with rosettes in rows. Try to get as much frosting as possible on the cake. Keep the rosettes thick and close together. Place the cake and frosting back in the fridge for 30 minutes to chill. This will make it easier to complete the decorations.
- Finish piping the rosettes on the front half of the lamb cake. Decorate the face with chocolate chips for eyes and cannoli shell bits for a nose and ears. Keep the decorated lamb cake in the fridge until ready to serve.
- Place the cardboard base and lamb cake on your serving platter. Add the green grass and fresh flowers. Arrange the mini-cannolis on the platter.
- Cut the cake from the tail end in thin slices. Serve with a cannoli.