Just like Irish Soda Bread, there is one other big tradition in my family, and that is the Easter Lamb Cake. Many in my family will make this cake today and, as with the Irish Soda Bread, it will connect us because most have the memories I do about Easter Day. The first time I laid my eyes on this beautiful cake was at Grandma and Grandpa’s house on Easter Day. As a young child, I waited impatiently on the sidewalk of my grandparents’ two-story white house studying their beautiful blue hydrangeas until Gram or Gramp opened the door.
In the front door along the wall to the right stood a small table, and atop that table lay the beautiful Easter lamb cake I anticipated all week long. This photo is the cake I make now which is exactly the same type of cake pan Grandma used. In fact, the final product looks pretty darn close to Grandma’s, including using raisins for the eyes and nose, coloring the coconut green for the grass, and laying candy eggs all around the perimeter. I seem to remember Grandma using mostly jelly beans, though, and the larger candy eggs in pale shades of blue, yellow, and green that had an overly sweet marshmallow inside.
Grandma would place the cake on a flat, white platter atop a white cloth. The presentation of mostly white on white gave it a spiritual presence, and as a child that is how I revered it. Sure, I’d sneak a jelly bean or two before we were ‘allowed’ to have it for dessert, but at first I’d admire it for a very long time. I’d take it all into my little mind and think about my religious teachings, about the beauty of holy spirits, about how someone suffered so that I wouldn’t have to suffer, and about how even after someone dies, there is something beautiful that comes from it.
The young and gentle lamb was the perfect representation of the essence of that holy day for me. As a small child, I connected strongly with that image. As an adult, I still do. When Easter comes along, I think of how innocent and gentle we are in spirit, how we make mistakes and learn from them, how we suffer and are not alone in it, how we are all the same at a very basic level, how we are all connected.
This year I am not making the lamb cake only because I committed to myself last week to prepare for the spring and summer seasons by being more active and eating better. I felt a little empty in making that decision, in not keeping the family tradition going this year. That is, until I perused the aisles in the local drug store and was bombarded with bunnies and eggs of every shape, size, and flavor, and ‘Easter’ baskets three-feet tall filled with toys. It was then that I gently reminded myself that it does not matter whether or not I make and eat Grandma’s cake this year; what matters is that I remain mindful of what the cake means to me. I know I’ll most likely make it next year, and I will revel in the meditative process and will feel so very connected to everyone in my family as I make it. I look forward to that next year.
But for this year, I think I will just make a lovely dinner of lamb chops with a recipe given me by my friend, Chef Louis. I made it last year and it was wonderful. Unlike my lamb cake, this dish looks nothing like the original dish depicted in the photo Louis sent, but it was delicious nonetheless. More importantly, the lamb will symbolize my spiritual beliefs and how I am part of something big and beautiful.