Thursday, April 5, 2012

Easter Lamb Cake Pan (or How to Season Cast Iron)

A couple of days ago, I mentioned one of my favorite Easter traditions - the Easter Lamb Cake. This festive confection usually consists of some sort of pound cake, baked in a lamb-shaped pan, frosted with buttercream, and covered in coconut 'fleece.'

Photo of a photo - sorry for the poor resolution!

It's a tradition from Eastern Europe and Germany that's been in our family for generations (and one that's especially common in the ethnic bakeries of Chicago, where my Mum's side of the family lives). Sadly, I don't have a lamb cake to share with you today - instead, this post is all about my cast iron lamb cake pan, which I rescued from rusty ignominy.

Pre-treatment: sad and rusty

My mum has one of the old-fashioned cast-aluminum pans (the top photo shows a cake baked in her pan, years ago!), but these days, most lamb cakes are baked in modern, lightweight pans. I've come across dozens of these, but never purchased one - always holding out for the 'real' you can imagine how thrilled I was to discover this rusty little beauty languishing in our local thrift store.

Even in its rusted, dirt-encrusted state, I just couldn't pass it up (could you say 'no' to that cute little face?) - especially since I know these pans garner lots of attention on eBay and this one was only about $12! It may surprise you to learn that I've never owned any cast iron (I really want some, though), so I was unsure about whether this pan could be salvaged. After a few hours of internet research, I decided it was worth a try and got to scrubbing.

Most sites suggested that 10-15 minutes of scrubbing should so the trick, but I soon learned that you don't have to worry about scrubbing behind the ears with a cast iron skillet; this task ended up taking me the better part of an afternoon. Once the rust was gone, I dried the pan in a 250°F oven for an hour or two and then cooled it on a wire rack.


At this point, I brushed the cooled pan with vegetable oil, taking care to grease every nook and cranny, and wiping out the excess with a paper towel. The pan went back into the oven ( 250°F to 300°F) for another couple of hours. I should note, here, that bacon fat or lard is actually recommended for seasoning, since vegetable oil may leave a slightly sticky finish. Unfortunately, I didn't have either of these to hand so I'll just have to keep my pans covered to prevent them accumulating dust or dirt.

I repeated the seasoning process again and plan to do it once more before I use the pan for baking (especially if I can get my hands on some lard). After that, it's just hot water and a soft rag for this pan to preserve the seasoning. I'm hoping that's the end of the rust, but it if comes back, I'll have to repeat the whole scrubbing-seasoning process again!  This slightly-gray pan should turn a classic cast-iron black with increased usage - guess I'd better get started on my Easter baking!

Edit: Apparently lamb cakes are more widely popular than I'd first thought - here's an Italian version, complete with recipe!

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  1. Thanks for this- we have one cast iron skillet that we got at a yard sale for next to nothing and my hubby has been itching to get it seasoned!!

  2. I seasoned a cast iron griddle to take camping with us. It worked perfectly! I actually enjoyed the seasoning process, because I like learning old-time skills that have fallen out of general use.

  3. I've never seen an old-fashioned cast iron pan like this before. Very cool! Thanks for sharing at oopsey daisy!