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David Lissner
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Easter means lamb cake in Chicago

Easter lamb cake by Rolf's Patisserie. (Photo by swanksalot.)

Easter lamb cake by Rolf’s Patisserie. (Photo by swanksalot.)

Got Easter lamb?

For every table in Chicago that will be serving the meat of young sheep this Easter, at least two will be serving Easter lamb … cake.

An ancient symbol of Christ and the Easter sacrifice, the lamb is key in Roman Catholic holiday celebrations. In cities through out the Midwest where Polish, Italian, German and other Catholic immigrants settled in large numbers, lamb-shaped cakes are hugely popular Easter fare. Almost every full-service bakery in Chicago is featuring them right now, although elsewhere in the country they’re almost unknown.

“I had a lady come in and ask, ‘What are you doing with all those poodles?’” says John Roeser, owner of Roeser’s Bakery in West Town. In some other parts of the country, the lambs are, mystifyingly, depicted with cigarettes in their mouths!

In local bakeries, the three-dimensional cakes tend to look like the one above from Rolf’s Patisserie in Lincolnwood, pointy-eared, with smooth white heads dipped in white chocolate or ganache. They are typically made from pound-cake. Ken Jarosch, third-generation owner of Jarosch Bakery in Elk Grove Village, who sells some 800 lamb cakes each year, says he sometimes makes them from devil’s-food cake, but he doesn’t recommend that because those cakes tend to be dry.

Watch out for toothpicks when you cut the cake. The ears tend to fall off during the baking process and are often reinforced.