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I recently received an email asking me to help judge a lamb cake contest this Saturday.
Lamb cake? Is that one of those all-in-one dishes that combines the main course and dessert?
No, it’s a sponge or pound cake baked in a lamb-shaped mold and decorated to look like a lamb.
This is the first year the National Czech and Slovak Museum and Library in Cedar Rapids has hosted a lamb cake contest.
Beránek, or lamb cake, is a Czech and Slovak Easter tradition.
Although the lamb often symbolizes Christ’s sacrifice, in the past many people couldn’t afford to serve lamb for Easter dinner. So, they made a cake in the shape of a lamb instead.
Sykora Bakery owner John Rocarek, who is also a judge in the contest, remembers having lamb cake for Easter dinner when he was a kid.
He says the cakes weren’t as elaborately decorated as they are now, but were still symbolic.
Lamb cake at Easter is one of those Czech traditions that has managed to stay alive, he tells me. Thankfully, carp at Christmastime has fallen to the wayside, he adds.
Entry forms for the contest are available at the museum store, 87 16th Ave. SW, in the heart of Czech Village.
There are two divisions — youth (ages 9-17) and adults (18 and older). The cakes must be homemade and decorated by the contestant. There is no entry fee.
The contest begins at 11 a.m. Saturday at the museum. Winners will be selected based on appearance and taste, and awards will be given for first, second and third place in both divisions.
Cakes will be displayed for the remainder of the day in the Kosek Building classroom in the museum.
For more information contact the National Czech & Slovak Museum & Library at (319) 362-8500 or visit www.NCSML.org
Whether or not your’re making a lamb cake, here’s springlike recipe for spongecake.
1 cup sugar
pinch of salt
1 cup flour
Juice and rind of 1/2 lemon or orange (optional)
Beat the eggs until they are thick. Add the sugar gradually and continue to beat. Sift the flour several times and fold into the mixture. When ingredients are thoroughly mixed, add the grated rind and juice of the lemon or orange if you choose. Pour into a sponge cake pan, and bake in a preheated 350-degree oven until a toothpick inserted in center of cake comes out clean, 25 to 30 minutes.