By Sharon Hudgin • Photographs Courtesy Sharon Hudgins
Easter baskets in America are usually filled with commercially made sweets such as little yellow marshmallow chicks, chocolate and peanut butter eggs, candy-coated almonds, chocolate rabbits, and pastel-colored candy corn and jelly beans.
But throughout Central Europe, the traditional Easter treat is a little lamb-shaped cake, made from white cake batter or from the same kind of sweetened, yeast-raised dough used for German and Austrian Gugelhupf, Alsatian Kugelhopf, and Polish baba (or babka) cakes. Usually these lambs have a small ribbon tied around their neck, with a tiny bell attached. And often the lamb will be holding a colored foil banner bearing a gold emblem of a lamb or cross, or sometimes “Happy Easter” written in the language of that country.
In Christian iconography, the lamb has long been a symbol associated with Christ—as both the Good Shepherd of his flock on Earth and the sacrificial Lamb of God, crucified and risen from the grave. So it’s not surprising that in many parts of Central Europe children take baskets containing small lamb cakes, along with colorfully dyed eggs, to church to be blessed on Easter Saturday or Easter Sunday. And after church that Sunday, the dinner table at home is decorated with these little lamb cakes, which are eaten as a dessert after the traditional Easter feast, or served with tea or coffee throughout the Easter holidays, when friends and relatives come to visit.