Easy to Make Hand Sculpted Easter Butter Lamb
Easter is coming and that means it's time to make the butter lamb. There are a few different ways to make your own butter lamb; using molds like the butter lamb in this photo or sculpting it by hand. Living in Buffalo, New York, I have the oppotunity to purchase a ready-made butter lamb, but I prefer to make my own. I have been hand sculpting butter lambs for my family's traditional Polish Easter Swiecone since I was twelve years old. It was a Girl Scout project for which I earned a badge. My nephew has gotten into the butter lamb sculpting act with me, so I know this will be a family traditon for years to come. Many people who see my butter lambs are impressed with how nice they look and believe they take a long time to make. It really only takes about thirty minutes to sculpt a butter lamb. I'd like to share this technique with you. Maybe you'll start your own family tradition.
The butter should be cold. You will be sculpting with your hands, therefore the heat of your hands will slightly melt the butter. Make sure you scrub your hands throughly, including under your nails, before starting. I keep a damp towel next to me to wipe off my hands as I'm working.
- 3 sticks of butter
- a fork
- a butter knife
- 2 to 3 toothpicks
- dash of cimmamon
- 2 cloves
- a fancy plate or butter dish
- 1. Unwrap 2 sticks of butter.
- 2. Score (make hatch marks) one side of one stick of butter with the fork. Set it on the plate with the scored side to the back of the dish.
- 3. Cut the second stick of butter into three quarters lengthwise with the butter knife.
- 4. Score one side of each of the sections. Gently press one section against the scored side of the stick of butter on the plate. Gently press the other two sections on the top of the stick of butter on the plate. If you have excess butter hanging over the sides from the top, trim it to match the lower stick of butter. Now you have the lamb's body.
- 5. Unwrap the third stick of butter. Cut off a quarter of the stick. This will be the lamb's head. Score one side and gently press onto the right or left side of the body.
- 6. Now you will sculpt the lamb. Use your fingers to gently round the edges of the head and the body. It doesn't have to be perfect as you will be making curls in a later step. Round it off enough so it no longer has a boxy look.
- 7. Next make the tail by pinching off a piece of butter from the remaining stick. Shape it into a tear drop and gently press against the back end of the body. Lightly blend the top of the tear with the body.
- 8. Pinch off two equal pieces of butter from the remaining stick. Gently roll each piece in your fingers to form an oblong, then gently press one on each side of the head for ears. Blend the attached ends into the head. Lightly press the ears between thumb and forefinger to slightly flatten. The ears should be sticking out, not hanging down. (I made this mistake on my very first lamb and it looked like a dog.)
- 9. Pinch one more piece of butter from the remaining stick. Roll it into a ball and gently press against the front of the face. This is the nose. Lightly blend the nose edges into the face. If you need to, add little bits of butter from the remaining stick to blend.
- 10. Fix any seams by blending in little bits of butter from the remaining stick.
- 11. Put the lamb in the freezer for 35 seconds to firm it up.
- 12. Remove the lamb and begin making the curly fur with a toothpick. Make circles in the butter all around the body and back of the head with the toothpick. You'll see the butter naturally curling up. If butter curls clog up on the toothpick, just lightly press them back onto the lamb. If the toothpick breaks, use another. Make a curlycue on the top of the lamb's head only. Don't touch the face, ears or tail.
- 13. Mix a dash of cinnamon with a little of the butter from the remaining stick, then, using the toothpick, place two circles of cinnamon butter on either side of the nose for nostrils.
- 14. Gently press the cloves into the face for the eyes. If you don't have cloves, you can use peppercorns or mix more cinnnamon butter for the eyes.
- 15. You are done! Place the lamb in the freezer for 35 seconds to firm up, then cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until use. Make sure you clean any excess butter off the dish before placing it in the freezer.
Get fancy with the curls. Soften the butter and place in a pastry bag with a small star tip and pipe the curls onto the lamb. Drag the star shape a little as you pipe to make it look more like curls. Or, push the softened butter through a garlic press and attach curls to the lamb.
To Decorate or Not to Decorate
Many store bought butter lambs have a red ribbon wrapped around the neck. I find that the ribbon dye bleeds into the butter so I eliminate this decoration. You need to find a waxed ribbon to avoid bleeding.
Make a two-sided paper red flag and glue it around a toothpick. Before putting the lamb on the table, put the flag into it.
You can leave the empty part of the plate around the lamb without decoration. If you want to decorate the plate use broccoli rabe or kale as greenery. You can add jelly beans or edible flowers too!
Easter Lamb Mold
If you don't want to sculpt your butter lamb, you can mold it.
- Polish Easter Lamb Mold
Check out this mold kit from Poland.
The Easter Lamb, Baranek Wielkanocny, is a Polish traditon symbolizing the sacrifice of the Lamb of God, Jesus Christ, in the Eucharist. The red ribbon around the neck represents the Blood of Christ and the red flag signifies peace on earth or redemption. The butter lamb is linked to another Easter tradition, the Blessing of the Baskets.
On Holy Saturday, Poles take baskets of food they will serve on Easter such as sausages, horseradish, hard boiled eggs, and Easter breads, to church to be blessed by the priest. The butter lamb should go into the basket last as it is protecting the rest of the ingriedents.
Baranek Wielkanocny are not only used in the Polish Easter meal, Swiecone, but the entire home as well. Easter Lambs can be made of wood, ceramic, wax, candy, sugar, or plush.
Easter Lamb Cake
Many Polish families enjoy a lamb cake for Easter as well as butter lamb. My mother has a special receipe she uses only for the lamb cake. The batter is poured into a metal lamb shaped mold and is baked right in the mold pan. She bakes at least 2 lamb cakes every Holy Saturday and decorates them with a butter cream frosting, jelly beans eyes and mouth, and coconut "wool." Around the lamb, on the plate, she uses coconut tossed in green food dye for grass and tucks either jelly beans or colored eggs into the grass.
The cake is wonderful, dense and buttery. We usually eat it with ice cream.
Buffalo, New York has a large number of Polish descendants. The east side of the city is known as Polonia, as most Poles settled here during the late 1800s and early 1900s after immigrating to the United States. Polish churches, homes, shops, taverns, and restaurants can still be found here, although less Poles live in the area these days. Broadway Market began as an open-air farmer's market and evolved into one of the city's prime grocery shopping centers. It's popularity began to wane during the 1970s as more and more supermarkets opened, but Broadway Market still attracts thousands every Easter season. Polish Easter items, not available elsewhere, are its biggest draw.
- Broadway Market
Find out more about the Broadway Market.
The interior of Broadway Market.
Learn More About Polish Easter Traditions
A very informative book on Polish Holiday celebrations including Easter.
Polish holiday celebrations are all about the food. Many of these recipes are similar to the ones my family makes.
Buffalo's Butter Lamb Family
One of the most popular stands at the Broadway Market each Easter.
- Malczewski's Easter Butter Lambs
Find where you can buy Malczewski's Easter Butter lambs in Western New York.
Use these lamb molds for cakes, butter lambs or chocolate lambs.
This is the mold my mother uses for her lamb cakes.
This mold makes bite-sized lambs.
A traditional butter mold.
One of my favorite molds for chocolate lambs.