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'Osterlamm' and what it means to Austria

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Photo: Shoshana Rae Stark
13:08 CET+01:00
With Easter just a few weeks away, shops in Austria are filling up with their obligatory seasonal decorations and treats for the coming festivities.

One tradition that finds it way into Easter meals throughout Austria, Germany, and elsewhere in central Europe, is the Easter Lamb cake, known in German as Osterlamm.

For those unsure why a lamb-shaped cake should take centre stage this time of year, here is a brief explanation of its history and purpose during Easter time.

As well as looking cute, delighting children, and tasting nice, Osterlamm has a serious side.

The symbol of a lamb has long been used to represent Jesus, who is described in the Bible as ‘the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world', meaning he is an innocent and perfect sacrifice.

The idea of a sacrificial lambs have since been used widely in both Christian and Jewish theology, featuring in hymns, paintings and celebrations, although a lamb cake can probably be dated back to pre-Christianity when they replaced the killing of live animals in rituals.

As part of Christian celebrations of the resurrection of Jesus after he died on the cross, lambs frequently appear this time of year as both a symbol of rebirth and sacrifice.

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For those not keen on carrying out real life sacrifices, the Osterlamm cake is a more child-friendly option.

The cake itself is normally made of a sweet spongy dough, similar to that used for the Austrian Gugelhupf, but it can also come in bread form and is more likely to feature at breakfast time then later in the day.

There are lots of different Osterlamm recipes available online - most requiring a lamb-shaped cake form - but the ready-made version is also easy to pick up from certain shops in Austria.

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