Tuesday, April 2, 2013

First, Sift Out The Ants

Invited to Easter dinner at daughter Katie's house, with a chance to meet niece Molly's baby June, I felt the least I could do was bring dessert. I had planned on a big platter of fresh fruit but, despite it being late March, I still hadn't found any strawberries worth buying (no hint of strawberry scent to the ones in my market) and good strawberries are usually the anchor for any fruit plate worth its salt.  Hmmm...

I resolved to bake a cake instead. I had seen a recipe in Sunset magazine that sounded intriguing to me, a cake made with whole oranges whacked up, peel and all, in a food processor, then added to the cake batter. Citrus is still at its height around here, so I was assured of rich orange flavor. The article promised that the cake would not be too sweet and, knowing my audience, that sounded just right for the assembled family group.

When I got to the glaze, however, I was stunned by the amount of confectioner's sugar needed for the glaze. Holy cats!  I consulted with my visiting dessert expert, my Fairy Godson, and he agreed that that was 'way too much glaze, so I planned to make about 1/3 of the recipe and drizzle away.

When I poured out my confectioner's sugar, I noticed little black specks in its pristine whiteness. Puzzled, I dipped in a finger and pulled out - an ant!  A poor, desiccated ant who had apparently found his way into the sugar but died in sweet glory, a victim to the preservative power of sugar. In the olden days, people learned to preserve things like fruit in dense sugar, as it draws out the water from any living thing, be it bacteria or ant, and leaves a sad little husk behind.

So, step one of the glaze recipe should have read, "First, sift out the ants."  

We had a good laugh over that one as we did, indeed, sift out that ant and his few brethren. We didn't really think a little formic acid would make much difference to the taste, but the little black specks were less than appetizing. It's ant karma, really - they bug me every winter when they invade my kitchen, so it's only fair that my sugar take its toll on the ant armies. 

When the cake was finished, it looked sadly plain, not richly golden with stripes of white icing as the one in Sunset, so I dressed mine up with some of our Easter jelly beans and foil-wrapped chocolate eggs for a more festive look.

We cut the cake after dinner - it was moist and very dense, like pound cake in its avoirdupois. A slender slice was plenty.  The rich orange flavor was lovely and we all liked the bits of orange peel in the crumb that kept it from being overly sweet, but we also think it would be even better with a scoop of vanilla bean ice cream alongside.

Interestingly, I added the jelly beans just for decoration, but every single one, plus the chocolate eggs, were eaten as well as the cake.  I didn't tell anyone about the ants.

12 Comments:

Blogger Chilebrown said...

I know you sifted out the ants but did you get all the potential bacteria they tracked into your sugar. I think it would be prudent to invest in a new bag of sugar. Good Luck.

Tuesday, April 02, 2013  
Blogger Greg said...

The cake looks pretty! It is good for you too.Full of antibodies ;) Sorry I could not help myself.

Tuesday, April 02, 2013  
Blogger cookiecrumb said...

YOU MET JUNE!!!!!

I die of jealousy.

Tuesday, April 02, 2013  
Blogger Zoomie said...

Chilebrown, the sugar will plasmolyze bacteria, too, that's why it's a good preservative agent. The little buggers, whether insect or bacterium, don't stand a chance.

Greg, antibodies! Ha! Good one!

Cookiecrumb, yes, and she is simply delicious.

Tuesday, April 02, 2013  
Blogger Chilebrown said...

Chilebrown, Good luck with that. I rather be safe. A bag of sugar is cheap.

Tuesday, April 02, 2013  
Blogger Zoomie said...

Chilebrown, ask your Mom why she uses sugar to make jam. Then you'll understand.

Tuesday, April 02, 2013  
Blogger nancy namaste said...

Chilebrown-never argue with a science geek.

That cake looks delicious. Here's an idea for next time - make a glaze of lemon curd or marmelade jam. Both add a lovely tang and richness to the cake. Jelly beans are nice but you could have also lined the plate with orange and kiwi slices.

Ants need not apply.

I have great ideas as long as somebody else does the cooking and the clean up.

Tuesday, April 02, 2013  
Blogger Zoomie said...

Nancy, I did think about decorating with orange slices but because it was Easter...

Tuesday, April 02, 2013  
Blogger nancy namaste said...

This is off topic, but remember when you made the soda bread and thought it was a bit blah. You might want to try this recipe; looks anything but boring:


http://www.tasteloveandnourish.com/2013/03/14/cherry-almond-soda-bread-vegan/

Wednesday, April 03, 2013  
Blogger Zoomie said...

Nancy, thanks for the lead - that does sound good and well worth a try.

Thursday, April 04, 2013  
Blogger katiez said...

I like the sound of the cake... A bit of tart is always good for me. As to the ants.... I remember my mother 'baking' the flour, then sifting it to clean it up before baking cakes or cookies.... The good old days ;-)

Thursday, April 04, 2013  
Blogger Zoomie said...

Katiez, I'm glad to hear from one who, like me, isn't overly concerned about germs. :-) I haven't killed anyone yet (or even made them sick), but there's always a first time.

Thursday, April 04, 2013  

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