Recipe Column: Surviving a pest
There’s nothing that makes me seethe in irked anger more than watching Asian beetles (a.k.a. ladybugs) crawl up my walls and windows. This is the time of year they come out of hiding, after hibernating all winter. Someone told me they are looking for a way out, to do what they do in the spring and summer months. I know what they do in the fall; they come to my house.
When I first notice them flying through the air like menacing specks in late autumn, panic strikes my heart. Then they descend in mass numbers on my home and like unwelcome relatives find their way in. I am put instantly into a mentally fragile state. A few years ago I had a particularly bad invasion. For about a week, I would come home from work and my living room looked like an insecticidal horror movie. These bugs were everywhere, even flying into my beverages and alighting on food. I actually thought I might have to be committed.
During that time I didn’t put my vacuum cleaner away for many days and would spend hours sucking up bugs over woodwork, walls and windows, again and again. When squashed these things give off a stink that makes me gag and they also bite. I know they may serve a purpose somewhere in the universe, but in my world they are a hated pest with a skin crawling association that’s unmatched.
So you can imagine my reaction when a friend of mine proudly displayed a tray of ladybug cupcakes in the break room of her place of business the other day. “I made them to celebrate all this warm weather and spring coming,” she told me. “Aren’t they adorable?” I felt nauseous.
And then she did the unthinkable, she offered me one on outstretched palm.
“No thanks,” I said tersely. “I had a big lunch.”
“Oh go on, just one,” she prodded.
“No thanks really,” I said hurriedly as I back away. Even though, in their own right, they were cute little confections, all those red backs and dotted wings were making me uncomfortable. All I could see in my mind were the hordes crawling over my walls, the disgusting smell when I swatted them and their irritating bites that drove me wild. I just couldn’t bring myself to even touch one.
However, I was not to escape the wrath of the ladybug cupcakes. My friend decided I might get hungry later on in the day and so she popped one in a sandwich bag and handed it to me on my way out the door. What could I say? I thanked her but walking down Brown St. in Rhinelander, with the bag held at arm’s length between pinched fingers, I must have looked like a do-gooder disposing of dog poo.
However, the good Lord has a way of balancing things out and as I rounded a corner with my “prize” I bumped into another friend of mine who was hand in hand with her four-year-old grandson. We chatted for a few minutes and then I looked at the kid. He was drooling and his eyes were fixated on the cupcake. “Are you hungry?” I asked him and he nodded vigorously. “Here, celebrate spring with a lady bug cupcake,” I told him as I handed over the bag.
I turned around once to watch this pair continue their walk down the street and the boy was stuffing the cupcake into his mouth, crumbs tumbling down his shirt and fingers thick with gooey red frosting. I shuddered with a vengeance.
That night my friend called and graciously offered the recipe for her lady bug cupcakes. My instincts were once again to flee, but I took a deep breath and told her to send them along, and so this week you readers will be the lucky recipients of the recipe for these little spring reminders. I’m sure they are fun to make especially if you have a child or two around.
But I am out. I will not be bringing a tray of these things to work. I think if I had to walk into the break room at my office and see a batch of these lady bugs looking up at me, with their little beady eyes, I would go wild. And I know, they wouldn’t be good for the vacuum cleaner either.
Springtime Ladybug Cupcakes
1/4 cup M&M’s candies
45 pieces chocolate malted milk balls, cut in half
1 box chocolate cake mix
1 container dark chocolate frosting
1 container vanilla frosting
red food coloring
12 black licorice laces, cut into 48 pieces
2 cupcake pans
Paper cupcake liners
Prepare the cake mix according to the directions on the package. Line the cupcake pans with the paper liners. Fill each cup with 2/3 cup of batter. Bake according to the directions on the package. Remove from oven. While waiting for the cupcakes to completely cool, tint the vanilla frosting with the red food coloring. Once cooled, frost the tops of the cupcakes as follows: Spread the tops of the cupcakes with the red frosting. Spoon the dark chocolate frosting into a resealable bag. Snip a small corner from the bag. Pipe a line of dark chocolate frosting down the center of each cupcake. Pipe an oval of the dark chocolate frosting at one end of the line, and decorate with the red M&M’s for eyes and the licorice for antennae. Dot the red portion with chocolate malted milk balls for the ladybugs’ spots.
Associate Editor Mary Ann Doyle is available at email@example.com.