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tortI saw this rather unusual looking cake for the first time recently at our neighborhood supermarket Maxima, a Lithuanian chain. Among so many other incredibly fancy lihvitud / vuntsitud (polished) tortes in the kondiitri (pastry, confectionery) section, with each shiny sõstar (currant) placed just so – suddenly this beige mound!


Turns out it's a sipelga/pesa/tort (anthill cake). It may not look attractive in the classic sense, but if you want something different and unforgettable to serve to a newbie in Eesti for instance, then it reflects the Estonian sense of humor, not to mention simple, no-nonsense esthetics and attitude (Mine metsa!) quite well.

Now stop for a second and don't be too disappointed, but this cake was not invented in the Estonian forest. Its simple koostis/osad (ingredients): butter, flour, sugar, sour cream, baking soda, vinegar, condensed milk or "iirise" (caramel) candies and milk were readily available in all countries under Soviet rule and the retsept (recipe) was easy, quick and thereby a kiddie favorite. If the mixture sets longer (overnight), its flavors intensify all the more. The dough is placed through a meat grinder and after the strips are baked, they're mixed with the cream and sculpted into an anthill.

I haven't tasted it, but one Canadian-Ukrainian food blogger writes: "This cake is a bomb. It’s like a delicious cookie, coffee cake, scone, and biscotti all in one." The given chef added an egg, toasted hazelnuts and poppy seeds. Cooking knows no bounds or state boundaries, dear rosolje and cabbage roll lovers!

The sipelgatort (Anthill cake, Muraveynik) recipe can be found on the Internet. So climb up on your own local mätas (tuft of sod) to admire this unique creation. There are 54 species of ants in Estonia, and our foreparents had a particular appreciation for kuklased (wood ants) and their impressive nest mounds of pine needles. They set the standard for the local work ethic. This cake is rough-hewn like an erratic boulder, but everything else: the guests' attire or presentation of the dish (a picnic in the sparkling snow of a forest clearing) can make up for its lack of finesse.

Head Vabariigi aastapäeva!


Photo and text:
Riina Kindlam, Tallinn


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