Banana Snacking Cake

Lately, I find myself gravitating towards familiar foods in my kitchen. The meals and desserts that I’ve enjoyed since childhood are on rotation—grilled cheese and tomato soup, spaghetti made with sauce from a jar, and chocolate chip cookies. It feels easier, in these final chaotic days of the school year, to reach for recipes that I know both forwards and backwards.

While there are no moments of surprise with new flavors or textures, the comfort of these routine meals is indulgent in a different way, for both body and soul.

This banana cake is one that I remember fondly from my childhood. Whenever the bananas were forgotten on the counter long enough to blacken, the mixing bowls would come out and this cake would emerge from the oven. The aroma of banana filling the air was the cue for the rest of my family to flock to the kitchen, stealing a bite or two before the cake had properly cooled.

It has been many years since I’ve last eaten this cake. Perhaps having my own little one in the house is causing these food memories to stir up, but, regardless of the reason, I am delighted to revisit this recipe.

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This banana cake is a simple, unpretentious snacking cake—however, that doesn't mean this cake isn't something worth talking about.

The texture is my favorite part of this cake. As with most banana breads and cake, the final product has a bit of heft, but I think it works in the cake’s favor instead of against it. The chocolate glaze is also made with butter instead of heavy cream like a traditional ganache, which lends itself to a more intense buttery, chocolate flavor.

All these years later, my family is still in debate about the best way to eat this cake. My dad and I prefer to eat this cake chilled. The cold brings out a heaviness to the cake we both love, and the chocolate glaze becomes stiff making it literally melt in your mouth. My sister, on the other hand, prefers the cake slightly warmed, which yields a lighter feel to the cake and turns the chocolate glaze silky smooth. Though our debate may never be settled, the truth is that this cake is delicious any way you choose to serve it.

Since it is my belief that snacking cakes should be easy to prepare, instead of making a chocolate glaze, you could simply add chocolate chips to the batter to bring in the chocolate flavor without needing to use more pans. The choice, as always, is yours.

This Banana Snacking Cake combines the classic flavors of chocolate and banana. The addition of mashed banana to the cake lends a moistness, while a touch of cinnamon brings out a greater depth of flavor. The chocolate glaze is simple to make, melting together only chocolate and butter, but I could eat it by the spoonful (and I usually do). The glaze spreads smooth when slightly warm and holds its shape like a dream. This cake is a good option to reach for when you are looking for a sweet snack and, if your kitchen is anything like mine, it will disappear before you are ready to see it go.

Banana Snacking Cake

Yields 9 x 13-inch cake

Banana Cake
2 1/2 cups (300 grams) all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (113 grams) unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 cup (100 grams) granulated sugar
3/4 cup (150 grams) brown sugar, packed
2 large eggs
3 medium ripe bananas, mashed
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 cup (180 mL) buttermilk (or regular milk)

Chocolate Glaze
6 ounces (170 grams) semi-sweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
1/2 cup (113 grams) butter, cubed

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F (160 degrees C). Grease a 9 x 13-inch baking pan.

To prepare the banana cake, whisk together flour, baking powder, cinnamon, and salt in a medium bowl. Set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, cream together the butter and sugars until light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Mix in the mashed bananas and vanilla extract.

Beat in the flour mixture and buttermilk in alternating additions, starting and ending with the flour. Pour batter evenly in the prepared baking pan and bake for 35-40 minutes, or until golden and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Allow the cake cool completely.

To prepare the chocolate glaze, melt together the chopped chocolate and cubed butter in a small saucepan over low heat until smooth and uniform. Spread evenly over the cooled cake and allow the glaze to set before cutting and serving the cake.

Lemon Almond Cake

The fog of early parenthood has finally lifted. I have emerged stronger—with a bigger heart, immeasurable patience, and the ability to function on limited sleep. I am starting to feel like myself again and it feels good.

I lost myself in those first few months, as I imagine happens often with new parents. With the newborn routine of eat-change-sleep on repeat every three hours, I felt like a shell of my former self. There wasn’t time to explore interests or hobbies—there was hardly time to sneak in a shower.

To survive, I followed the mantra “one task a day.” Some days the only thing I accomplished was making dinner; other days it was making it to mama/baby yoga class so I could start the process of making my body feel like my own again. These small daily goals fueled me without overwhelming me.

It was the only balance I could seem to manage.

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Even though I enjoyed my time at home with sweet Baby N, I credit the act of going back to work with helping me reclaim my individuality. It’s true that I am a parent now, but that is not the only attribute that defines me. I welcome the daily challenges of being a high school teacher because my students remind me of the other aspects of myself that I appreciate (plus, the knowledge that summer break is around the corner eases the transition of being away from N during the day).

Although I’ve started to realize how important it is for me to have time for myself, I still very much struggle with allowing that dedicated time. Although the days feel long, the hours are short and time seems to evaporate into the ether. The great irony of parenthood is the knowledge that I could be more present for my daughter if I spend time away to recharge myself.

This balance between a parent and an individual with my own needs and desires will be a work in progress, but the journey is helping me understand myself on a new level, which I recognize is a gift in itself.

Lemon and almond is one of my favorite flavor combinations in spring. The sharpness of lemon and the nutty warmth of almond add both warmth and a wake up call to a palate that has been saturated in the comfort of winter. Taking advantage of a day off from school and Baby N’s napping schedule, I spent some much needed time in the kitchen. It wasn’t until I had finished the photographs that I realized this cake felt—and looked—remarkably familiar.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, after an exploration into the recipe archive, I noticed this lemon almond cake was quite similar to a lemon cake I had made the year prior (down to the exact date!). Mom brain, anyone?

I like to believe these resemblances work in my favor—this cake is so good, I unknowingly created a recipe for it twice. Perhaps that is all the encouragement you’ll need to turn on the oven, zest a couple lemons, and start baking.

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This Lemon Almond Cake brings together the warmth of almond with the spiritedness of lemon. The cake batter is infused with both lemon zest and lemon oil to give it a bright lemon flavor, and almond extract and almond flour to round out a nutty undertone. Once baked, the cake is brushed with a lemon glaze on the outer edges to give the cake additional flavor and to seal in the cake's moisture. This cake is perfect to serve plain and unadorned—the flavors are so vivid, it needs nothing else to feel complete.

Lemon Almond Cake

Yields 12 servings

Lemon Almond Cake
1 1/2 cups (300 grams) granulated sugar
Zest of 2 lemons
3/4 cup (180 mL) vegetable oil
4 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon almond extract
1 teaspoon lemon oil (optional)
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 1/4 cups (270 grams) all-purpose flour
3/4 cup (75 grams) almond flour
1 cup (250 mL) milk

Lemon Glaze
1/2 cup (100 grams) granulated sugar
Juice of 2 lemons

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (180 degrees C). Heavily grease and flour a 10-cup Bundt pan. Set aside.

For the lemon cake, place the granulated sugar and lemon zest in a large mixing bowl. Rub the sugar and zest together until fragrant. Whisk in the vegetable oil, eggs, vanilla extract, almond extract, lemon oil, salt, and baking powder. Alternate adding the flours and milk, stirring after each addition, until the batter is smooth and uniform in appearance. 

Pour batter into the prepared baking pan and bake for 45-55 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Allow cake to cool in pan for 15 minutes before unmolding.

While the cake is baking, prepare the glaze by heating the granulated sugar and lemon juice in a small saucepan until the sugar dissolves. Set aside. 

Place the cake on a cooling rack and brush the glaze over the cake, giving time for the glaze to absorb between layers. Allow the cake to cool completely and the glaze to set before cutting and serving.

Blueberry Crumble Doughnuts

After two months, I finally feel like I am settling into motherhood. In the foggy haze of these early days, it simultaneously feels like I have been a parent forever and for no time at all. The transition into motherhood was unexpectedly difficult for me. Since I have wanted to be a mother since I was a young child, I anticipated that the transition would be natural and instinctual. It never occurred to me that I may feel otherwise.

While not all women feel the same, I loved pregnancy. I enjoyed watching my body change, feeling the baby’s kicks and movements, and experiencing the joy of carrying a child. It helped, of course, that my pregnancy was virtually symptom-free—as far as I was concerned, there weren’t any aspects not to love.

When we found out our daughter was growth restricted and would therefore be arriving a few weeks earlier than anticipated, my heart grew heavy. I wasn’t ready for my pregnancy to be over, for this part of the journey my baby and I embarked on to come to a close. I wanted to stay pregnant forever. My body didn’t feel ready to give birth; I wasn’t yet ready to meet my daughter.

I told my husband that I needed more time. If I could somehow be pregnant longer, maybe I would find the emotional and physical connection I needed to say goodbye to my deeply loved pregnancy and welcome a new beginning with the birth of our daughter.

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When the big day arrived, I went into the hospital conflicted. Even with more time, I hadn’t been able to shift my unwanted emotions. Yet, I still felt hopeful. After reading so many stories of mothers feeling an instant deep love for their children during birth, I anticipated that these feelings would overtake me when the moment arrived.

During the C-section—when the doctors lifted my daughter over the curtain and I laid eyes on her for the first time—I felt taken aback. While I had no idea what she would look like, her actual appearance took me completely by surprise. The birth experience was shocking to me in a way I did not expect.

When they handed her to me for the first time minutes later, she felt like someone else’s baby. I felt detached and confused. Where was the instant love and connection I was supposed to feel? What kind of mother was I going to be if this is how I felt in these early moments?

I didn’t learn this until later, but over 40% of women do not bond with their babies right away. Even though my husband and I took childbirth education and early parenthood classes, our instructors did not touch on this subject. I wish I had been told my feelings were normal, that parenthood is an enormous adjustment and that sometimes it takes time for emotions to sort themselves out. Instead, I felt like I was somehow failing at this job I just began.

The next couple weeks were rough for me. I had a difficult recovery due to the C-section and resulting complications. I struggled to do the most basic of tasks, unable to sit upright or walk without enormous amounts of pain. Breastfeeding was not going well. Since Baby N was born early and weighed so little, it was vital for her to get the calories she needed to grow, but she also didn’t have the energy necessary to feed. I had to deal with the reality that I would not be able to provide milk for my daughter in the way I had planned.

The postpartum hormones hit me harder than I anticipated. I couldn’t even think about my pregnancy without bursting into tears. I was grieving the loss of being pregnant, of my life before having a child. Even though I’ve wanted to be a mother as long as I can remember (I was ecstatic when I found out I was pregnant), I was dealing with unexpected feelings of remorse—and then guilt that I could ever have these emotions at all. Exhaustion and sleep deprivation only intensified everything I was experiencing.

Life with a newborn is hard.

It was several weeks before I found myself in a better place, before I was able to fully bond with and enjoy time with my daughter. Now, of course, I can’t imagine life without her—her big smiles, goofy mannerisms, and love for sleepy snuggles.

My transition into motherhood was not beautiful or graceful. It has taken time for me to accept that reality doesn’t always match expectations and that’s okay. I expect I will learn this lesson over and over again in my new role as a parent.

Right now, the fog of early parenthood has not completely dissipated, but it is starting to lift. I am still working on finding my new identity both in and out of parenthood. One lesson I have taken away from the transition to motherhood is to have grace with myself.

One day at a time. Everything will eventually fall into place—it always does.

Blueberry Crumble Doughnuts feature a baked, cake-based doughnut. To prepare, blueberries are folded into a vanilla-scented batter. A cinnamon crumble is sprinkled over the top before baking. For best texture, these doughnuts should be enjoyed the same day they are baked, but I still savored the leftovers a day or two later.

Blueberry Crumble Doughnuts

Yields 6-8 doughnuts

Blueberry Doughnuts
1/3 cup (70 grams) granulated sugar
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/4 cups (150 grams) all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (120 mL) milk
4 ounces (113 grams) fresh or frozen blueberries

Crumble Topping
2 tablespoons butter, room temperature
1/4 cup (50 grams) granulated sugar
1/2 cup (60 grams) all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (180 degrees C). Grease a standard-size doughnut pan.

In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the sugar, vegetable oil, egg, and vanilla. Stir in the flour, baking powder, and salt. Stir in the milk until uniform. Fold in the blueberries.

Transfer the batter to a pastry bag (or large resealable plastic kitchen bag with the corner snipped off). Fill the depressions in the prepared pan with the batter until 2/3 full (alternatively, you could spread the batter into the pan using an offset spatula, but this results in more unevenly shaped doughnuts).

For the crumble topping, beat together butter and sugar until well combined. Stir in flour and cinnamonuntil crumbly. Crumble the topping evenly over the batter. Bake for 18-24 minutes, or until crumble topping browns and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Cool in pan for 15-20 minutes before transferring to a cooling rack to cool completely.