A Year (+ A Vegan Banana Cake)

A vegan, maple-syrup sweetened cake for Sierra’s first birthday (and for anytime).

Sierra turned one year old over a month ago and we celebrated the day with homemade pizza for dinner and a banana cake with almond butter glaze (as well as, err, a couple of glasses of champagne for her parents). A week later we hosted a party for her and two of the other little girls in the American community; I made probably too many sweets and gluten-free salads and huge pans of baked pasta. Almost all got eaten, the kids had fun, and and thus I consider the afternoon a roaring success.

It’s hard to believe she’s been with us for the better part of 14 months now — me, who when I was told all the usual adages of ‘it goes so fast’ ‘soak it up’ appreciate the moments’ nodded gently and agreed in principle while privately telling myself that while of course I would do all of these things in any case time would slow down just for for me because I dearly wished it could. I did appreciate the moments — the newborn cuddles (oh so many cuddles) and lurching first steps and funny noises and the mid-night wakings … I did appreciate them all. I do still. And yet. The year whisked by quickly and slowly and now my babe is becoming her own self with her own opinions and wants and wishes and it’s wonderful to see. Even as I sometimes miss those early, sleepy, quiet and cozy days which suddenly feel so far away.

Sierra at 13 months likes scrambled eggs and wheat toast with peanut butter and homemade pear sauce and apple slices baked with cinnamon. She loves plain whole milk yogurt and tofu and water. She likes reasonably well the various vegetable soups I force upon her, broccoli that’s been steamed and then sauteed in butter (as well as shredded carrots fried in lightly salted butter), roasted cauliflower, and wilted chard and spinach. She is pretty avid about whole grain spaghetti with tomatoes, macaroni with butter, various kinds of cheese, almond-banana shakes, and pizza. We are still working on grains (oatmeal is my holy grail) and she gets the occasional bite of salmon or chicken or anchovy (!). The kind of food I make for her — and us as well — is not fancy or full of wild flavors but it is good, simple, wholesome food. I don’t expect her to like everything I present her with – and in truth there are many occasions where she absolutely refuses what’s on the spoon – but we keep trying and she keeps trying and as long as there’s a decent balance of protein, vegetables, and fruit going down I think we’re doing alright.

She likes this cake, too, and I’ve been baking it as muffins for her afternoon snack (reducing the maple syrup a bit, to 1/4 cup). I like that there’s whole wheat flour, some olive oil, some non-refined sugar because let’s face it, this kid is probably going to consume a lot of sugar during her lifetime just like the rest of us and so I am attempting to go easy these first years. I like that it’s vegan, because raw eggs here (and sometimes in general) make me the tiniest bit icked out — plus it means I can let her gnaw on a batter-flecked spoon with no qualms. I keep meaning to bake it up in my mini muffin tin but as she manages to eat a whole standard sized muffin herself I may not dig it out of the slightly scary and humid darkness of my basement room after all.

Sierra at 13 months continues to delight us with her babbling, her run-walks that have increased in stability so now she seems less like a drunken sailor and more like one who’s just gotten his shore leave, her ability to adapt to new faces/places/and airplanes, the way she opens books and stares at them so intently I hope this means she’ll be a reader as she grows up. In short, she is much like any other 13-month-old but since she’s ours we’ll continue to marvel over the little things, her blue blue eyes, and the days with her that slip by ever so quickly.

All the more reason to bake a cake, to steep a cup of tea, to sit outside on the newly-mown grass and listen to the birds and the rustle of the palm leaves. We’ll blink and she’ll be here 13 years already and what will she like to eat then? Time will tell …

nicole spiridakis © copyright 2023