My son and his friends have been home from college the past couple of weeks but soon they will all head back to their various schools around the world. It seems fitting that a sudden cold front has swept into our small New England town, the bitter cold being a not so gentle reminder that it is time to let go, again. We are fortunate to have lived in the same community since Clark was four years old, to know his childhood friends and see them grow into capable young men and women. I still see the child in each of them―remember the birthday parties, first day of kindergarten, milestones large and small―as I marvel at their dark beards, deep voices, and unique perspectives on life. It is easy to look back over the past 19 years, and wonder about the things I might have done differently, fret over what more I can do to offer the best of myself to these remarkable young people before they head out. But then I remember, it is not about me. It is about them. At dinner last night, Clark acknowledged that life is challenging, but that he embraces it with confidence, that his friends are strong people who will do the right thing. The sense of pride in his voice cast a calm in my heart, filled a cold day with warmth and light.
So, tomorrow he and his father will pack the car and head out to Montreal. He’ll return to McGill University with memories of home and a basketful of mom-made baked goods. This Sunflower-Banana Cakewill go with him in the basket. Made with sunflower oil from Italy, this is a moist and light cake. Each bite conjures up images of sunflower fields in summer, bringing a little warmth to a cold winter day, bringing a little sweetness to ease the pain of a good-bye.
I look forward to seeing you in my kitchen, gathering flavors, soon.
BANANA SUNFLOWER CAKE
Yield: 8 Servings
Ingredients and Equipment:
- 8-inch sunflower cake mold or an 8-inch square pan, lightly greased
- 3 to 4 mashed, ripe bananas (about 1 cup)
- 3/4 cup brown sugar
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 3/4 cup whole wheat flour
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/3 cup sunflower oil
- 2 large eggs
- 1/2 cup buttermilk
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips (optional)
- bittersweet chocolate shavings (optional garnish)
- 1 cup plain Greek yogurt (optional, at serving time)
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
- In a small mixing bowl, mix the mashed bananas with the brown sugar.
- In another small mixing bowl, sift together the flours, baking soda and salt.
- In a large mixing bowl, beat together the sunflower oil, eggs, buttermilk and vanilla extract. Fold the dry ingredients into this mixture, then add the mashed bananas. Mix together gently to combine. Add the chocolate chips, if using.
- Spoon the batter to the prepared baking pan.
- Bake until set, 45 to 50 minutes. To test , place a wooden cake tester in the center of the cake. If the cake tester comes out clean, the cake is done.
- Cool completely in pan, then turn out on to a serving platter.
- Garnish with bittersweet chocolate shavings. Serve accompanied by a bowl of plain Greek yogurt, if you like.