They say that time is relative, and I believe it. In blatant defiance of my own temporal perception, Riley turned one year old today. I can’t believe he was ever that small, and yet it can’t have been more than a few weeks ago, can it?

I’m really enjoying being at home with him. I’m so glad I have the chance.

He’s doing great. I could say he’s walking, in that he does take some steps without support, but he’s not yet stable enough to walk everywhere he goes. It won’t be long though. His main problem is that his steps are too big.

He’s pretty vocal, and he likes communicating with us. He parrots us a lot without knowing what he’s saying, but he also clearly and consistently uses words to communicate. He recognizes even more words than he uses himself.

dahnn: down (his current favorite)

ayeece: eyes

tseece: cheese

na-na: banana

ninny: Winnie

duh: duck, or dog

ca-pa: caterpillar (his first multisyllabic word)

ba: bath, or ball

ka: cat, or koala, or car

muh: milk (simulcast in sign language)

dahn: done (it’s shorter than his “down”)

We had his birthday party here at the house, with about 15 adults and six kids. Everyone seemed to have a good time. Lots of good (and relatively simple) food. Knowing how Riley likes bananas, I decided on a banana chiffon birthday cake. And knowing how his mom and I like chocolate, I topped it with ganache instead of a glaze. :) It was delicious. (The only problem with it as a first birthday cake was that, being a tube cake, it hasn’t got a center where you could put a single candle, so the candle placement had to be asymmetrical and looked a little funny. Any other year, you’d be able to balance it.)

Banana Chiffon Cake with Ganache

For the cake, you’ll need:

  • a tube pan (9-inch diameter, 16-cup capacity), such as you’d use for an angel food cake
  • something to beat egg whites with: an electric mixer, or hand blender with whisk attachment
  • a non-plastic bottle or funnel to set the cake on for cooling
  • 1 and 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1 and 1/3 cups cake flour
  • 1 and 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 7 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 3/4 cup water
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 medium bananas
  • 1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar

For the ganache:

  • 3/4 cup heavy cream
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 6 ounces bittersweet chocolate (quality counts here)

Bake the cake:

  1. Adjust the oven rack to the lower middle position. Heat the oven to 325 degrees.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk together the sugar, flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
  3. Separate five of the eggs, reserving the whites in a medium bowl.
  4. Add the five egg yolks, remaining two whole eggs, water, oil, and vanilla extract to the dry ingredients. Whisk until the batter is just smooth.
  5. Mash the bananas with a fork until they’re very smooth, with no big chunks. You should have about a cup of mashed bananas. Fold it into the batter with a rubber spatula.
  6. Beat the egg whites until you get stiff peaks when you pull the beater out. Do not underbeat. Fold the whites into the batter with a rubber spatula, smearing any blobs of white that resist blending with the flat side of the spatula. Blend completely, but don’t overmix; the batter should be a bit foamier now.
  7. Pour the batter into an ungreased tube pan. Rap the pan against the counter five times to release any air pockets that might be in the batter. Use a paper towel to wipe off any excess batter drippings on the inside of the pan.
  8. Bake until a toothpick inserted into the middle of the cake comes out free of batter, 60 to 70 minutes. When it’s done, start cooling it immediately by turning it upside down, and balancing the pan on the neck of a bottle or a funnel to elevate it and let air flow. Let it cool completely, for 2-3 hours.
  9. To release the cake from the pan, slide a thin knife or a skewer along the edges of the cake. The skewer works best, especially on the inner circle. Bang the pan on the counter a few times, then invert the cake onto a serving plate. (If you get a little of the top of the cake left behind in the bottom of the pan, don’t panic; reassemble it as best you can, and the ganache will patch it up pretty well.)

Make the ganache and add it:

  1. Chop the chocolate very finely. As small as you can get it.
  2. Bring the cream and butter to a simmer in a saucepan over medium-high heat.
  3. If you’ve got a food processor, put the chopped chocolate in there. Start the machine running, and gradually pour the hot cream and butter into the feed tube. Process until smooth.

    If you haven’t got a food processor, fine chopping of the chocolate is even more important. Put the chopped chocolate in a medium bowl, and pour the hot cream mixture it. Let it stand for a moment, melting the chocolate, then stir to mix it completely and make sure it’s all melted.
  4. Immediately pour the ganache onto the top of the cake, letting it flow down the sides as evenly as you can. It’s possible to spread the ganache for an even coat of frosting, but the drizzled sides look very appealing.

A serrated knife works best for cutting. Mmmm.

4 thoughts on “Happy Birthday to Riley!