I wanted to be a teacher

banana cake with cream cheese frosting | the merry gourmet

When I was little, maybe between the ages of five and seven, I wanted to be a teacher when I grew up. I loved my teachers at school, and because of them (or maybe just because of me) I loved school. Also, my mother was a teacher, and I thought she was pretty great, so I would become a teacher, too.

Later, when I was a little older, I wanted to be a veterinarian. We always had lots of animals, mostly cats and a dog or two. The cats lived outside and were called the Outside Cats. I was partial to the cats, and I still am. I used to name them very clever names, like Blackey and Whitey and Pumpkin, based on the color of their coats. There was also Mama Cat, and you can guess why she was named that. The first cat that I considered my own was called Mindy, named after a character on my then-favorite television show, Mork and Mindy.

One day, I went with my mother to take one of the cats to our veterinarian. I don’t recall which one, but I’m certain he or she must have been very ill – regular checkups were not a thing with our family back then (neither for animals or humans). I watched the vet take the cat’s temperature, using a rectal thermometer. I no longer wanted to be a vet.

During my high school and college years, I became convinced that I would be a clinical psychologist. Silence of the Lambs came out in 1991, during my first year of college. I was intrigued by Jodie Foster’s character, and I thought that maybe I would study forensic psychology. I liked the idea of delving into the minds of people who needed help, figuring out why their minds worked that way, and hopefully helping them in some way. I stuck with this plan, and I graduated from college with a B.S. in psychology. I was pleased with myself for knowing what I wanted to do and doing it.

It was only when I was halfway through a Masters-level graduate program in psychology that I realized I really did not want to spend the rest of my working years as a psychologist. I wanted to help people in a different way. I wanted more science and less theory. I wanted to be a medical doctor.

Let’s now flash forward twenty years – wow, that sounds like a long time – and here I am, an academic hematologist-oncologist. Not only do I get to see patients, but I also get to do some research, I get to write (academic stuff, sure, but sometimes it gets published!), and I get to teach the next generation of doctors and oncologists.

I updated my curriculum vitae last week, something I make myself do every few months, and I was reflecting on my career in medicine. My path to becoming an oncologist was winding and long (so long) but I’m incredibly happy with what I’m doing. As cheesy as it sounds, I really love each aspect of my life in academics – the clinical work, the research, and the teaching. It’s that last aspect, the medical education piece, that I’ve been surprisingly delighted with.

And I remembered that, when I was a little girl, so many years ago, I wanted to be a teacher when I grew up.

*   *   *   *   *

The story above has nothing to do with this banana cake with cream cheese frosting, of course. But this is a great cake, ad I wanted you to have it.  So consider this recipe a bonus. The icing on the cake, if you will.

banana cake with cream cheese frosting | the merry gourmet

Yield: Serves 8-10.

Cook Time: 45 minutes

Banana Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting

The pairing of cream cheese frosting with banana is a favorite of mine. The cake is wonderful without the frosting, but a top coat of frosting really makes it a special dessert.

Ingredients:

For Cake:

2-1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 stick (8 tablespoons; 1/2 cup) unsalted butter, softened
3/4 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1-1/4 cup mashed ripe bananas (about 3 medium)
2/3 cup nonfat plain greek yogurt
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 tablespoon dark rum

For Frosting:

4 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1-1/2 cups powdered sugar, measured first, then sifted

Directions:

Prepare and Bake Cake:

Preheat oven to 375 degrees with rack in middle position. Butter a 9-inch round cake pan, line with a parchment round, then butter and flour the parchment-lined pan.

Whisk together flour, baking soda, and salt.

In a large bowl, using an electric mixer on medium speed, beat together softened butter and granulated sugar until pale and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, and beat until well blended. Beat in bananas, yogurt, vanilla, and rum (mixture may look curdled).

With mixer at low speed, add flour mixture and mix until just incorporated.

Bake until cake is golden and a toothpick or cake tester inserted in center comes out clean, 45 minutes. Cool cake in the pan on a rack for 20 minutes, then turn out onto rack and cool completely, right side up, before frosting.

Make Frosting:

Using an electric hand mixer, beat cream cheese and butter in large bowl until smooth. Beat in vanilla extract. Gradually add powdered sugar, beating until frosting is smooth and creamy, about 2 minutes.

When cake is cool to the touch, spread frosting evenly on top of cake.

Note: Can be made one day ahead. Cover with cake dome and refrigerate overnight. Let cake stand at room temperature for 2 hours before serving.

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48 Responses to “celebrating life: homemade ricotta cheese”

  1. Winnie — June 15, 2013 @ 1:37 pm

    I am crying. And just so glad you are alright.

    • Merry-Jennifer

      Merry-Jennifer replied: — June 15th, 2013 @ 7:31 pm

      Thank you so much, Winnie. I miss you.

  2. Ali | Gimme Some Oven — June 15, 2013 @ 1:47 pm

    Oh my GOODNESS. I had not heard about this, and have just been catching up on your Facebook posts and now this. I absolutely can’t imagine. What an incredible miracle that you two made it out ok.

    Wishing you lots of rest this weekend, and sweet moments to savor all the more with those you love.

    I am so, so glad that you are ok.

    • Merry-Jennifer

      Merry-Jennifer replied: — June 15th, 2013 @ 7:30 pm

      Thank you so much, Ali. It put life in perspective in a very sudden way, that’s for sure.

  3. WOW!! I’m SO glad you were okay, that must have been terribly frightening. What a miraculous ending!

    • Merry-Jennifer

      Merry-Jennifer replied: — June 15th, 2013 @ 7:30 pm

      It was so bizarre and scary and surreal. And thanks — I’m feeling very lucky today.

  4. Anna @ Garnish with Lemon — June 15, 2013 @ 2:01 pm

    What a frightening experience! And such a good reminder to count our blessings every single day. I’m so glad that everyone is home safe and sound.

    • Merry-Jennifer

      Merry-Jennifer replied: — June 15th, 2013 @ 7:29 pm

      So very true, Anna. I’m feeling so blessed today.

  5. Macaroni Mama — June 15, 2013 @ 2:03 pm

    This brought tears to my eyes. Wonderfully written. I could see the flashes of lightning and the after flashes from your eyes.

    • Merry-Jennifer

      Merry-Jennifer replied: — June 15th, 2013 @ 7:29 pm

      Thanks, Mom. I love you.

  6. megan @ whatmegansmaking — June 15, 2013 @ 2:04 pm

    oh my gosh, what an amazing and terrible story. So so glad you are OK! I can’t even imagine.

    • Merry-Jennifer

      Merry-Jennifer replied: — June 15th, 2013 @ 7:29 pm

      Thanks, Megan. It was definitely amazing and terrible, both at the same time.

  7. Joan@Chocolate and More — June 15, 2013 @ 2:14 pm

    I have goosebumps up and down my arms, I’m so glad you’re alright. God was watching over you, that’s for sure.

    • Merry-Jennifer

      Merry-Jennifer replied: — June 15th, 2013 @ 7:29 pm

      Thank you, Joan.

  8. Liz @ The Lemon Bowl — June 15, 2013 @ 2:34 pm

    Oh my God I can’t even believe this!!! Thank God you are ok. I love that you made ricotta. It is amazing how comforting and soothing food and cooking can be in times of near-tragedy.

    • Merry-Jennifer

      Merry-Jennifer replied: — June 15th, 2013 @ 7:28 pm

      You’re so right, Liz. It really helped calm my nerves last night.

  9. Carol Sacks — June 15, 2013 @ 2:39 pm

    What a harrowing experience! I’m so glad you’re safe and back with your family. Take care.

    • Merry-Jennifer

      Merry-Jennifer replied: — June 15th, 2013 @ 7:27 pm

      Thank you, Carol. I’m so glad it all turned out fine, except for the car.

  10. Michael Dietsch — June 15, 2013 @ 3:43 pm

    I have no words. Except that I’m very glad you’re okay.

    • Merry-Jennifer

      Merry-Jennifer replied: — June 15th, 2013 @ 7:27 pm

      Thanks. I’m still trying to process it myself.

  11. Cassie — June 15, 2013 @ 3:43 pm

    I am so happy to hear you are OK. What a frightening experience!

    • Merry-Jennifer

      Merry-Jennifer replied: — June 15th, 2013 @ 7:27 pm

      Thank you, Cassie.

  12. Praise God from whom all blessings flow. You surely had angels surrounding & protecting you my friend. Hugs to you.

    • Merry-Jennifer

      Merry-Jennifer replied: — June 15th, 2013 @ 7:26 pm

      Thank you so much, Robin.

  13. What a horrific event, so sorry to hear that you went through that, Merry! What a blessing that you and Karen walked away from it. So glad to hear you’re OK.

    • Merry-Jennifer

      Merry-Jennifer replied: — June 15th, 2013 @ 7:26 pm

      Thank you, Georgia.

  14. Oh Merry-Jennifer,

    That is so scary. I cannot even imagine hurtling down the road at 70 miles per hour and having that happen. I am so glad you’re okay!

    P.S. You are the third person I know who has experienced a lightning strike in very close proximity. You, my brother-in-law (struck while he was getting something from the trunk- thankfully not seriously), and my husband (ball lightning behind his head in our very own living room.) Eek.

    • Merry-Jennifer

      Merry-Jennifer replied: — June 15th, 2013 @ 7:26 pm

      I have another friend whose mother this happened to. Crazy, right? And I know you completely know what I went through after your own near-death experience recently.

  15. jwlucasnc — June 15, 2013 @ 6:13 pm

    Good lord, how terrifying. So glad you both survived this ordeal without injury.

    • Merry-Jennifer

      Merry-Jennifer replied: — June 15th, 2013 @ 7:25 pm

      Thank you. Me too!

  16. Paula — June 15, 2013 @ 6:53 pm

    I was amazed and relieved yesterday when I saw your Instagram and your tweet about this, that you were alright. Reading about this event is chilling and I can only imagine what you and Karen experienced.

    God obviously has a lot more plans for both of you right here 🙂 Take good care.

    • Merry-Jennifer

      Merry-Jennifer replied: — June 15th, 2013 @ 7:25 pm

      Thank you, Paula. I think you’re right – there is something more I’m meant to do here.

  17. Wendy Read — June 15, 2013 @ 9:08 pm

    Thank God you are alright. So very scary for you both! Hope you are doing so more healing things this weekend.

  18. DessertForTwo — June 15, 2013 @ 9:19 pm

    MJ! My gosh! I read this with my jaw on the floor. I’m so glad you’re okay! Wow! Praise the Lord!

  19. Kathy — June 15, 2013 @ 11:08 pm

    I just read this aloud to my husband, we are just in awe. So very, very thankful that you were able to walk away from this. xoxo

  20. Caroline — June 15, 2013 @ 11:09 pm

    What a story. I’m so glad you were okay! I can’t imagine how terrifying that must be.

  21. Denise @ Creative Kitchen — June 16, 2013 @ 9:33 am

    Oh my!! Wow!!!! What a story to start up with in my reader. I’m so glad you’re okay!! Life is a blessing, and reminders like this sure put it into perspective. As a fellow Floridian, I read your story outloud to my hubby and teen….we are just floored! Crazy….I’ve heard lightening stories before but never in a car.

    One time headed back from Tampa along a stretch of the turnpike there were lightening bolts all around us like that. It was a stretch with all those tall electrical towers lining the road. I guess I should have been relieved that those would keep the lightening from us, but it was so close and all around us that it was very scary!

    I’ll be praying that you feel God’s peace during this time of post trauma, reflection and processing. HUGS!! Denise

    PS….to be a little funny (maybe you’ll develop a super power now! which one would you want. 😉

  22. Kim Foster — June 16, 2013 @ 11:11 am

    Holy crap, MJ! This is incredble.

    I’m so happy you are okay. It could’ve been, well, I don’t even want to think about it. I’m glad it was nothing more than a scary, harrowing experience.

    But now that you’re okay, I have to say it, this is going to be a great cocktail party story, for the rest of your life!!!!

    Eat the ricotta, hug your kids. So happy you are okay, honey.

    xoxo

  23. I cannot imagine how you must have felt after that, I hope that you and you friend feel better now. That must have been terrifying.
    Your cheese looks lovely however and the pictures are beautiful

  24. MJ – SO SO SO scary! I saw your tweets after the fact and wondered whether you would write about it. It must have helped to write it out. So glad you are ok. Many many hugs. XOX just because.

  25. Kathryn — June 17, 2013 @ 4:47 am

    So, so, so scary.

  26. Di — June 17, 2013 @ 10:59 am

    The ricotta distraction seemed to be the right perscription for you. Your written recollections provide your reader with an illuminating (no pun intended) account of your ordeal that is real and immediate and frightening. This terrifying episode in your and your colleague’s life was delivered here eloquently and honestly. I am happy you survived this brush with death and chose to share it. I hope the trauma is physically and emotionally minimal, Merry Jennifer. I am also looking forward to trying your ricotta recipe!

  27. Miranda — June 17, 2013 @ 1:38 pm

    omg – this beautifully crafted – terrifying tale is so well told i could barely read it at a first pass – with my hair standing on end the whole way … the second time i read it i wanted to cry – there’s something so heartfelt about it – so sweet about the simple pleasures of life healing the traumatic – i don’t even like ricotta cheese but i’m going to make some to celebrate you ✿♪♫•*¨*•.¸¸.•*¨*•♫♪✿

  28. Denise — June 17, 2013 @ 4:41 pm

    OMG this is so scary. I was reading your FB post to Lenny, and the first thing he said was that shouldn’t have happened in a car. Completely crazy … So happy you are okay!!!!!

  29. I read your tweets the other day, and saw your updates on Facebook. Still, as I read this post, I have chills. I cannot tell you how glad I am that you are OK… I will give you an extra big hug at BSP in a few weeks!!

    And, I just adore homemade ricotta. I am thinking that I need to make a batch ASAP.

  30. Nutmeg Nanny — June 26, 2013 @ 10:57 pm

    Oh wow, I am so glad you are okay, what an incredibly frightening story!

  31. Jan Beaumont — June 28, 2013 @ 8:24 am

    How well you described your experience. I was mesmerized and as I read I felt as if I was the one in the car. What a truly awful and frightening thing to happen. And thank goodness for the presence of mind Karen showed. I am so glad your were safe in the end. And to think I read this because some time ago I saved a recipe for home made ricotta cheese! I searched for it tonight and read not just the recipe but your story. Thank you so much – every time I make ricotta cheese, or even see it in a supermarket, I will think of you xx

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