My grandmother, Evelyn, turned 103 on September 13th. I fiercely love my Grama. But then, you cannot NOT love my Grama (aka G.G. for the greatgrands.) I had the extreme good fortune of growing up under the same roof with Grama from the time I was born. She had her own apartment in our house, but I was allowed to visit pretty much anytime I wanted. I’d go hang out with her in the evening to watch Wheel of Fortune or Golden Girls and eat Smarties. She even taught me to read. When I got older (and undoubtedly more annoying), I would cringe to hear her admonition, “I’ve got a bone to pick with you, Jaime!” Just as often, I would come home from school to fresh baked cookies.
But Grama didn’t just take great care of MY family, she also volunteered; reading to kids at the elementary school, teaching English classes to international students at her church, and with the Red Cross Bloodmobile. Some of her international students still come to visit her and send her gifts from their cultures. Up until about 5 years ago, she was still driving! Many times, she’d be driving ailing friends 2o years younger than herself to doctor’s appointments or bringing them food.
Just because she’s sweet and lovely doesn’t mean she doesn’t have a dark side. She will mercilessly beat the pants off you at any word game to this very day. Scrabble and the Jumble are mere child’s play to her. My mother and she play the game Bananagrams every morning at breakfast. A few months ago, my mom came to sit down at the table and found that Grama had spelled out “winner” in front of her own place and “loser” in front of my Mom’s!
That long story brings me to why I spent five hours making a Bananagrams cake. My mom’s birthday is four days after Grama’s, so we had a joint party for the two of them. My mom is so selfless that she was surprised that her name was on the cake, too. She thought it’d just be for Grama. Silly Mom! She deserves her own several paragraphs for how much she’s put up with from me over the years.
Though it looks semi-impressive, this cake was fairly easy to make. Even for me. I used marshmallow fondant to cover the cake itself because it’s so much cheaper, tastes better, and the woodgrain hides any (many, in this case) imperfections. You can find the awesome tutorial for the woodgrain technique I used here. For the banana and tiles, I sprung for some ready-made fondant, gel food coloring, and edible markers. I molded the banana the best I could, leaving an opening for the tiles, and made the zipper by pressing a fork into the edges a few times. The most difficult part of the whole cake was the label. Making those tiny letters from fondant took FOREVER! The tiles are pretty straightforward. I just rolled the fondant and cut it with a straight edge. Then I used the edible marker (greatest thing ever!) to write the letters. Next came figuring out how to set everything up. After much trial and error, I found the perfect placement to get everything in. Much trial and error!
*All previous photos by my amazing niece, Leah, of Leah Catherine Photography
I have failed, thus far, to mention that it was my wonderful son, Cole’s, birthday on September 22. I can’t believe he’s 20! Craziness. I have been mom to that sweet munchkin for 20 years! Oh, how I love him. And oh, how he loves pasta and Ragu sauce! When he still lived at home, I would buy upwards of 20 boxes and jars of sauce whenever they went on sale. He eats a box/jar combo almost every day.
Now that he and his girlfriend are on their own, I try to give them practical gifts. No one wants to have to put out the ugly knick-knack Mom bought them every time she comes over, right? So I had a little fun making a “cake” from Cole’s favorite treat. He should be good on pasta for at least eight days.