linger on

I’m having one of those nostalgic days, I mean months.

Let’s face it—this month is one big birthday cake in my family, with my own and L’s included. Not to mention all the other days worth celebrating: mother’s day, first asparagus, rhubarb, and strawberries of spring; running in the rain; farmer’s markets, and yeah, cake. If I had a magic lasso, I would loop it around the neck of time and slow it to a lazy saunter.

maple walnut cake with maple icing

Today is L’s second birthday, which for me, is pretty hard to believe. He climbs onto the chair and joins me at the kitchen table where I write.
“Two red buses,” L says.

“You saw buses earlier?” I say.

“Yeah, two red buses.”

“Wow, I didn’t know there were red buses around here.”

He writes the stories he sees.

“Chickens eat grass,” he says.

“And apples,” I say.

He makes some chicken noises and then goes on to tell me about trucks digging in the dirt. His stories move fast.


I try to remember a time when buses and chickens and trucks held such excitement for me, but I can’t. Not without looking at a photograph of myself at L’s age, a huge grin on my face as I fed ducks near a pond, and even then, the memory is removed.

What I remember clearly is more recent like L’s first cries in the hospital and his once tiny hands gripped around mine. For months, I felt like I was in a dream.

To see red buses

smell lilacs

bite into a juicy orange

and to sing all twenty-six letters of the alphabet with pure joy.

Two years later, I know it’s real.

L has taught me how to love.

Red buses.

French fries.

Strangers on the street.

My heart floats and I let it.

Back to that cake I mentioned…

maple walnut cake

Maple Walnut Cake
adapted from Martha Stewart Living’s Maple Layer Cake and from Horn of the Moon Cookbook by Ginny Callan
(printable recipe)

Yield one 9-inch two layer cake (10 servings)

8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature, plus more for pans
1 1/2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for pans
1 cup pure maple syrup (dark amber)
3 large eggs
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1 1/2 cups milk
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
3/4 cup chopped walnuts
Maple Icing (see recipe below)

Preheat oven to 350 F.

Mix dry ingredients together.

Butter two 9-by-2-inch round cake pans, and dust with flour. Tap out any excess flour, and set pans aside.

In the bowl of a stand or electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter until creamy. Add the maple syrup, and beat until combined. Add the eggs, and beat until combined.

In a large bowl, sift together the flours, baking powder, and salt. Add the flour mixture to the butter mixture, and beat to combine. Beat in the milk and vanilla extract until combined. Stir in chopped walnuts.

Divide batter between the two prepared pans. Bake until golden and a cake tester inserted into the centers comes out clean, about 40 minutes; rotate the cake pans halfway through baking time to ensure even baking. Transfer pans to a wire rack to cool. Top with Maple Icing.

creamed butter

Maple Icing
adapted from Horn of the Moon Cookbook by Ginny Callan
Yield 1 1/2 cups

1 cup pure maple syrup (dark amber)
8 ounces cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup walnuts, pureed

In a food processor, blend walnuts to a smooth paste. Add maple syrup and cream cheese; blend until smooth. Pour mixture into saucepan and cook on low heat, stirring constantly. Bring to a boil and cook until thickened (about 7 minutes on medium heat), stirring constantly. Cool and refrigerate at least 15 minutes, then put onto cake. (The frosting will thicken when it’s been refrigerated and should be made ahead of time and allowed to cool).


  1. Sally Tharpe Rowles says

    The cake looks delicious. If I didn't have so much to do I would make one today. Happy Birthday to little "L". He is adorable.

  2. The Cilantropist says

    What a beautiful post, in concept, words, and photos. Happy birthday to the little one, and I can't wait to give this pie a try. :)

  3. nikki says

    Thanks all, L is still talking about his birthday. "Two weeks," he says, "birthday." Time is an abstraction to him, everything big is now two weeks away, even today!

  4. sadaf says

    Hi Nikki,
    Maple Cake it sounds great.
    definately i would try some day. it would be perfect with a cup of tea.

  5. Octovus says

    Thank you for sharing! I made this (for my OWN birthday hehe…I LOVE to bake) and it was a great, not-too-sweet cake. The icing got raves.

    All the best,

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