Sunday, September 11, 2022

Tessa's Vanilla Cake

 On September 11, 2001 my daughter, Olivia, was 6 months old. I had waited and waited for the day to arrive because that afternoon Olivia had her 6 month check up. If everything looked good, the doctor was going to give me the okay to start feeding her baby food.

As a new mom I was so excited. I had a special outfit all planned out. There was even a bonnet involved. This was a big deal to me because I was a foodie even back then.

I read all the articles and books about feeding babies for the first time. I had planned to start with green beans because it was recommended to start with veggies at the time. All the information said DO NOT start with sweet fruit or your baby will develop a sweet tooth.

On the morning of 9/11, I was so excited because I had taken a half day from work and was leaving at noon to take Olivia to the doctor. I laid out the green beans, her outfit, and her bonnet.

I had no idea a tragedy would occur that day. When the attacks began my husband came to find me at my cubicle (we worked together back then). We were in utter shock as attack after attack unfolded. I remember my mom calling me terrified as the plane flew into the Pentagon and then the field in Pennsylvania. At the time, it seemed the attacks would go on and and on and were getting closer and closer. No one really knew if or when the attacks would stop.

At the time I lived in a small town right outside Cleveland, Ohio and I will never forget when an announcement came over our loudspeaker at work stating that "there was a plan flying over Cleveland airspace with a suspected bomb on it." They let us leave work early. Everyone wanted to be reunited with their family and be together.

I called my mom to tell her that I was leaving work to get Olivia and my mom begged and begged me to just go home and stay safe. However, I was bound and determined to take Olivia to her doctor's appointment.

I can remember what a beautiful day it was outside. The sky was so blue and it seemed at such odds with what was happening in the world. Everyone was out and people were waving the American flag. I passed lines and lines of people waiting at the American Red Cross building to donate blood. I have never seen such a show of patriotism and unity as I did that day.

I hugged Olivia tight. I dressed her up in her cute little outfit with a bonnet. I turned the news on. In my excitement I grabbed a jar of peas instead of the green beans and I fed her food for the first time.

Olivia was happy and giggling and I was so thankful for her. I felt so sad for everyone who had lost a loved one that day and I remember feeling helpless and thinking that I had to do a better job of being thankful. I had to soak up all the good times and enjoy my family as much as I possibly could in my life. This was something I could do and would do.

Years later I would remember the vow I made that day. To be thankful and not take anything for granted. I started to get everyone to gather together as a family on that day. We would always tell Olivia how that was the day she first started eating real food. Over time it morphed into a tradition to celebrate that fact that it was Olivia's food anniversary. We started making dishes with peas in honor of her first food every year.

Over time we found the perfect pea dish, Jamie Oliver's Pasta with a Creamy Smoked Bacon and Pea Sauce and we serve it every year. All these years later and we are still gathering together. Olivia has now been eating real food for 21 years now.

This year I even made a cake. Tessa's Vanilla Cake with a layer of Strawberry Jam and Vanilla Frosting and also with green circle sprinkles to imitate peas!

It has been 21 years since the 9/11 attacks, but I will never forget. Both of my kids are almost grown, but I'd like to think that one day my kids will carry on this tradition without me. I like to think of them gathering together and cherishing one another on this day every year, smiling and laughing as they eat peas and celebrate Olivia eating real food for hopefully many, many years.

Vanilla Cake

Adapted from Apples For Jam

by Tessa Kiros

Makes 10-12 slices


1/2 pound, plus 2 tablespoons (2-1/4 sticks) butter, softened

1 cup plus 1 tablespoon sugar

3 eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

2-1/4 cups all-purpose flour

1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder

3/4 cup half and half or milk


7 tablespoons butter, softened

1-2/3 cups confectioners' sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract 

about 4 tablespoons milk

Preheat the oven to 350F and grease a 9-1/2" springform cake pan. Beat the butter and sugar together very well in a large bowl. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each one goes in. Add the vanilla and then sift in the flour and baking powder. Beat well, adding the half and half or milk a little at a time. You will have a thick and creamy batter. Scrape it out into the cake pan and bake for about 45 minutes, or until a skewer poked into the center comes out clean. Leave to cool completely before filling and frosting.

For the frosting, put the butter into a bowl and gradually beat in the confectioners' sugar. Add the vanilla and 3 tablespoons of milk and beat well, then slowly beat in the rest of the milk, stopping when you have a smooth but fairly stiff frosting. Gently spread it all over the cake - it doesn't have to be perfect! 

Casual Cookout @ IHCC


  1. Wow, what a memory. I can't believe it has been 21 years. Feels like yesterday but also a lifetime ago.

  2. Thanks for sharing your remembrance. I remember exactly where I was on Sep 11, 2001: New York city and working. I did not go home that night because I couldn't. Air and land traffic stopped and on high alerts. Many lives were lost. Perished, numerous cars were never picked up again at our town train station. Life goes on but our way of life was profoundly transformed.

  3. What a lovely tradition you've started with serving peas in remembrance and gratitude on 9/11.


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